During our San Diego Comic Con 2017 roundtable interview for season four of Fox’s Gotham, Alexander Siddig admitted he had been reading up on Ra’s al Ghul on the internet but then gave up. “After about 45 minutes I went, ‘This is so contradictory. Everybody has something else to say about something. I’m stopping right there.’” Siddig decided it was best to stick with the Gotham writers’ interpretations and figure out from there the best way to play Ra’s al Ghul. Alexander Siddig knows how important Ra’s al Ghul is to fans, describing the character as a “holy cow sacred thing” that he cannot afford to mess up.
Gotham will premiere on September 21, 2017.
What can you tease about the upcoming season?
Alexander Siddig: “What I can tell you is from my point of view I am on a mission that has taken me over a 1,000 years to make Batman my own, to carve him in my own image, to make him my heir. I know that Alfred is a fine, upstanding citizen, but Bruce needs more than the ability to make an exquisite napkin or a centerpiece for a table, which is pretty much all Alfred can teach him. Now, he needs to learn how to fight and look after himself. It’s not just a playground, this is Gotham so everything is existential which is what I like about it. Every moment is life or death, which is hectic but real – not – but real enough. So, I’m going to teach him how to fight and look after himself.
That relationship’s going to be really interesting because it’s not going to be just the bad guy. I don’t think Ra’s al Ghul will be just…well, he will be just a bad guy, but I’m hoping to layer him up with a few interesting levels.”
Will there be a serious conflict between Ra’s al Ghul and Alfred, given that Ra’s is stepping on Alfred’s toes?
Alexander Siddig: “I so hope so and I would be very disappointed if there wasn’t some serious rivalry for Bruce’s affection, which may tip over into physical contact – which may end in Arthur’s ending his story if I have anything to do with it. Arthur will exist no more. I suspect I can’t do that, because this story has already been written. However, I’m going to do my damnedest to try and make it happen.”
Were you a fan of the series before landing the role?
Alexander Siddig: “I wasn’t. I wasn’t, not because I didn’t like Gotham but because I’d never seen Gotham. TV has become a candy store that is bigger than any candy store that has ever existed in my lifetime. There is so much candy now that I don’t know what to pick, and I need my friends to tell me what candy the good stuff is. And as I’d never been told that Gotham was a good thing, I didn’t know it existed. So, now I’m looking at it and I’m loving it.
I saw the second season – most of the second season. I saw the first three episodes of the first season; this is how I knit together my research. Very deep, very complex. Now, I really love it.”
Does Ra’s feel like a full season four villain?
Alexander Siddig: “I think he’s a full season four villain. He may be missing for a little while but that will be because they’ve got to do some other stuff with other people – even though the audience won’t be liking any of the other characters by the time we’re halfway through the season. That is what I’m told. I have no idea. (Laughing) Arrogant? Moi?”
Does he care about Bruce Wayne or only want to use him?
Alexander Siddig: “It’s a question of DNA. Did you ever read The Selfish Gene? It’s a book which basically explains that genes have to survive come what may. Now, they can be nasty in order to do it. They can be nice in order to do it. The whole point is to keep that gene alive. Whatever gene courses through Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce is the perfect host of that gene. I’m not sure that love in that sense comes into it. But I reckon that with three or four hours with Bruce, Bruce will get to Ra’s. I don’t think it will be a one-way street and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that relationship evolves. I already know it’s going to be pretty hectic. That’s a word we use a lot in England; I don’t know if we use it a lot here. Hectic is like hectic.”
When you started did they give you an idea of where the character’s headed?
Alexander Siddig: “Up until today I didn’t know anything about it except for what I’ve gotten in the scripts that I’ve got. Today John Stephens took me aside and said, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’ I had no idea! It’s hectic. I hope he is a super-villain and will earn that title. I hope that the sheer sophistication of his villainy will be… Nothing’s going to compete with Penguin, okay? They live in our hearts and we love them. I don’t think you’re going to love Ra’s al Ghul. It’s not going to be like that. It’s not going to be sentimental, if I have anything to do with it.”
How did you prepare?
Alexander Siddig: “Pretty much the same way I prepare for every role. I read what I can until I get bored because it’s just people talking. I know the gist. I understand from the scripts that I get from the writers. I know, ‘That’s my goal.’ And then I usually spend…this is a really weird anecdotal story, I’m sorry. (Laughing) I used to go to bed every night and I used to think to myself, ‘What could I have done better today with my friends, with my relationships? Where was I nasty to someone?’ And I really didn’t like being unpleasant. As I grew up, it got more complicated. So, I still go to bed thinking about how I could have had a better day. And when I get a role, I use that time because I’m in the habit of using that time for me. So, I will spend three-quarters of an hour instead of reading a book or listening to the radio, thinking about what I’m going to do with the character.”
Watch the full Alexander Siddig Gotham Interview: