UPDATE: 2/12/14 – The below article has been updated to reflect the casting of Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD Executive Producer Jeph Loeb recently told the Salt Lake Tribune, “But there are still people online who go, ‘We don’t understand why Iron Man isn’t on the show!’ You know what? He’s not. I love Robert [Downey Jr.] — not coming by anytime soon.” While this type of comment papers over the more legitimate criticisms of SHIELD, it does also speak to a fundamental flaw of the show in general: they’ve been doing a comic book super hero show without including any of the actual super heroes or villains (so far at least).
Fox wants no part of that noise. When the network won an intense bidding war last year to land Gotham from Mentalist/Rome Executive Producer Bruno Heller it appeared they were getting a Gotham Central adaptation, telling the story of Gotham City but switching the focus from the vigilante (Batman) to actual legitimate law enforcers (Gordon and other cops). You know what that sounds like? Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. So, last month at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour Fox President Kevin Reilly revealed Gotham will be as much of an origin story for Bruce Wayne as Jim Gordon:
“This is not one of the things where you bought a franchise and then none of characters people know. The show will track Bruce from a child (around 12-years-old) until he puts on a cape in the finale. We will see how they get to become what they are as Gotham is teetering on the edge. This is all of the classic Batman characters [including young versions of Riddler, Catwoman, and Penguin].”
So, Gotham will be a weird hybrid of a police procedural about Detective Gordon as well as Smallville with a young Bruce Wayne in place of a young Clark Kent? Won’t it be awkward cutting back and forth between a 12-year-old Bruce Wayne and an adult cop just starting out his career on the Gotham City Police Department not to mention any time to be reserved for origin stories for villians? Probably, but Reilly further distanced Gotham from SHIELD by promising a very serialized storytelling structure, not just an “adjunct companion” show, which makes Heller, of the very standard CBS procedural Mentalist, kind of strange fit.
While we still wrap our heads around what to expect from Gotham, the producers are moving fast in gathering their cast, locking in 6 actors to major roles in the past 5 days. They have yet to cast the role of Bruce Wayne, but they have cast (full disclosure: I have limited to no exposure to any of these actors before now):
Role: Jim Gordon / Actor: Ben McKenzie (The O.C., Southland)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “Gotham’s Gordon is a rookie detective for Gotham City Open Police Department’s Homicide Squad. A college football star, and a war hero, Gordon was fast-tracked through the GCPD ranks. He’s brave, energetic and honest. Driven to live up to the classical virtues of a father he barely knew, he’s an idealistic soul, to the point of naiveté. That virtue is tempered by analytical intelligence and an ambitious alpha male ego — he’ll back up his naive ideals with action.”
Interestingly, McKenzie has prior Batman experience, having voiced Bruce Wayne in the animated film adaptation of Batman: Year One.
Role: Oswald Cobblepot, aka, Penguin / Actor: Robin Lord Taylor (The Walking Dead, Another Earth)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “The character is described as having the brains of a chess grandmaster and the morals of a jackal who is a low-level psychopath for gangster Fish Mooney who hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor.”
Yeah, but, will he talk like Burgess Meredith, whose signature Penguin vocal delivery has been co-opted by Jon Stewart for his beloved Dick Cheney impression?
Role: Captain Essen (Gordon’s Boss) / Actress: Zabryna Guevara (Burn Notice)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “Captain Essen is Gordon’s boss at the Gotham City Police Department Homicide Squad, who balances the two worlds of police and politics with a Machiavellian skill that is as much corporate litigator as cop.”
In Frank Miller’s iconic Batman/Gordon origin tale Batman: Year One Gordon has an extra-marital affair with a co-worker named Sarah Essen. The two break off the affair during the course of Year One, but in later comics she returned and married Gordon after his divorce. Of course, the Joker eventually killed Sarah because, well, that’s the type of thing the Joker does.
Role: Alfred Pennyworth / Actor: Sean Pertwee (Elementary, Camelot)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “In Gotham, Alfred is a tough-as-nails ex-Marine from East London, who has loyally served the Wayne family. Now, in the wake of their tragic deaths, he is fiercely protective of the young Bruce Wayne.”
First of all, this means that WB will have two versions of Alfred running concurrent to each other, Pertwee on Gotham and Jeremy Irons in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel sequel. Second of all, yes, Sean Pertwee is Jon Pertwee’s son, which should tell you something about the longevity of Doctor Who – the son of the actor who played the 3rd Doctor is now old enough to play Alfred Pennyworth, joining the grey-haired likes of Michael Gough and Michael Caine. Lastly, there is DC precedent for a version of Alfred with a military background, such as the ex-Royal Marine Alfred in the graphic novel Batman: Earth One as well as in the animated series Beware the Batman.
Role: Barbara Kean (Gordon’s Fiance) / Actress: Erin Richards (Breaking In, Being Human)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “Barbara Kean is a sophisticated ER doctor engaged to marry Gordon. She’s joyful but with an edge of vulnerability who stands by her future husband … which can be difficult in a world as corrupt as Gotham.”
In comics continuity, Barbara is Gordon’s first wife who eventually divorced Jim, moved to Chicago, and retained custody of their son, James, Jr. In the old continuity, she was birth mother to James, Jr. but adoptive mother to Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon whereas in New 52 continuity she is birth mother to both James and Barbara.
Role: Harvey Bullock / Actor: Donal Logue (ER, Grounded for Life, Terriers, Sons of Anarchy)
Via Hollywood Reporter: “Bullock is described as Gordon’s partner and mentor, who is rough around the edges and plays loose with police procedure — but gets results and does it with old-school, forceful panache.”
In comics continuity, Bullock began as an incompetent, corrupt police officer actually operating under instructions from a rival of Commissioner Gordon’s who aimed to undercut Gordon and take his job. In time, Bullock became loyal to Gordon as well as slightly more competent and no longer taking any kind of bribes. He’s most known for the version of the character who appeared in Batman: The Animated Series, where Bullock was a decent cop, fiercely loyal to Gordon, and usually ethically opposed to the entire idea of Batman. So, if you remember that overweight cop from the cartoon who always wanted to arrest Batman, insulting him at every opportunity, well that ray of sunshine was Harvey Bullock. There is some comic book precedent for Gordon and Bullock being partners, as a thin, leaner Bullock appears as a kind of celebrity cop with his own reality show and temporarily partnering with Gordon in the alternate universe graphic novel Batman: Earth One.