“Gotham’s” Robin Lord Taylor is certain that he has found the role of a lifetime in the villainous DC Comics character Penguin.
Just 22 episodes into his Batman prequel career, Taylor is putting his personal stamp on the iconic Batman-universe character previously portrayed by big names like Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito.
Taylor’s contemporary TV version of Penguin alter ego Oswald Cobblepot has earned the previously little-known actor rave reviews, which is particularly important to “Gotham’s” future on fourth-rated Fox.
TheWrap caught up with Taylor before he jetted to Tokyo to promote the comic-book show internationally. Taylor, a dark-horse Emmy contender in the Supporting Actor – Drama category, shares some thoughts on the role.
(Warning: Spoilers for the season finale of “Gotham” ahead.)
TheWrap: What is the toughest thing you’ve had to do this season?
Taylor: Believe it or not, it was … throwing Jada Pinkett Smith — a.k.a. Fish Mooney — over the wall in the finale. It’s difficult only because she has been nothing but so incredibly supportive and loving to me. I really don’t believe that it’s the last we’ve seen of Fish Mooney, but at the same time, I don’t know when she’s coming back or if or what that situation is.
It’s funny, because Oswald’s relationship with [Fish] and my relationship with [Pinkett Smith] are similar only to the extent that everything Oswald learned about Gotham City and how that world works, he learned it from Fish, and everything that I’ve learned about this world — being more of a public person and navigating … a red carpet and knowing how to talk — I learned so much of it from Jada.
It was sad. It was sad to say goodbye, not forever — obviously — but for the time being.
What is the most fun thing you got to do this season?
Everything. I could say firing that enormous machine gun. My Iowa, NRA-card-carrying family members were very proud of me at that moment. That was perversely fun.
Also — I don’t want it to be trite — but just working with this incredible group of people. Everyone has been unbelievably supportive of each other. It’s such an amazing team of actors. There’s no weak link among any of us, and we all heighten each other’s performances.
Who else on your show deserves an Emmy nomination and why?
Oh, goodness. I would say, first of all, Jada Pinkett Smith. She brought so much vivacity and she created this character, which I think should live on in the comics. I think it left such a lasting impression on everybody. To play a female crime boss in a place like Gotham City — the grit that she brought to the role was just so well-suited for the character. You can only imagine, in this world … for a woman — the choices she made to get to that place of power — you shudder to think of what she had to do. And I think all of that resonates in her performance.
I would also say Ben [McKenzie] because he had the hardest job of any of us. He carries the show, he brings us down to a place of reality. The rest of us get to play these insanely colorful characters — he’s the soul, the anchor to our show. And I think he carries it off perfectly.
Finally, I have to give a huge shout-out to my very good friend, Cory Michael Smith … the stuff that he did this season was just so perfect. And also I think he should get nominated for his incredible, insanely beautiful performance in “Olive Kitteridge.”
If you are nominated, which episode would you submit and why?
I would submit Episode 7, “Penguin’s Umbrella.” It’s the first time we really see the depths of Penguin’s fascination … his plotting, and just his intelligence and ambition. With that episode in particular, all of that really comes to a head in a really powerful way.
And again, it was one of those situations where my work was inspired by the work of my costars. Because that episode was very much focused on the Penguin, everyone gave me the biggest gift ever, which was to help me elevate the performance. I’m never one to talk well about myself, but … I was proud of my work in that one, I’ll just say it.
What would you say to persuade someone who has never seen “Gotham” to give it a shot?
I would say: “We’ve all grown up with Batman. It is part of quintessential American pop culture. It’s been part of our lives, all of our stories. It has been around for 76 years. So we are familiar with these characters from the incredible performances that have come in the past; however, if you really, truly have an interest in the mythology of Batman, what we’re showing … we’re really delving into the psychology of these characters as people and not just archetypical villains or heroes. There’s pathos there. There’s a three-dimensionality that we are bringing to the screen that really hasn’t been seen before.”
“So, if you have an interest in this world, in this story — in the story of Bruce Wayne and just the story of Gotham City in general — if you watch our show, you will see things that have never been explored before. And I think it’s just really exciting treatment of these characters in this mythology that we’re all familiar with.”