Published on October 3rd, 2015 | by admin
Gotham’s Robin Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot) Interview
Tell us about the character you play.
Okay. Well, the character I play is Oswald Cobblepot, who you all know ends up becoming the Penguin. When we start off in the show he is the assistant to Jada Pinkett- Smith’s character, Fish Mooney. He’s low status. He has really big ambitions and he makes an attempt to sort of assert himself in this crime world of Gotham City. It doesn’t go very well for him, him at first, but he uses that failure to energize himself and motivate himself to become– or to take the steps to become — Penguin.
We saw his mother’s set…
Fabulous. I’ve been a fan of Carol Kane’s for I don’t know how long. For forever, basically, ever since I was watching movies. Then to actually be sitting there with her on a couch, and she’s playing my mother. We immediately had a personal connection, just naturally. You look into her eyes and it’s like your whole world comes together. (LAUGHS) It’s an out of body experience. And then to be able to act with someone of her caliber is just a dream come true.
What will that relationship be like?
It’s an interesting relationship to say the least. They’re very, very close, although at the same time, as you find in often in mother/son relationships, Oswald is not very forthcoming with all of the things that he is doing and everything that he is into. However, when he gets together with her she’s really the only person that he loves and trusts in the world. So it’s almost like he is protecting her, and he wants her to see him as the way she sees him as her son. So it’s complicated, but also, it’s a departure for the character in a sense that he is very self-motivated throughout the entire show. He’s not a very empathetic person. But it’s so fun to play those scenes, because it’s different. It stands out because there’s actual love and tenderness there, which is a really fun level to play when you’re playing someone who is generally depraved. (LAUGHS)
Did you look at any other Penguins through the history of that character?
Oh, definitely. I’ve seen Batman Returns the sequel that with, that Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer and Danny DeVito, of course. That movie came on cable right when I was at the age where you watched movies 100 times, and you had time for it. I’ve seen that movie hundreds of times and Danny DeVito’s performance is just fantastic. Where he goes with that character is just really, really amazing. And then on the, on the flip side I watched the original series with Burgess Meredith who is also another incredible actor. It’s so fun to see the two sides. Burgess Meredith just was having the time of his life — as was Danny but there is a lightness and a darkness back there, to see the differences. Hopefully I will find somewhere, like some middle ground so that everything can come together and make sense.
So where does the nickname come from, the Penguin?
The Penguin? When he was a child he was bullied, pretty relentlessly, by his peers. This is from the comic books. Because of the way he dressed and because of the way he looked that was, that was a name that was put upon him. As we go through the show, initially it’s a nickname that causes him a lot of pain. Throughout the pilot, though, through the trials that he goes through, by the end he embraces it. It’s almost like “Okay, if you’re going to call me this I’m going to take it, embrace it, and run with it. And I’m going to be, no, I’m not going to let anyone take my power away from me again.” It’s almost like reclaiming yourself.
That’s something that I was going to ask you, where the Penguin’s suffering comes from and what drives him to become what he eventually becomes.
I’ve talked with Bruno [Heller], the show runner, and Danny Cannon. And also Geoff Johns who is the Head of DC. He was really kind and sent me some, some comic books. “Penguin: Pain and Prejudice” was one of them, where they really delve into what I was saying before– about how he was bully kid and how he spent a lot of his life feeling powerless. That’s really what drives him to make the choices that he makes in the pilot, to assert himself. He just doesn’t want to be the small guy that everybody picks on forever.
You’ve got this iconic character who most people would have seen some iteration of. Is it difficult to go into that and work out how you’re going to make it your own?
It is. It’s daunting. Anyone would be crazy not to feel that way. It’s a part of where we’re at the 75th year of Batman. It’s a lot of responsibility to step into such an iconic character. The fun thing that we’re doing with our show is that, because it’s an origin story, you would think initially that this character has already been established and there’s not a lot of wiggle room. There’s not a lot of places to explore. Because not many people know about the origin of the character, we have a lot of freedom to discover and to explore and to really dig into his motivations. So I feel actually personally a lot of freedom. Also a lot of responsibility. (LAUGHS)
Can you talk about working with Jada [Pinkett -Smith]?
Oh yeah, I definitely could go on forever. She is one of the most down-to –earth, giving actors that I’ve worked with in a very, very long time. This is the biggest show that I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve worked with some people who are, famous-ish, but never anyone of her caliber. From the day that I walked in, it was just open arms. She’s so excited to play and to explore her character along with mine, and our relationship together. It’s just a very giving, open dialogue that we have. Which is just so rare. She could run the show with a steel fist if she wanted to, but she doesn’t. Like she, she approaches it with an open heart and an open mind, like the rest of us are doing. And it’s just seamless. She’s the best, I love her. I’ve never really walked like a red carpet or anything. We did Fox up-fronts in May. They were so nice to pair me with her. We got to walk the carpet together and do interviews together. It was like learning from the master. I’m the least articulate person on the planet. To be standing with her — she has an answer for everything, it’s just the perfect sound bite. For poise and everything, it’s I was standing there participating, but also just drinking it in. It was great. An amazing learning experience.
Did you go to Comic Con?
I did go to Comic Con.
It must have been crazy too.
It was really crazy. I mean I’m a little…not bummed. But part of me wishes that I had never been to a Comic Con before in my life. I wish that I had experienced it on the other side before, and now, you’re just on that one side of the thing. It’s a surreal, surreal experience.
It was my first time there too as well. You can’t really prepare for that.
It’s incredible. You don’t know what to expect, but the one thing I walked away with was just the good will. Everyone just had such good will. Everyone is so passionate about all of the shows. And in a way that you don’t find anywhere else. Then you’re standing there and a light rail train comes by and your face is on it. (LAUGHS)
Do people recognize you in the streets?
