'Gotham' Casting: Who's Playing Gordon, Alfred, the Penguin — and Are They a Good Fit?
By Robert Chan
February 11, 2014 7:29 PM
After spending three years healing people on TNT's "HawthoRNe," Jada Pinkett Smith is ready to get back to hurting them. Smith has been cast in the new Fox/Warner Bros. series "Gotham," a prequel of sorts to the Batman mythos, as "sadistic gangster boss" Fish Mooney.
If that name doesn't sound familiar even to die-hard DC Comics fans, that's because the character was created specifically for the show. However, her underlings include one Oswald Cobblepot aka Penguin, a name we do recognize. Given the nature of penguins and fish, Smith had better watch her back.
Possessed of "street smarts and almost extrasensory abilities to read people like an open book," it's very much in keeping with executive producer Bruno Heller's current show "The Mentalist" — also about a person with "almost" superhuman abilities.
Dark Horse Comics writer Korey Hunt thinks it will give the show legs without taking liberties with established comic history — something that often drives fans into a frenzy. "Gotham pre-Batman was a more traditional organized crime environment. It could be interesting to see the very beginnings of the gangsters versus freaks thing that plays out in 'The Long Halloween,' [the 13-issue comic book limited series that takes place during Batman's early days of crime fighting]."
Fan response online has been muted, but positive. No one has seen Smith in a role like this, but her work in the "Matrix" films proves she can do, "Imposing and hotheaded [...] not one to be crossed."
A flurry of casting announcements for "Gotham" set fans quivering in the past week. Led by Benjamin McKenzie ("Southland," "The O.C.") as Det. James Gordon, the show will explore the origins of the eventual Commissioner Gordon as a fresh-faced cop facing a corrupt city as well as some villains before they meet the Dark Knight.
"Got some reading to do," tweeted McKenzie, lead in "Gotham." The tweet was by accompanied by a picture of a stack of Batman trade paperbacks. The 35-year-old actor was following the advice given to him by Gary Oldman, who has played the role of Commissioner Gordon for the last nine years on the silver screen.
Five more series regular roles have been cast, and more names are expected to surface soon. Twitter has been filled with fan reactions (we've culled some below), and the cast and crew will likely be responsive to their enthusiasm. The success of shows like "Arrow" have shown that the TV audience is hungry for an alternative to the flashy, effects-heavy superheroes that populate summer blockbusters.
McKenzie played rookie cop Ben Sherman on "Southland" for five seasons, so the transition to rookie Det. Gordon should be easy. Making it even easier, this is McKenzie's second Batman-related endeavor: He was also the voice of Batman himself for the direct-to-DVD movie "Batman: Year One."
McKenzie has some support from fans of his "O.C." days:
But it's his time on "Southland" that's really generating excitement.
Donal Logue ("Sons of Anarchy," "Copper") was being considered to play the lead role according to early rumors, but it turns out he nabbed the role of Gordon's partner and mentor, Harvey Bullock. Bullock is a dirty cop — Warner Bros. uses the euphemism "rough-around-the-edges" — who is nevertheless protective of his new charge. Logue's work as a sitcom dad in "Grounded for Life" and a low-rent detective in the cult favorite "Terriers" makes him an interesting choice for the complex role.
Probably nobody is generating as much excitement, casting-wise, as Logue. People who notice character actors love him and comic fans recognize he's a perfect fit for a pivotal role. Hunt tells us, "Donal Logue as Bullock? I'm on board now."
Sean Pertwee (son of the former "Doctor Who" Jon Pertwee) will play Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred — though probably not the polite and nonconfrontational Alfred we're all used to. The role is "a tough-as-nails ex-Marine from East London," so it's probably a bit less Little Lord Fauntleroy and a little more Guy Ritchie-style gangster.
There's also a lot of approval online for Pertwee as Alfred. He's made a career out of playing hardened military men, plus the "Doctor Who" connection doesn't hurt in the nerd community.
Not everyone agrees.
Robin Lord Taylor, whom you may know as one of the two people Rick and Carol encountered in an abandoned house from the fourth episode of this season's "The Walking Dead," will play the pre-costume Penguin, Oswald Cobblepot. Warner Bros. calls the character "a low-level psychopath … who hides his sadistic lust for power behind an exquisitely polite demeanor." He works for Fish Mooney, so his coolness should be a fun counterpoint to Smith's hotheaded sadism.
Taylor is less well known than Smith, McKenzie, Logue, and Pertwee, though most seem to think he looks creepy enough to make a convincing Penguin. Hunt recalled him fondly from his turn as a "hapless survivor idiot" on "The Walking Dead." "It doesn't make me think 'Penguin' at all, but, you know, acting."
