John Stephens on ‘Gotham,’ Villains, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Lucius Fox

John Stephens Interview on Gotham Season 1
John Stephens, Ben McKenzie, Robin Lord Taylor, and Cody Michael Smith from ‘Gotham’ (Photo by Richard Chavez / ShowbizJunkies)

Gotham writer/executive producer John Stephens promises the final episodes of season one are going to reveal major changes in key characters. Fox’s Gotham will be back for season two, and as this first season heads toward its finale, characters who’ve been heading toward what we know to be their ultimate fate will move still closer into transitioning into the characters Batman fans expect them to become.

At the 2015 WonderCon in Anaheim, CA, Stephens explained how the writers decided when was the right time to introduce each of the villains we’ve seen make an appearance in Gotham thus far. In a word: “Gut.” “I mean, really it was kind of an instinct. A lot of it is when we map out the season in the writers’ room when we’re looking at it all, you want their storylines to climax,” explained Stephens. “For example, Penguin’s had a really huge story for this period and he’s going to be resting for a while, so then there’s a great two episode arc to bring in Scarecrow. It’s like all these intersecting sine curves and cosine curves – that’s math – that are going through the season, it’s really just trying to balance everything. You kind of get those feelings too where you tell a Falcone/Maroni story for like two episodes, which can feel very mob-y mob-y, so then you’re saying, ‘Now I really want my story to feel more supervillainy.’ So, we’ll do a Jonathan Strange or a Red Hood episode, something like that. It really is like a feel.”

As far as providing an overview of what’s going to happen for the remainder of season one, Stephens was more than happy to talk about what’s coming up – without giving too much away. “There’s going to be a three episode arc that begins in 19 and goes through 21 which is Gordon’s going to be investigating a serial killer that’s going to impact him in a really personal way that’s going to have repercussions all through season two. It’s really damaging. The Penguin story which has been sort of like the rise of The Penguin is going to come to a bloody and dark conclusion in the finale. We see all of his plans and machinations finally erupt and rip Gotham apart. And we see Gordon’s going to be budding heads with the establishment side of GCPD as well. And then we see other characters who are coming forward and doing things that show sides of them as they take those evolutionary steps forward to becoming the people they’re going to become – Selina, Nygma, and Bruce – all of those characters take that big jump forward of, ‘Oh, I see you’re actually on the path to becoming the person you’re going to be, the person we all know you will be.'”

Speaking of big jumps forward, Stephens said it wasn’t that difficult to hold on the ultimate outcome for these villains and allow the characters to develop. “A lot of times in telling the origin story we’ve taken it in steps even further back. In telling the Jonathan Crane origin story we actually focused on the father, not on Crane himself. And, we try to take a lot of lateral steps too. Like, everybody knows the Red Hood story so we just took a different Red Hood story where we try to say, ‘Let’s take all of these and go even further back in time,'” said Stephens. “Honestly, it’s always one of those things where we say we know we can’t go there, so what’s the most interesting version that we can tell here that would make the journey there? As if we all know that we’re driving to Chicago, but on the way to Chicago you’re like, ‘Let’s stop in Reno. This is actually going to be a lot of fun. Oh my god, we got shot in Reno.'”

Jada Pinkett Smith’s announced she’s not planning on coming back for season two, but Stephens cushioned that declaration with an “I don’t know if she’s going to come back or not” answer at WonderCon. “I feel like you guys have to watch the finale and see what happens. We also live in a world in which characters can come back frequently. And also DC has been really flexible about characters who we in the canon know, ‘Oh, they survive because they have to do X later.’ Those characters as we’ll see going forward even in this season, they are not involved. Some of those characters who everyone will expect to survive, will not survive which I think will make things exciting. Because I think when you actually see that the characters actually have a target on their back and you know that nobody is safe, then you can watch that ‘name’ or whatever gets reinvented later on in another fashion.”

But we’re not done with Fish’s story this season as she’ll be back with all the other characters before the end of season one. “Obviously Penguin’s final rise couldn’t happen without Fish being a part of it. We’ll see the two of them kind of come back together,” revealed Stephens.

Although Stephens was very careful with what he was willing to talk about, when asked if there are any particular locations from the Batman lore that we might be seeing soon (like the Batcave), he confirmed that’s a possibility. “Yes, there are some major locations in the lore that we will see this season. I’m not going to say more than that, but you will see it in the next couple of episodes. It’s going to be a part of what I was talking about in those big character steps forward.”

Stephens also enthusiastically confirmed Lucius Fox will appear this season. “He’s played by Chris Chalk who is a great actor and also a fan of the material too which is always great to have on the show. He has a small appearance this year, but he’s going to play a much larger role next season. As we’ve seen young Bruce investigating what’s going on with his family’s company, that mystery will deepen next year and Lucius starts to play a role. Bruce doesn’t know who he is and doesn’t know what his intentions are. They find their way toward a relationship next year, and he helps him uncover the mystery.”

– More Gotham interviews: Ben McKenzie / Robin Lord Taylor / Cory Michael Smith

Watch the full interview for more on plans for season two and what characters were added this season after they got an expanded order from Fox:

-By Rebecca Murray

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