There were a couple at first, like when I first got there. There were a couple people who spotted me pretty much right away. It was fairly low key. Then we did the panel with all the other DC shows in front of 7,000 people. No one can ever prepare you for that. But anyway, so we were finished with that and everyone was going to the parties, but I had worked the night before. I was on 48 hours straight with no sleep. For once in my life I was like, “I’m not going to go to the party. And I’m just going to go back to the hotel.” And they were like, “Oh, do you need a ride?” And I was like, “The hotel was right there. I don’t need a ride to go 200 feet.” So I walk over with my agent. We’re just walking and talking, and we get to the door, and someone comes running up and they say, “I’ve been chasing all day.” This guy is out of breath and everything. He has all these pictures to sign, and I’m like “Great. “ So then we’re signing pictures, and we’re downstairs near the parking area of the hotel. And he’s like, “Let’s take a picture.” So we pose for a photo. The flash goes off, and it’s like– not to say that people are zombies– but it was like The Walking Dead where all of a sudden like everyone sort of turns and looks and puts it together. At that point more people came up, and then more people came up. Then we had a crowd. Everyone was totally nice. It wasn’t scary, I mean, it got a little, frantic at first, but it was fine. At some point security comes out, and they’re like, “Mr. Taylor, we have to go, we have to go, we have to go.” I apologized to everybody that I didn’t get to. I was like, “I’m sorry but I’ll be around, come find me.” They were all upstairs signing pictures for David Mazouz, who plays Bruce [Wayne], and he said that at one point he heard one person say, “The Penguin is downstairs.’” That was when there was just like exodus of people running down the escalators, and that’s when the guy was like, “Yeah, maybe we should take him out, and calm it down a little bit.” But man, that was mind blowing.
That would be crazy, yeah.
I’ve never experienced anything like that.
Once you launch, there will be a lot more of that. Are you on the Twitter and social media and stuff? Are you up for the level of fan reaction?
I don’t know if I’m prepared for it. 99 percent of anyone writing to me has been positive, and really lovely and nice. And then, of course, you get someone who says something like, “You’re going to ruin the franchise.” For every human being, that’s the one person that sticks in your mind. So I had this like relationship with it, where I want to interact and I want all of that, but at the same time I also don’t. You also don’t want that noise in your head. I’m here to create and to make something, and that’s where I get my pleasure out of. I have no aspirations of fame or any of that. Which may be unrealistic to a certain extent. That’s the part that is really intimidating to a certain extent. it’s a learning experience and you have to learn how to like roll with it. Hopefully the work speaks for itself. That’s the only thing. It’s about relinquishing control. I can’t control any of that. But what I can control is like what I do when we’re shooting and we’re on set. And that’s what I feel most comfortable doing. So ultimately when I take a couple deep breaths, that’s what calms me down and gets me where it’s going to be fine.
Could you talk about how you got involved in this project in the first place? What things did you discuss with Danny Cameron in regards to creating this character?
Sure. As an actor you audition for everything, whatever your agent sends you on. All I ever wanted to do was work on set…in a play or a commercial, anything. You just want to be able to not have to wait tables. So I auditioned. They gave me a fake, a fake scene with a fake names, not part of the script at all. They called it the “Untitled Warner Bros. Project“. I was like, “Okay whatever…I’ve auditioned.” So right before I go in I get the tip that this is Oswald Cobblepot. This is the Penguin, and this is the origin of Batman. You could go both ways and freak out. But I’ve auditioned for big things in the past and you just, after auditioning for so long you just say, “Okay, well this is just another thing.” If it happens, it does. If it doesn’t, either way I’m going to still approach it with the same energy and commitment as I would anything else. As I would a Burger King commercial or whatever the case may be. (LAUGHS) But this actually worked out. Which was really great and very surprising at the same time.
Why do you think you got it? What, what did they like about your Penguin?
You’d have to ask Danny that. I auditioned I’m sure with other amazing actors. It’s funny. With the process of auditioning you get really, really close to things. You go through the whole call back thing. You think, “Oh my God, of course, it’s perfect, it’s me.” Then they say that to you in the room too. They say you’re fabulous. You couldn’t have done better. It’s going to be great. And so then…you try not to let it enter your head. And of course it does, and then they call you a couple days later and they’re like, “Eh, it didn’t happen, it went to someone else” .After enough of that you learn that it just comes together — it just fits in a certain way. There’s really a myriad of factors. Many, many factors go into that, some of which I have control over, many of which I don’t. It just fell together in a really special way I guess. In terms of creating the character with Danny, he loved everything that I did in the audition. Then when we were on set he was just like, “Yes”. And then he was like, “I want more.” I tend to take a smaller approach to things, but he was like, “Go as big as you want, and we can always bring it back.” The scripts written by Bruno, and the character as described by him– it was all there. It was all there on the page. In a way it just felt natural and organic. Danny was just there to encourage.
The performance is very strong.
Oh thanks, thanks.
Tell me about the physical aspects of the performance. Does it distract using…?
The prosthetic nose.
I’m lucky in the sense that it’s very subtle and it’s very slight. There’s a piece on the bridge. There’s a piece on the end. So it’s not like my airway is plugged or anything. It’s really amazing. It’s a silicone piece, so I have a lot of movement. I don’t feel restricted by it at all.
Can you see it?
Yeah, it just sort of sticks out in your frontal vision. That’s the look, the, the hair, the nose, and the amazing costumes, designed by Lisa Padovani. I had these amazing suits who were built by this tailor named Martin Greenfield who makes all of the suits for the Presidents. That in itself is just is a beautiful thing. Once all those pieces come together…
So when you’ve got all that on do you just automatically feel like, “I’m the Penguin”:?
Yeah, yeah totally. It really does, it really does feel like that.