Zabryna Guevara, recently of "Burn Notice" (she played the sympathetic con Ayn in Season 6 of the show), will be Capt. Essen, Gordon's boss in the Homicide Squad. Her role should be interesting: In the comics, she eventually marries Gordon. Whether they changed her role from co-worker to supervisor to exclude that possibility or complicate it, we don't know.
Erin Richards is probably the actor who is least recognizable to American audiences (though she was in the short-lived Christian Slater comedy "Breaking In"), but if you watch U.K. imports often, you will likely have seen her in "Misfits," "Being Human," or "Merlin." She will play Gordon's fiancée, Barbara Kean. Given her job as an ER doctor, his job as a cop, and their comic book history (Gordon divorces her to be with Essen), their relationship will probably be rocky from the start.
Hunt is worried that bringing in young versions of supervillains is a misstep. "It's that Patton Oswalt bit about the 'Star Wars' prequels all over again. 'Hey, you like Darth Vader? Well, you're going to get to see him as a little kid!'" Casting a young Bruce Wayne will also be difficult; Hunt just hopes they'll find someone who "isn't going to Jake Lloyd all over the place" (another reference to the underwhelming "Star Wars" prequels) but thinks Jared Gilmore, who currently plays Henry Mills in "Once Upon a Time" (and also played Bobby Draper in the first two seasons of "Mad Men"), would be a strong choice.
What young actor would you like to see as a pre-Batman Bruce? Are there other characters you're hoping to see teen versions of? How well do you think McKenzie will stand up to the legacy of Commissioner Gordons who have come before him?
. 467 Comments
Scotty 2 hours ago
The idea that Arrow demonstrates that people are ready for gritty realistic heroes now is a stupid Hollywood filmmaker myth. A weird genre that not many people do has a movie with unbelievable success. 10 more like it get pumped out and flop, and producers shake their heads and go "I thought it was the age of the giant robot movie" or whatever. If this show sucks, it won't matter whether or not it's in the same vein as Arrow. You can't just go "this is what people are into now then" and expect success. The thing that people are into now is the same thing they have always been into; a great story with entertaining characters.
DavidV 2 hours ago
First off somebody had to do a hard search for this Batman photo taken from early Batman serial before Adam West even played Batman. Second if this show Gotham is pre-Batman the prefix pre means that the story takes place before Batman was even a thought or before Bruce Wayne's parents were even killed so if it takes place pre Batman then there should be no Batman in the series. Now I think what they should do is do some sort of background story on Thomas and Martha Wayne and how they created the many Wayne Foundations, also how about doing a story on how they came about hiring Alfred as a butler I think that would be cool. As for the cast I can't see Robin Lord Taylor playing the Penguin, if any thing he should play the Joker in the picture of him he already has the pale skin color all they would have to do is give him green hair and a smile and he'd be the Joker. This show seems like it's so full of holes it's not even funny, I personaly don't think this show will be any good , it will end up being a lame tv show with only a couple of episodes it will probably fail before it even begins.
J. Ryan 4 hours ago
With the invention of a new character for Jada it seems like the creators are already starting off-base with this thing. It's essentially a "police procedural" that with an attachment of comic book lore is going to be too hokey for your average police show fan and not connected enough to the comic for your comic book fan. The reason the comic Gotham Central worked so well is because 1. It took place at the same time that Batman is doing his thing and was a neat counterpoint for the unique situations that the police in Gotham have to deal with. 2. The writers for the series were Ed Brubaker and Greg Ruck, two very talented writers working together to make something unique in comics, a story about regular people doing their jobs in a comic book world. I'm not saying this show is not going to work, but we do already have lots of cop drama type shows on television and with the comic attachment on this one the average comic fan is tuning in to see comic characters and not brand new characters made just for the show.
AKA 16 hours ago
They are creating this show to build on Arrow's success but that will be easier said than done. Arrow is awesome because first and foremost it is well-written and genuinely exciting and fun to watch. As a comic book fan, there is an obvious secondary appeal to it as it features a lot of good characters from the DC universe but it would be a great show either way. It is also really cool that they are building a spin-off with Flash because it will definitely lead to crossovers. The CW has done a better job establishing a larger DC universe so far than anyone, including movie studios, has - they clearly learned a lot while producing Smallville and have fixed the mistakes made on that show.
