‘Gotham’ – Robin Lord Taylor Season 5 Interview on Penguin’s Journey

Fox’s Gotham is set to return for its fifth and final season on January 3, 2019 at 8pm ET/PT. The new season will continue to focus on Bruce Wayne’s transformation into Batman, while also introducing new villains including Bane (Shane West). Fan favorite villains The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), and The Joker (Cameron Monaghan) will also play integral roles in the show’s fifth season which will finish up with a 10 year leap forward in time for the series’ finale.

Robin Lord Taylor was among the cast members in attendance at the 2018 New York Comic Con supporting Gotham‘s final season. During our roundtable interview, Robin Lord Taylor discussed The Penguin’s evolution and what he hopes fans take away from the character by the end of the season.

How does it feel going into Gotham‘s final season?

Robin Lord Taylor: “I couldn’t be more proud of the stories that we’ve told. My fellow actors and also my crew have made me a better actor and a better person. I owe them so much. It’s crazy. (Getting emotional) I’ve been on the verge all day… People are like, ‘Who are you going to miss the most?’ It’s like I can’t answer it. Everyone’s changed me. It’s crazy. It’s emotional.”

In past interviews you’ve said fans will get to watch The Penguin evolve further into the comics’ version.

Robin Lord Taylor: (Laughing) “I wasn’t going to spoil it, but our showrunner did. Yeah, you will see our version of the traditional Penguin from the comic books in the last episode. All of the components will be there. It will be fully realized. I’m so excited because it almost makes…it legitimizes him in a certain way. It’s like now I really do feel like I am the third Penguin. Like, I followed Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito. Like, what the f*ck is my life? Unbelievable! It’s amazing.”

Was there anything you really wanted to make sure got in before the end of the show’s run?

Robin Lord Taylor: “There was, and it will make it in – the monocle. I wanted to make sure that when we tell that story, that it’s not just some affectation. It’ s not just some weird stylistic choice.

You know, in one of the stories it’s an actual injury that he receives. [John Stephens] walked me through the beginning of the season. He walked me through vaguely where we’re going. He was like, ‘Do you have anything that you really need?’ I was like, ‘Can we please when we do the monocle make it the injury?’ because it ties into this character from the beginning having been beaten and now he has the limp and he’s somewhat handicapped. It’s about how Gotham City itself is destroying this person, is cutting him down, is turning him into a monster. And that’s such an important component of it, I feel, the fact that he’s now blinded in one eye.

There’s something about him now where one side of his body is damaged and the other side is not. It’s like this duality that’s always been there with him, this sympathetic yet monstrous person, you know? And I just thought that was so important. It will come into play in these next couple of episodes.”

For you personally, are there any villains coming up that you’d like to see Penguin sharing scenes with?

Robin Lord Taylor: “I’ve been in lots of scenes with, I think, all of the villains. I’m actually going to flip it a little and say I want more scenes with the good guys. I’ve had passing scenes with Lucius Fox and I’ve had a passing scene with Alfred. I just really want to have more stuff with those guys because when you put two of these characters together, you learn new things about them and then about their relationship to these people. I just think that would be so cool to play more on the good guy side of things.”

What will the relationship be like between The Penguin and The Riddler in the new season? Will they have an alliance or will they collide?

Robin Lord Taylor: “Here’s the thing…yes and no. Because again these two characters are so brilliant, and they don’t want to answer to anybody else. It’s hard for them to share and to collaborate and cooperate, but yet at the same time they have to. To get anything done in Gotham City you have to have allies, you have to work with other people especially now that Gotham in season five is fractional. People control certain aspects and so you need to do deals with all of these other people.

With The Riddler in particular I sort of say to myself, ‘My best friend is also my enemy.’ That’s sort of how I feel about their connection. It’s like face-to-face we’re fine but turn your back around and then in goes the knife. They will always have that contention, but I like that. That’s a friction and that’s good stuff, and that’s exciting. You don’t know where they’re going to go. So, yeah, that’s what’s in store for them.”

Robin Lord Taylor Gotham The Penguin
Robin Lord Taylor as The Penguin in season 4 of ‘Gotham’ (Photo © 2018 Fox Broadcasting Co)

What’s one of your favorite Penguin stories from any other interpretation?

Robin Lord Taylor: “I love Batman Returns, that movie and that story of The Penguin. It’s such a departure from the comic books but I think it is just such a poetic, beautiful translation of the character that Tim Burton did. And also, just Danny DeVito’s performance has been reviewed ever since the movie came out. That’s really been my favorite.

And, also, what I really appreciate now especially having worked on Gotham and looking back, specifically at Tim Burton’s work, I like the bravery that he had to play with canon, to play with these traditional characters and not be afraid to put his own interpretation or his own design in order to take it a different way. We’ve done that with the show and we’ve gotten a lot of blowback from certain fans about some of the storylines that we’ve put in. A lot of people have complained that it wasn’t in the comics; it wasn’t canon. I really now having experienced it on my own, I really appreciate the bravery that Tim Burton had to really tell a new story.

If these stories aren’t reinterpreted, if they aren’t changed, if we stick to one specific idea of who these characters are, there’s no way Batman would be 80 years old and we’d still be talking about him. These stories need to change and they need to adapt. Being able to take these characters and make them your own and adapt them to the time in which you’re doing it…this is The Penguin for right now. In some years there would be another one. Every generation gets the Batman that they deserve.”

What do you want fans to take away from this last season about Oswald/The Penguin?

Robin Lord Taylor: “I want them to recognize how Gotham City has created this monster and created all of these monsters. It’s about the city and how it corrupts. I want people to see this person who as a child, if things had gone right, if he hadn’t been poor from an immigrant family, if he hadn’t been bullied mercilessly, if he had been supported and treated with love, I believe he would be a good person. I really do believe he could have used his amazing intellect for good things.

But, that’s not the story we’re telling. So by the very end when the show is all said and done, I want people to look back specifically at The Penguin and see how this person started with a shred of humanity and then through circumstances in this city with these people he ends up a monster. He ends up one of the most ruthless, horrifying people you’ve ever seen. I want people to see how Gotham City has corrupted what could have been good.”