Ben McKenzie Interview – ‘Gotham’ and Season One’s Final Episodes

Ben McKenzie Gotham Season 1 Interview
Ben McKenzie as Det. James Gordon in the “Beasts of Prey” episode of ‘Gotham’ (Photo by Jessica Miglio © 2015 Fox Broadcasting Co)

Fox’s Gotham is heading toward the finale for season one and as this incredible first season wraps up, Ben McKenzie (‘Jim Gordon’) joined his co-stars Robin Lord Taylor (‘Oswald Cobblepot’/’The Penguin’) and (‘Edward Nygma’/’The Riddler’) along with executive producer John Stephens for a Q&A with fans at WonderCon. McKenzie also sat down for a few short interviews to discuss what’s coming up with the final season one episodes and how he’s approached the character of Detective Jim Gordon in this first season.

Asked what the audience can expect from Jim as the finale approaches, McKenzie said, “We’ve already seen him evolve significantly. In the last episode Loeb used Bullock against him to free Arnold Flass, the guy that he had put behind bars. Loeb orchestrated a betrayal of the partnership and Jim and Harvey end up tracking down Loeb’s cache of dirt only to find that what’s at its heart is his daughter. She killed Loeb’s wife. Jim didn’t use Loeb’s daughter against him, for the good of Malcolm in many respects, giving his own partner his dirt back on him so he’s free and clear. But this concept of these Machiavellian moves that Jim is now capable of is a real evolution for him. We saw at the beginning of the season, he’s almost naive he’s so alone. Now he’s learned to play ball. That’s only going to continue at the end.

At the end of the season we introduce a new face, The Ogre, a serial killer who targets women. He seduces them, tortures them, and kills them. And also he targets any loved one of a cop who comes after him. Anytime a cop has taken on the case, a loved one of that cop has been killed. So he’s kept himself from being investigated through intimidation. Jim, of course, can not abide by this. He has to take on the case only of course knowing he has to pay the price.”

McKenzie says that at this point Jim Gordon is getting dangerously close to believing the end justifies the means. “I wouldn’t say he’s there yet. I would say the end justifies the means is probably the final journey of Jim,” explained McKenzie. “But that’s the end point of the journey. The journey is each step down the spiral staircase into hell, the circle of which is how deep a compromise are you going to make. Right now he’s only threatening Loeb with the execution of his daughter. Loeb’s a terrible guy and he’s threatening to use it, he knows Loeb’s going to fold, he folds, he got what he wanted. It’s not too bad, but it will get worse.”

I asked McKenzie what his actual entry point into the character was and what he latched onto that helped him get into Jim Gordon this season. “He’s a soldier. In our conception he served, was decorated, and comes home really for the first time because he was raised outside of Gotham. He left Gotham when his father was killed. He comes back to the city that he really never knew to take on the crusade of his father who he always imagined was a lion, a hero. He quickly realizes the city was a moral abyss and he might not have been the upstanding citizen that he thought he was. But the military sense of discipline, sense of mission is I think kind of what I gravitated towards when I first tried to get a hold of the character. He is the only one in Gotham who has that. Everyone else plays ball. Everybody else is, ‘Do I really need to do my job? Maybe I can get a little extra money on the side.’ Everybody is kind of sucked into that because how could you not? Jim just has to be distinct in order to be the guy that he is.”

But it’s not just all about fighting crime as the season finishes up. Romantically, Jim Gordon’s involved with Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin) and McKenzie says the couple are doing pretty well now. “She’s an ME; she’s working alongside him which can feel a little bit claustrophobic to have your partner right next to you in the office. But, they have a shared sense of mission. They really are kindred spirits trying to clean up Gotham,” said McKenzie. “But Barbara’s (Erin Richards) come back only to find Jim in the arms of someone else… The Ogre and Jim taking over that cases knowing that a loved one is going to be targeted brings the situation to a head. That will have some pretty dire consequences to the people involved.”

Without giving away any spoilers, McKenzie said that reading the script for the season finale left him shocked at how far the writers took the story. “It’s just jammed,” revealed McKenzie. “The finale is almost chaos. I mean, not everybody lives. Many people do not emerge, even if they do live, whole – let’s say – from the experience.”

– More Gotham interviews: John Stephens / Robin Lord Taylor / Cory Michael Smith

Watch the full interview for more with Ben McKenzie on Ed Nygma and his take-away from this first season experience:

-By Rebecca Murray

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