I’m going to lose a little bit of comic book cred here, but when I first saw that Donal Logue was playing Harvey Bullock on Gotham, I thought they misspelled Two Face’s name. Harvey Bullock is not Harvey Dent. They both exist in the world of Batman, and Bullock has been in many comics and animated shows that I need to bone up on.
When Gotham begins, Bullock is partnered with Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie). They investigate the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, and Bullock wants to just let the case go and wrap it up quickly. He’s also not too eager to bust mobster Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith). He’s a veteran cop and he knows that some crimes are better left alone.
After a screening of the Gotham pilot episode last week, I got to sit with Donal Logue by a cozy fire in a trendy restaurant/bar at iPic theater. Though details of the Gotham plot were secret, Logue was happy to chat about things like the tone and improvised dialogue in the new Batman series. Gotham premieres this fall on Fox but you can read about Harvey Bullock right now.
This is your third comic book project after Blade and Ghost Rider.
Blade, Ghost Rider and then I did one called Comic Book Villains where I played a comic book store owner. That wasn’t based on a comic book but James Robinson, who did Starman, wrote it, but yes.
So you’ve done four, and they’ve been so different. Have you noticed a difference between all these comic book worlds?
Absolutely. When I think of Batman and DC, especially when I heard Gotham, my feeling is like Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy. It’s kind of noirish ‘40s detective stuff. In Marvel it was a different kind of world, although I think Blade had that kind of. I vibrate towards darker stories so I’m glad that the take on it is kind of in that genre or in that milieu. I always liked DC. I like the idea that these are flawed human beings. They may have been bullied. Whatever their psychological makeup is, there’s a reason that Oswald becomes The Penguin and it’s just like real people with the kind of Jungian shadows that find this kind of mask to put on to reveal just the psychological reality. It’s not I fell into this fire and now I can fly around the world on fire. It’s more just a kind of artistic literary take on the early part of 20th century America. The growing urbanization, ennui of the city. They talk about Gotham as being 11:11 PM on a cold, dark, nasty alley. I’m drawn to that side of it. It’s kind of poetic in a way.
Do you think Harvey Bullock was ever trying to be a good cop?
Absolutely. I think he still is. I absolutely think he still is. Honestly, you could say, “If we keep Saddam Hussein in power, then he keeps our enemies in Iran at bay.” Is Saddam Hussein a good guy? No, but there’s this element of realpolitik that goes into being a cop, to being a statesman, to being in government, to doing anything. Is Fish Mooney, the devil that we know, better than the devil we don’t know? Maybe. That’s why I think that Harvey wants to stay alive but he absolutely stands up for Jim Gordon. I think Jim Gordon’s level of idealism at first, which he rejects as dangerous, I think Harvey becomes affected by it. I think he’s inspired by it so we’ll see.
Is there a certain style of gravelly whispering that is inherent in the cop genre or comic book genre?
I don’t know. Bullock in the animated version was [in blustering voice] “I’m Harvey Bullock, you know,” that kind of guy. It wasn’t going to be that kind of guy. Also I did Harvey Bullock in the midst of King Horik. I was doing Law & Order: SVU and Vikings at the same time. I’m also, just as an actor, finding a different voice and different person. Literally I would leave Gotham at four in the mourning and start Law & Order at five the same morning, so I’m trying to distinguish between the things that I’m doing as well. I’m clearly not one of those actors that go, “Here I am, taking my same shit to every [role].”
And I didn’t mean just you, it’s you and Jim getting in each other’s faces, Jim getting in Butch’s face and Carmine’s face.
I hope it’s not a bad tendency that we have.
No, I mean it’s grizzled.
Well, the world is grizzled. Gotham is a grizzly world. I think in a weird way, the villains are really shining bright about the DC universe. We’re the guys in the cheap suits who have to try and keep our finger in the dike. I understand that this DC world is held dear by so many, so we’re going to be under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. Luckily for me, all I really have to do is show up and do it scene by scene and do my job, try and do the best job I can do and I’ll leave those results to the powers that be, if that makes any sense.
Have you seen any episode 2 and 3 scripts yet?
I’m seeing 2 tonight I think.