Gotham doesn't sound great to me so far because it sounds like they are basically creating a run of the mill detective show and using the lure of Batman to make it more appealing. If they had done a true "Year One" show from the perspective of Gotham PD - that would be cool. But Gotham without the Bat-family active sounds kind of lame to me.
david 8 hours ago
Jada was acting before she ever married Will Smith, and possibly acting before he was. She was in some highly acclaimed movies long ago, although probably not for everybody. Her work in Tales from the Crypt, Low Down Dirty Shame, Jason's Lyric, Set it Off, and Menace to Society gained her recognition. She's definitely not some novice. A lot of her better movies had mostly all black characters, and so possibly not watched by a lot of white mainstream. She put her career on hold for several years to support Will Smith's efforts, and have her kids. As far as Will Smith goes, I did not like After Earth, but have liked several of his other science fiction movies.
David Kruse 9 hours ago
I don't know how Jada Pinkett Smith, Zabryna Guevara, and Erin Richards will fair, but the casting for the comic book counterparts just seems so off-beat. Probably worse than the casting for the Man of Steel sequel. I'll at least watch a few episodes when it comes out, but if it fails to impress me, then screw it.
Angel 50 minutes ago
I'm not even interested in this show. This makes it an even stronger, NOPE.
Vincent 3 hours ago
I'm actually curious about this show. I just hope they try to capture the 'mood' of Nolan's Gotham instead of trying to target a young audience and turning it all into crap.
Lockdown67 9 hours ago
WB seems to think that names will help gloss over the fact that this is a stupid idea. These are clearly a different bunch of producers than the ones handling Arrow and Flash. This has Warner Bros suits all over it.
Erik 8 hours ago
Soooo is Batman the protagonist of this series? Typically you don't use up the budget on character actors and supporting roles before having a solid lead choice to build the show around. Maybe Bruce will just be in the background or something? Idk comic book lore, is this all supposed to take place in a preBatman era?
Supersonic Boy 7 hours ago
I think this spinoff is either gonna work really well or not at all.
nathan 8 hours ago
That Awkward moment if both Batman related projects flop. Like Daredevil.
WhatWouldJesseDo? 15 hours ago
I remember back when the remake of Batman was exciting and fresh, now they've done it so many times he's even a LEGO. . .
Zabdiel 15 hours ago
Gordon's story, as seen from Batman Year One, holds a lot of weight in the Batman universe and is very interesting to see on screen the way Gotham was as a dark gritty city along with the rise of Arkham, If anything I hope it can be written somewhat to the theme of the classic Animated Series from the 90s, which to this day is one of the best I have ever seen.
Mason 14 hours ago
I'm a huge fan of the relationship between the Joker and Batman. That doesn't mean I'm not going to watch this TV show, which revolves around Gordan. It's a new spin on the Batman plot. Looking forward to seeing it. The Batman universe has been constantly evolving: characters, plots, and timelines. Besides what else on TV is there to watch?
Em & Em 15 hours ago
I'm not even sure there should be a young Bruce Wayne in this series. At least not as a regular. IF they are going to include the character, his appearances should be sporadic at best and most definitely not played by Jared Gilmore. I love OUAT, but Gilmore is a weak link in the show's casting.
Stephen F 11 hours ago
We need Batman Beyond to return. I did not like it when it abruptly ended the way it did.
Turtles 9 hours ago
100 years from now, nobody will know what is original anymore.
Protips 9 hours ago
This show is going to be awful. The lineup of actors isn't fit for Sharknado 2.
Brian 9 hours ago
Sure, create a new stupid villain despite the plethora of existing established characters. And wonderful, another prequel story, because I forgot his origin, even though it's retold every few films. This isn't going to top Batman Begins. This is probably going to be like Marvel, Agents of Shield, the lame Marvel show without any Marvel characters in it. And of course, obviously, every Batman fan wants less Batman! Brilliant, a Batman show w/o Batman. Keep up the great work.
Leo716 8 hours ago
I'd like to see a teen-version of Poison Ivy. Not for the show, just to be able to see her.
SteveJobs1 4 hours ago
Sorry folks but this show will bomb. No one really cares enough for Pre-Batman.
Jennifer 16 hours ago
Remember the Batman and Robin movie with Mr. Freeze? I get the feeling this movie will be as much of an embarrassment as that one was.
M'Balz Zizari 4 hours ago
Oh no, not ANOTHER female African-American mob boss. Can't they come up with anything original?
Jason 12 hours ago
What we definitely need is more superhero stuff in the mass media. Maybe somebody could make a movie or something?
WHATSAMATTERU 10 hours ago
Yawn. Another flop like Marvels Agents of Boredom simply trying to cash in on name recognition only.
