‘Gotham’: Ben McKenzie On Bringing Jim Gordon to the Dark(er) Side

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Ben McKenzie

Don’t call him an antihero—yet! Gotham’s leading man, Ben McKenzie, has taken Jim Gordon from Boy Scout with a badge to a rogue crime fighter with a lot of blood on his hands. But while this season’s walk on the dark side may have cost Batman’s future bestie a life with true love Lee Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) as well as his standing within the GCPD, McKenzie says it’s all good as long as Jim gets to be a little bad.

Jim’s dark turn this season gave you so much great stuff to play.
Yes, it did! One of the things I think we did was learn from things we could’ve done better in the past. After the first season, we felt we needed to lean into the serialization way harder, so I’m proud of this season in terms of how it really focused on the characters. Not just Jim but the evolution of Oswald (Robin Lord Taylor) and Nygma (Cory Michael Smith). Bruce (David Mazouz) has evolved a lot too.

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Between Oswald in Season 1 and Galavan (James Frain) this year, Jim is the guy who can’t kill people for good.
[Laughs] I know. He’s awfully ineffective for such a heroic guy. As much as we want to dig into the characters and give them the sort of pathos that helps ground the series in reality, we also wanted to open it up to do really fun reversals and rebirths and body swapping–type things.

This season was all about the villains. Who’s your favorite bad guy?
It’s always been Nygma. I’ve always had a soft spot for him, and I think what Cory Michael Smith’s doing is great. He’s been brilliant this year and last year. I think we’ve got some plans for him next season. And there’s one villain I’m really excited about that I cannot share with you. [Laughs]

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What about a favorite scene this season?
That’s a tough one. It’s not one scene, but the episodes where Jim goes to prison and we see him reorient his life and then emerge anew. It was a really enjoyable journey to go on as an actor. So much superhero lore is about overcoming a loss through fantastical elements, but Jim’s just a man. So to experience the loss of Lee and his child—I can imagine going through something similar in my personal life—was a powerful experience.

Without Lee or the GCPD, where does Jim go now?
The plan is to kick him into Season 3 unmoored from all of the things she helped him hold on to and, in some dark way, enjoying a life free from any attachment to anybody. We could [see] him roam the streets at will for a bit and come back [to the GCPD], possibly as a leader of men. I think that’s what we’re aiming for.

You weren’t a comic book kid growing up. Have you gotten better versed in the Batman business since the show started?
I definitely feel more learned in this world, for sure. Don’t quiz me on it, though! [Laughs]

Gotham, Season Premiere, Monday, September 19, 8/7c, Fox.