Cory Michael Smith Interview – ‘Gotham’s Riddler

Cory Michael Smith Interview Gotham's Riddler
Cory Michael Smith as Edward Nygma in ‘Gotham’ (Photo by Michael Lavine / © Fox Broadcasting Co)

Cory Michael Smith (Edward Nygma/The Riddler) promises that before season one of Fox’s Gotham ends, audiences will be treated to scenes of Edward alone in a room that will be pretty disturbing. Audiences have really embraced Smith’s performance as Edward and are ready to see more of his transition from a decent guy who’s basically ignored or taken for granted, to one of DC Comics’ best known Batman villains. The steady journey from hero to villain is taking place as Gotham heads toward its season one finale, and at the 2015 WonderCon Smith discussed what fans can expect from the rest of the season as well as his take on Edward’s arc.

“We’ve ended in [episode] 18 where he’s taking bigger challenges, getting a little bit more brave. He finally goes up to Kristen and actually asks her on a date, rather than just giving her cupcakes and bullets. So he’s really reaching out. It’s a big deal; it’s a really big deal and he totally gets shot down,” explained Smith. “I asked the director, I’m like, ‘Look, we’ve been following this little love interest for a while now. At a certain point this is just really frustrating. I’ve been nothing but kind to her and enthusiastic, and shown her exactly how I feel. And to get just shut down because there’s another guy already, it’s frustrating.’ So, I just mutilate the flowers. That’s like a momentary flash of very much darker things that Edward has inside that we will unlock the door and take a peek at. It’s quite horrifying, really, the man inside. I think the veneer of trying…he tries, there’s so much effort. And underneath that, what’s behind that, is a pretty hurt guy.”

“The last few episodes you’ll spend some time alone with Edward in a room with no one else there,” added Smith. “God help America and Canada and France, and everywhere else this is airing. It’s not a pretty place up here.”

Smith admits that waiting to reveal the Riddler has been challenging to his patience. “I think the fans are so attracted to the mischief in this character, the terrorizing that he does to Gotham, and we all just want to do it – like feel it and see it, and it’s exciting. This character has this ability to just be like massively ornery, and so that is to come. But before that, we had to create a world where this good guy, really the only villain that we’ve let be entirely good at the beginning, you have to earn that and it takes time for this person to constantly be shutdown by everybody that he comes in contact with to really create a human being that would respond the way that he needs to to become the man that he’s going to become. So, I feel like it’s been a well thought out and appropriate arc.”

Asked if he believes there was a way to stop the Riddler from becoming a full-on villain, Smith replied, “Oh, sure. If James wanted to embrace how helpful Ed has been. Like, no one talks about it but Ed has really solved three or four crimes. Has anyone ever thanked him for giving them the golden egg that solves the puzzle? No! No, it’s ridiculous. If people would honor him the way that others are celebrated when things are solved, things might be different. Anyone want to promote him? The medical examiner’s gone – got rid of him and they immediately brought in someone else. And he, maybe he’s not a doctor but perhaps he’s more equipped to do some of these examinations. So he’s just not getting any love whatsoever.”

So, it’s actually in Edward to change if he was given the recognition? “Absolutely,” says Smith. “I would like to think that a lot of people in this world who’ve done really terrible things, there’s a reason. I think events are avoidable potentially. People are the response to their environment, response to the way they’re treated, so that’s kind of just how we’re building Ed. It’s fun to have a hero and a villain, to understand why those people have gone those routes, for me as an actor and being interested in psychology, it’s more exciting.”

About those scenes in which Edward will be alone in a room, what will the audience actually be hearing? “You’ll hear his actual thoughts. Yeah, I like to think, you know, it’s funny the way this was all timing out as we were filming this. I don’t know if any of you watched the Robert Durst documentary on HBO, but you know in the final episode of that he’s in the bathroom talking to himself. That aired right before we filmed me being alone in a room talking to myself. I was reminded that it’s not just a way to tell a story verbally so that the audience knows what you’re thinking. People actually do this. When you’re alone, you talk to yourself. I mean, I do – I don’t know if everyone else does. Some people talk to themselves and you essentially see that. And you get to see a human being fighting with himself, the good and evil, both sides of his conscience are having a conversation, walking through an issue. Or stomping…’stomping’ may be a more appropriate word,” said Smith, laughing.

– More Gotham interviews: Ben McKenzie / Robin Lord Taylor / John Stephens

Watch the interview:

-By Rebecca Murray

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