As a fan of comics you have to love when television writers re-invent characters and re-introduce them to a new audience with brand new edge and boldness. The CW's Arrow and Flash have been doing just that for the past few seasons, but right now I'm talking about a different show.
When I was a kid growing up in Queens I remember watching the 1960's Batman on TV, with the cool Bat entrance complete with poles to slide down and the fire blasting out of the Batmobile's tail-pipe as it rockets out of the cave. I would wait in front of that old box TV for the memorable theme song to come on, the “boom boom pow” of the fight scenes, the appearance of Batgirl on the bike, and most importantly the rogues Batman would be facing.
Since it first aired last year, FOX's Gotham has taken that rogues gallery and really modernized it for a new generation. At first glance when I read about Gotham I thought the same thing that many Bat-fans had in their minds, a show taking place in the Bat Universe but absent the Bat himself did not seem appealing. Yet, I sit here happy to be humbled as the show made a true believer out of me, and it did it with the new look of the classic villains.
Two of which have really impressed me, Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a The Penguin and Edward Nygma a.k.a The Riddler. Seeing the transformation of these two characters in the show really freshened up my mental idea of them. In that I mean the classic big nose, top hat Penguin with the array of umbrella-style weapons and The Riddler with the snot green suits and carnival style hats.
Gotham's Robin Lord Taylor & Cory Michael Smith have done an excellent job wiping away the dust off these two classics and rejuvenating the original shine that almost makes them seemingly brand new for fans that have never gotten to know the Penguin or the Riddler. Can these two fine actors be the defining versions for both of these classic villains? Only time will tell, but for the moment lets get to know them a little bit better.
Robin Lord Taylor, born in Shueyville Iowa has actually been around some well known shows and movies such as The Walking Dead, Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Good Wife and Person of Interest, and Accepted.
He also played a recurring role as Darrell, the Late Show Page, complete with a fake British accent on The Late Show with David Letterman and was featured in the Spike Lee's film Jesus Children Of America about the exploitation of children.
Robin is a graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in theatre which explains why his performance as The Penguin has been described by Esquire magazine as a "standout performance of the first episode, disarming and multi-layered", and by The Wall Street Journal as "a passionate performance who steals the show". Robin has been living in New York City since 2000 and is currently married.
Corey Michael Smith hasn't been seen on television as much as Robin, but he cut his teeth on the stage in the Broadway version of Breakfast At Tiffany's alongside Game Of Thrones star Emilia Clarke as well as other plays.
Corey doesn't shy away from the weight of playing such an iconic character and has talked about how he views his role on Gotham.
“What I love about [the character’s history] is how diverse it is in terms of how the character is portrayed, in terms of his appearance, the different costumes and hair color,” Smith says. “Sometimes it’s incredibly ostentatious, other times it’s almost professional, or regal. Sometimes, he’s a showman, sometimes he’s a nerd.”
"What I’m really excited about is the bottom of that curve. Going from this quite innocent, well-intentioned, joyful person to starting to find this other part of him that he didn’t know he had — accessing this place where he responds to the unfortunate things that people are doing to him, and starting to realize how cruel people are to him and how they mistreat him, and then doing that back to them. He’s a person who’s constantly abused, and to finally reach a part of himself where he just can’t take it anymore and starts doing it to other people — and it’s out of anger and exhaustion, and then realizing that when you start taking control of situations like that, you can gain power that way — it’ll be something that he can start to enjoy."
Corey also talked about where he sees his character going in comparison to the other half of this villainous duo.
"The Penguin” and I could not have more different trajectories," Smith tells Yahoo TV. Cobblepot is "a very sadistic bully" from the beginning. Ed, by contrast, is "way, way out in left field," just "hanging out, doing his job, loving his work, loving science, having a good time, getting a little weird, being a little off the wall, a little eccentric." He's not really a bad guy — in fact, he's really more of an overgrown boy. His journey, Smith says, will be to "claim his identity and claim his power and perhaps finally become someone that is a player in the field and not just this irritating, flimsy young lad."
Right now we're starting to see Gotham pave the road that will set The Penguin & Riddler on their path of crime. They are both drenched in blood and will make worthy adversaries for The Dark Knight one day, but for now I can't wait to see what happens next in the sophomore season of Gotham.