Robin Lord Taylor
One of the best things about Gotham, Fox’s Batman-inspired crime drama, is watching Robin Lord Taylor’s scene-stealing performance. As Oswald “Don’t Call Me Penguin” Cobblepot, who’s still in his super-villain-in-the-making years, he’s charismatically creepy and sadistic. Yet the actor also has injected real human pathos into the role. That’s quite a feat, given what an odd bird Penguin is.
“When you play a character like this, you worry about falling into the trap of it being two-dimensional, like a Snidely Whiplash,” Taylor says. “But I’ve been lucky. People have been responding to the sympathetic aspect of the character, which I think is such a new twist on the Batman universe.”
Gotham, which airs at 7 p.m. Monday, will have to stay on the air for quite a while before Oswald becomes the larger-than-life baddie we know, but it has been fun so far watching his awkward first steps in that direction.
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1 Is there a story behind how you got the role?
I auditioned for it blindly. It was a fake scene that they wrote with a fake character. I wasn’t told the name of the project. It wasn’t until I was going in the night before that my agent gave me the tip-off and was like, ‘Oh, by the way, it’s a young Penguin and this is the origin story of Batman.’ I had already prepared, so I just went in and did my thing and it worked out for once.
2 You’re not the first actor to play Penguin. What do you think of your predecessors?
I was inspired by both Burgess Meredith (from the Batman TV series of the 1960s) and Danny DeVito (1992’s Batman Returns). They’re amazing actors and to be connected to them in any way … I’m still wrapping my brain around that. I’ve also read that, in the Chris Nolan- Dark Knight movies, there was thought of bringing in a Penguin and have it played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is one of my idols.
3 Have you been able to find that you have anything in common with the character?
Not that I was ever bullied to the extent that he is, but we all understand what it means to be different and what it means to be treated like you’re less than another person based on the way you look or whatever, and that fear of being powerless. The difference is Oswald refuses to go back to that place of powerlessness. His unwillingness to be walked upon anymore is the fuel that drives him.
4 Is it safe to say that this is the biggest role of your career?
This is above and beyond anything I ever expected for my own career. My goals were just to have health insurance and not to have to wait tables. Then you find yourself in this world with an amazingly smart, devoted audience.
5 Given how passionate the fans are, do you feel pressure?
I would be a robot it I didn’t feel some pressure. But I’m not nervous because the show is run by the best creative team: executive producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon. I trust them and feel so comfortable in their hands. So I don’t fear that people will be disappointed. I’m just excited.”
— David Martindale, Special to the Star-Telegram