I wasn’t as familiar with Harvey Bullock as a character. Were you, and did you delve into the research?
I didn’t delve into the research. I knew the character from my kids and we used to go on long road trips, and they were always watching the Batman animated series where Bullock plays a fairly substantial role. Then I did my kind of Gotham Central research, but Harvey changes a lot even within those different versions, so I didn’t feel tied to anything whatsoever. And I feel it sounds there are certain parts like Harvey Bullock, and it’s almost like an athlete. There are certain events that are easier for me. There are certain parts, like this kind of part I don’t think is a struggle for me to find a cloak to wear to play it. I think King Horik in Vikings, things like that are much more of a journey to discover for me.
When they describe Harvey as slovenly and lackadaisical, did that speak to you immediately?
Well, I’ve never been cast as the Speedo model, so I’m always the schlub. I think I have a good understanding of what role I play in the pantheon of these. If there’s a slovenly character, I’m not surprised when my name comes up, you know what I mean? I don’t think I was trying to play him extra slovenly. That’s just who I am.
He seemed a little more put together than Hank Dolworth on Terriers.
Oh yeah. Terriers, I think he was more actively engaged in the freefall. Terriers, I was more like who I naturally would be in terms of dress. Terriers was interesting because I grew up near there. I thought this character who speaks like me, he dresses like me, he hangs out in the town I hang out in. A lot of my friends from high school are in Ocean Beach, CA, so I thought how fun would it be to do a character that’s as close to you, just drive, get out of your car for work and hop into a scene as much as humanly possible. So if Terriers is super slovenly, that’s more who I am in life.
Are any of the lines in Gotham straight out of the comic books?
No, not really. They also allowed me to improv a tiny bit which I like a lot. Bruno’s gotta take ownership.
I wrote down a couple. I wonder if these were your improvs. Was “Pillhead looney bird?”
No. Mine was, “I haven’t been ashamed since I was 12 and [WE WON’T GIVE AWAY THE PUNCHLINE].” I felt like, you’re ashamed, I’m not ashamed, I’ve never been ashamed. What does that mean? It’s interesting because it’s a very different world. There’s an element of reality, verite cinema but it’s a comic book. Everything’s colored on the edges. When you’re doing something like that, I’m hanging in a meat locker, this might require a little bit of comedy. This could be light over here. You start to see the colors that you need to start shooting through the thing. It’s clearly very different from Law & Order: SVU or something.
When you did Blade, it must've been just a great job. Did you ever imagine it would become the industry, where there's so much comic book material?
I don’t know why I felt this way, but I always thought, first of all, those fans were always far and away the most dedicated people. They’re the most ardent fans, people who are comic book fans. Secondly, a comic book is storyboarding with dialogue. If you look at a comic, they’re making editorial choices in terms of closeups, wides. It’s completely cinematic. It lends itself to television and film more than anything else. So it made a lot of sense to me. I didn’t know at the time. I just had a good time on Blade, but Blade was a similar thing. You talk about gravely voiced, there’s a lot of this kind of thing. Even in the read through, I was with Stephen Norrington, like, “This fabric could use a bright color shooting right through it.” You just try and see what the bigger, broader fabric needs and then hopefully service it a little bit.
You’re writing a book also. What can we expect from Agua?
It’s a coming of age novel. 13-year-old boy on the Mexican border finds a body in the canal and uncovers this sort of Chinatown conspiracy. It’s about where I grew up in the Imperial Valley in California on the Mexican border.
Did you find the work of writing a book fulfilling?
Most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done, and the decision to write it came about five seconds after I had the football pulled away from me on a big movie gig where the director wanted to hire me and someone at the studio didn’t. I was like, “Why am I putting my fate in the hands of a dude in a suit somewhere to tell me to be creative or not? Write a book, be creative.”
Are you shooting any other movies before Gotham starts?
No, I’m leaving tomorrow for New York to start Gotham. Now they’re pretty much, you have to nail yourself down. We start shooting July 2, but honestly I did a movie, CBGB, two years ago and since then, between Vikings and Sons of Anarchy and all that stuff, I just went gig to gig to gig to gig. It was a little overwhelming.