Pertnear 15 hours ago
Yeah, I think I'll pass on this one. When you start making up villains for a TV show, things are bound to go downhill fast. The main audience are Batman and comic book fans - you will lose both groups by creating villains that never existed before.
KeitaJ 8 hours ago
Interesting. I'm assuming that because Jada's character is a black mob boss they will model her character after Madame St. Clair. If she can pull it off that seems dope. I like Jada but Angela Basset seems like she'd be a better mob boss
Libertas 9 hours ago
I hope they are not committed to producing whole season, because it won't last.
Nick M 14 hours ago
So if I'm understanding this TV pilot, it's Gotham with no Batman? How freaking boring is that going to be?!
1-big-something 10 hours ago
I remember when Batman The Animated Series created a character named Harley Quinn and now she is one of the most popular characters. I am going to watch this show and I hope this character is good as Harley Quinn is.
Shadez 14 hours ago
Sean Pertwee is the casting choice that interests me the most. Not only is he son to The Third Doctor Who, but he was also being considered to play The Doctor when BBC revived the series. Would have been great to see him in that part. Leads me to wonder how well he'll fill Alfred's venerable shoes.
Horns 12 hours ago
Dr Yahoo. Please stop putting twitter posts in the middle of articles. It is annoying. Either put them at the end or not at all.
Cap'n Cheesesteak 10 hours ago
How much did the WB pay for this article? Who are these losers that are so psyched for this piece of #$%$ show? "The success of Arrow"?!?! That show's a success? I thought it was one of those lame teen action/dramas that only end up in the top ten shows specifically on the CW. No offense but WB can't produce solid DC live action. If they put $$ into actually getting talented actors/scripts/effects that would be one thing, but they can't stop cutting corners and trying to turn $.25 into 25 million.
And for the record, Jada Pinkett Smith has never been good in ANYTHING.
jmcal408 13 hours ago
As long as her son never appears in an episode, it might be worth watching.
Harald 13 hours ago
I have no problems with Jada Pinkett Smith as a villain but of all the possible names for a female gangster boss they choose "Fish"?!?!? While they will eventually explain where it came from, even as a nickname...there are plenty of other names that would have sounded a lot better.
Abel Zavala 6 days ago
I'm iffy on this new show (although I probably will be watching it). My problem lies in that, from what I read earlier (and because of the Penguin announcement in this article) is that some of Batman's rogues will be included when in fact it's because of him that a lot of them became who they are. I'm really hoping to see Cobblepot and not The Penguin when there'll be no Batman... Now I am excited to see the route they're taking with Alfred.... and as far as Bats, as much as I am a fan, I do hope that they eventually feature him. If the show will revolve around Gordon, I hope they don't focus on Batman. I'm hoping that he will be in a few scenes here and there (maybe around Season 3 if the show is good and goes that long) and I'm really hoping that mostly they'll (the writers, director(s), etc) focus on the other Gothamites point of view of Batman; I want to see Batman as a mysterious figure, an enigma, a myth.
jon 13 hours ago
maybe this will help her take her mind off of her failing open marriage!
Android 16 hours ago
Great more trash from the Smith family. I'm reading into this that the role was probably bought by the Smiths in order to keep their name in the spotlight.
Shawn B. 10 hours ago
I know nothing about this but this is pretty damn enticing!
Franklin 13 hours ago
Oh No! Not another Smith movie. They only ruin all the movies they appear in. The whole family has no more talent.
NJVV 16 hours ago
it will probably turn out well, but, the Smiths have not had a great track record lately...
Kevin D 6 days ago
Josh F 6 days ago
I think there is a possiblity this is going to just end up CSI: Gotham. There was a comic series a while ago called Gotham Central that was basically a police procedural set in Gotham.
Tulio 6 days ago
How ironic that Sean Pertwee, the son of one of the earlier Dr. Who is in a fictional series that portrays the same ideas as in the Dr. Who series.
In Chicago, many years ago I was in a Walgreens getting something and at the register there was a tall man in a caped plaid coat, and to my surprise it was his father the Dr.
We spoke for a few moments and we both went on our own ways. Made my day.....
allan 6 days ago
Writers are really getting lazy with cutting and pasting Twitter posts instead of writing.
David W 6 days ago
The reality of this is simple: if Fox and Warner Brothers want to make it a hit, they need to steer clear of EVERYTHING that WB/CW did with Smallville... including going from what it was supposed to be to a "Mary Sue" centered piece of tripe that even DC refuses to recognize in canon.