Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller talks in detail about the Batman prequel series. He recalls speaking with Warner Bros. and Geoff Johns about his interest in doing a DC series, and the idea of Jim Gordon investigating the murders of Thomas and Martha Wayne was the root concept of the result. “I sat with [Warner Bros. President and COO Peter Roth and Warner Bros. TV development chief Susan Rovner] about what to do next. I’ve been talking to Geoff Johns at DC for a few years about wanting to do something in the DC canon. I came in to pitch the idea that we’re doing, essentially, and they came to pitch me the same thing. The nut of the idea was: What if young James Gordon was the detective who investigated the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents? And once you make that connection, it opened up a whole world of storytelling that we realized hadn’t really been looked at before, which is the world before Batman — the world of Gotham, young Bruce Wayne, and young James Gordon and the origin stories of the villains.” He then goes into the creative process of Gotham, and crafting the world of Gotham City before it becomes what we know it to be. “The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that’s where we calibrated. This is a world that’s going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it’s not there yet. It’s an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when they younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he’s a gofer for a gangster. It’s about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that’s where we build from.”
Heller goes on to discuss the influences on the series, citing The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s take on Batman as specific examples. “I did a lot of research, and what it told me is this world is a little like Greek or Roman mythology. There are so many iterations of the story and so many great versions [that] there is no one road to go down. And if you stick to one of those roads, then you lose other parts you could go down. I read everything I could and then — I didn’t throw it away, but I started fresh. I would hate to pick a particular Batman iteration because I would be dismissing others. But for me, The Killing Joke was one of the great ones in the comic books. Obviously the [Frank] Miller version [The Dark Knight], as well.” Speaking of The Killing Joke, will The Joker appear on Gotham? “He’s the crown jewel of the Batman villains. He will be brought in with great care and a lot of thought.” Heller then assures that his Joker will be “more Heath Ledger than Cesar Romero”, but will obviously be a different character from the former’s iconic portrayal.
Talk turned to the number of characters that will be featured on Gotham. Heller reaffirms those we knew already, but adds that we may see Harvey Dent at some point. “Obviously, the Penguin, Riddler, young Catwoman, Alfred. Possibly Harvey Dent. Poison Ivy. Um … and then there will be others, but I hate to — I’m so used to doing a police procedural, so I’m used to telling, “Next week he’s going to go there.” With this, it’s very much storytelling. So I would be remiss to tell you who will show up when. I will say we’re not going to skimp on giving people the characters they want and expect from Gotham. But when and how they’re going to show up is half the fun. Penguin is one of those guys that, as soon as you see him, you go, “Oh, that’s the Penguin.” It would be hard to disguise him as somebody else.” As for how the series will visually compare to previous Batman films – particularly Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy – the showrunner is confident that Gotham will easily stand out. “I’m not at all concerned. Actually I would [pauses … considers] — yeah, in that area, I would say in terms of what [director and executive producer Danny Cannon and director of photography David Stockton] are doing — visually — Gotham will surpass the Batman movies. The movies are a very rigorous, kind of Germanic take on that world. They’re visually stunning, but not particularly visually pleasurable. I would say this is much more on the street level of Gotham. There’s more people, it’s a more colorful place, it’s a more vivid place, it’s more crowded. The inspiration for me and Danny was New York in the ’70s, because we both remember that as a seminal moment, coming to the city for the first time. This is very much that kind of Gotham — intensely visual and three-dimensional and layered and gritty and dirty and sexy and dangerous. From that point of view — and it’s easy for me to say, I just have to write the thing, Danny and David have to visualize it — but I think you’ll see it’s fabulous.”
Finally, Heller praises David Mazouz’s performance as Bruce Wayne, saying that he’s the best actor to play the character to date. Rather bold claim. “Well, I will say [actor] David Mazouz is, without doubt, the best actor ever to play the part of Bruce Wayne. Without doubt — including the people who played Batman. He is a genuine prodigy of an actor, as you will see on screen. Frankly, before David was cast, I was ambivalent about how much we would use Bruce Wayne in the series.” He then reaffirms that the plan is for the series to end with Wayne becoming Batman – but that won’t be anytime soon. “Yes, whether metaphorically or literally — something like that. But that’s six or seven years down the line. Hopefully.” For much more from Heller, click the link above. Gotham premieres on Fox next fall.