“He is objectively horrible. No one should ever forget that fact. If anyone starts to feel bad about Penguin getting his face bashed in, it’s okay, he’s kind of deserved it,” says Robin Lord Taylor about playing a young Oswald Cobblepot, also known as the Penguin, in FOX’s “Batman” prequel “Gotham,” which completed its first season on May 4. (Watch our complete video chat below.)
But he’s glad viewers can sympathize with his fledgling supervillain. “That was what I was going for when creating the character, and also what [executive producer] Bruno Heller was going for and [executive producer] Danny Cannon,” says Taylor, “was to find the human side to these larger than life characters … I get responses on social media from people like, ‘Don’t hurt Oswald!’ and ‘He’s always getting beaten up, I feel so bad for him.’ Of course, that makes me feel good because they’re seeing the sympathetic side to him, but at the same time I’m like, oh man, people shouldn’t love him too much. He’s a nasty dude.”
Taylor adds, “I feel like that will really be tested in the season to come. He’s going to be pushed to places that we haven’t seen him pushed in the first season, and so it’s going to get a lot more gnarly as we go along.”
The actor was a fan of the “Batman” universe long before he got his chance to play the Penguin. “It was really about the movies for me when I was a kid,” he says. “I saw [Tim Burton‘s 1989] ‘Batman’ in the movie theater, and it was one of the most incredible cinematic experiences of my life. From then on, I’ve been hooked. And also, the original Adam West series was a huge part of my childhood. It aired every day after ‘Scooby-Doo.'”
So he was well-acquainted with the two most famous portrayals of the Penguin, by Burgess Meredith in the 1960s TV series and Danny DeVito in the 1992 film “Batman Returns.” “Those two actors in particular, they’re such legends,” says Taylor. “To be kind of the third visual representation of Penguin, which is not to discount the amazing voice-over actors that they had for the animated series, it’s daunting to say the least.”
The role has had a significant impact on his life and career. In the years before landing his breakthrough role, “I kept telling myself, if I just get this one thing, if I just get a series regular on a show, it doesn’t even have to last more than one season, then everything will be amazing in my life. It’s kind of true, and it’s kind of not, because you realize how much of your identity as an actor is wrapped up in the struggle, and then when suddenly this incredible opportunity is handed to you, there’s no preparing for it.”
Of course, there are also practical advantages for an actor with a steady gig: “My health insurance is solid, and that’s a huge change. I can pay the rent, and I don’t have to worry about that. And I got direct deposit on my Con Ed bill, and that’s all really good too.”
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