Robin Lord Taylor | GOTHAM

PrintE-mail Written by Andrew Pollard

During its two seasons to date, FOX’s Gotham has become a firm favourite of many a genre fan. As Oswald Cobblepot, aka The Penguin, Robin Lord Taylor is one of the most enjoyable parts of the show, with his rise to power (and subsequent fall from grace) a vital arc of the show’s second season. With Season 2 of Gotham set for home release next month, we were lucky enough to catch up with the ever-charming actor to discuss all things Penguin.

STARBURST: Oswald has very much transitioned over this season, but how much fun has the role been for you in the second season compared to the first season?

Robin Lord Taylor: It’s been incredible. I couldn’t think that we could top what happened in the first season, but I feel we certainly did in Season 2. The rollercoaster that he went on this year was so much more intense for him. Having started this season as the king of Gotham, then having it all ripped away. And also, having lost his mother and then, of course, his father. And then, of course, his personality. As an actor, it’s just been a dream. You want to portray all aspects of the character, you want to portray every emotion, and I feel they gave that to me this year. It’s just been incredible to play.

Throughout the whole 23 episodes, Oswald certainly goes through the whole range of emotions. How challenging is that, particularly because he switches from one emotion to another so quickly?

It’s a challenge but it’s a welcome challenge. To be able to bring humanity to these larger than life characters is just an incredible opportunity that we’ve all been given. That was my goal, in the sense that I would never want to play a two-dimensional villain or just someone who does evil things for the sake of being evil. The fact that we understand why he’s doing these things, why he has these violent impulses, that we see it comes out of a place where he is constantly abused and constantly taken advantage of. Even when he had all of his negative impulses wiped away by Hugo Strange, the fact that even then when he was a kind, gentle, pure, lovely person, people still abused him. He was still treated terribly. All of these are lessons that he’s learning, and all of this is to show why and to have it make sense why he ends up being the monster, the supervillain that we all grew up knowing: The Penguin.

Obviously The Penguin is one of Batman’s most iconic villains and one of the most popular in comic book history. Was it ever daunting for you taking on this role knowing how passionate comic book fans can be? Was there any trepidation or was it just viewed as a great opportunity to tackle The Penguin?

Oh my gosh, it was terrifying! As an actor, I just wanted to work. I just wanted any sort of job. I wanted health insurance, you know? Then to find myself playing a character that’s been around for 76 years or so is actually terrifying. Fans of Batman, fans of this genre are incredibly passionate, as you know, and those fans feel like they have so much ownership over these characters. It was funny, when the casting announcement was made that I was playing The Penguin, the most negative comments I got were that I was a) too tall, and b) too thin. These are two things I’ve never been called before in my life [laughs], so I thought if this was as bad as it gets then I’ll be okay.

Having played Oswald now for two seasons, due you feel a lot more in tune with him and his mannerisms by this point? Is it almost like second nature?

Absolutely. I just feel that I truly understand who he is from the deepest part of his soul. Actually, it’s become a very sort of physical process getting into character for me, which I’m very grateful for. For example, when I show up to work I have an hour and a half of make-up and then another half an hour of hair styling, then I put on these fabulous costumes. All of this stuff, it is as though I’m stepping in to his skin, which as an actor is just an incredible tool to have – I feel very, very lucky that I have this physical transformation. It makes it all the more easier to inhabit and embody this iconic character.

Midway through the second season, this odd couple dynamic develops between yourself and Cory Michael Smith’s Ed Nygma. It feels a little like The Penguin needs to always be attached to somebody, and it was really fun to see you two play off each other here. How much fun was it to do those scenes?

It was just a dream. If I could have every scene with Cory Michael Smith, I would be a happy guy. But I will say, just in general about our entire cast, we all genuinely have so much respect and love for each other. Every actor on our show elevates the next person. Everyone is setting the bar higher and higher, and it’s just so enthusiastic and exciting to meet that bar and raise it again. We’re just all so inspired by each other’s work. Specifically about Oswald and Edward, they’re both outcasts, they’re both misfits, but they come at it from entirely different ways. So I find that their characters really truly complement each other, and I’m just so excited to see where we go with that in the future. It’s going to be extremely exciting.

With you being such a focal point of the show, has that been a blessing or a curse in terms of other projects and how it consumes so much of your schedule?

It’s not bad in the slightest. Danny Cannon, our executive producer, has the perfect term for this; he calls it a “champagne problem”. And I think that fully encapsulates what’s going on with my life. I feel so lucky to be on this show and to be able to be given the material that I’m given. I will say that the hardest thing about it is there’s something about it… it’s almost like an oxymoron in a sense, when you think about being recognised and being someone who is public and who is known by a lot of people. It was difficult for me initially to sort of wrap my mind around it because really as an actor what I’m doing is the opposite of that; ideally I would be a faceless, nameless person so that I could easily just sort of disappear in to a role and then have no one know about me personally. Finding the common ground between those two was a challenge at first. But again, it’s a champagne problem all the way. I’m so blessed and lucky and happy to be working with these incredible people on this incredible show.

With The Penguin having been constantly on the rise and on the demise throughout the two seasons to date, and with the landscape changing dramatically at the end of Season 2, what can we expect for Oswald in Season 3?

Oh, well see he’s learnt quite a lot of lessons this year. Having started as the king of Gotham, then having it all ripped away, and then having not just his mother but also his father so violently taken from him, these are all lessons that he needed to learn. And actually, there’s a lovely scene mid-season after his mother has died and he was in Edward Nygma’s apartment and Oswald is talking about leaving Gotham City and he’s completely inconsolable. Edward says to him you’re free now, you have license to do whatever you want, to love someone is to be vulnerable, to really care about someone is a weakness. Having all of the people that he loves taken from him, he now has full licence to be a complete monster and to be completely unhinged and absolutely ruthless. And I can tell you going forward, that’s exactly what he’s going to be. He will not settle for anything less than being the king of the show. Going forward, I think he has the tools now to achieve that. So I’m excited to see how the writers help make that happen.

Season 2 of Gotham is available on Blu-ray and DVD from August 1st.

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