Gotham was not the most universally beloved of last season’s new comic book-based TV shows, but most people agreed that the portrayal of the early Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepott by Robin Lord Taylor was worth the price of admission. Taylor took part in a Q&A Saturday afternoon at Fan Expo, and like all the big stars with ongoing projects, he was mum on certain details of Gotham season 2. However, he did offer a lot of insight into how his Penguin is on its way to becoming the most definitive portrayal of the character on-screen.
But first an attempt at spoilers. A fan dressed as Gotham’s pre-Riddler Edward Nygma wanted to know if Oswald and Edward will meet again after their brief introduction in season one. “I can’t get into any specifics unfortunately, but they both come back into each others lives in a major, major way,” Taylor said. “We’re about to start that part of the story.”
Another potential spoiler was revealed when Taylor discussed whether Oswald saw Detective Gordon as a friend or pawn. “It’s always both with Oswald,” Taylor explained. “With where he’s come from, and what he’s been through, it’s really difficult for him to trust anyone except his mother.
“I really do feel he found something in Gordon that he wanted to be close to, someone he can trust,” Taylor added. “They both are incredibly stubborn characters, and they have this resolution in themselves, and now, after the finale when Gordon leaves him to die, Oswald doesn’t forget that and there’ll be tension.”
There was a lot of praise for Taylor and his work as Oswald, many fans told him that it was his performance that got them into the show. Taylor seemed overwhelmed by praise and said it’s still almost hard for himself to believe he’s doing what he’s doing. “I’m still intimidated by it all,” he said. “I’ve said it a million times before, but as an actor you just want to work, but when you get that, you want amazing things to say and do and I give credit for that to [Gotham creator] Bruno Heller.”
To study on the Penguin before beginning Gotham, Taylor said he studied a selection of comic books, primary among them in terms of informing his role is the Penguin story “Pain and Prejudice.” “We’re so lucky because [DC Entertainment’s Chief Creative Officer] Geoff Johns is so involved with every show that he’s availed himself to us and hand-pick comics for us to study going back years.”
In addition to the research, Taylor says he has another leg up when it comes to inhabiting his character that his castmates do not. “I’m really lucky because there’s a physical transformation,” Taylor explained. With make-up, hair, and the tailor-made costumes, it’s easier for him to get into Penguin mode. “All those pieces come together and on top of it the voice of Oswald is so clear in the script that I just step into his skin.”
What Taylor said he likes about Oswald is his intelligence and his ability to see several moves ahead. “I love his resilience,” he said. “How many times did he nearly bite it in the first season, but he was planning five moves ahead. I can’t play chess at all, and he can.”
Of course, this isn’t Taylor’s first comic book TV experience, he also played Sam in a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead. So the question must be asked, if Walking Dead had gone another way and not clubbed his character to death in Terminus, which show would he rather be on?
“That’s a really tough choice,” Taylor said. “I loved my Walking Dead experience so much. The people on that show really enjoy each other and when you go in as guest star, you’re like the friend that’s invited to the family reunion. I have to say I’m really happy with the way this turned out, though I wish I could do both.”
Still, fans can’t help but want to discuss the future. Will Taylor have to pack on the pounds some point? “Were going to be building a fat suit, I can’t take it with my cholesterol,” he joked.
Are they going to poke you in the eye so he has to get a monocle? “We’ll see,” Taylor said coyly.
And what about all those great umbrella weapons? “He starts in a really low place of status, and you see as he does his murderin’ its very brutal and its primitive and as the season goes on you see him get more sophisticated,” Taylor explained. “We’ve had vague conversations that we’ll be bringing in umbrella weapons somewhere down the line. I just want the helicopter umbrella from Batman Returns.”