Though the streets in the hit TV drama “Gotham” are infested with hoodlums, hooligans and malefactors, one man stands at the center of the city’s organized crime — mob boss Carmine Falcone.
Played by John Doman, Falcone is the kingpin of the underworld in a city plagued by corruption. Despite his less-than-honest dealings in the city that will one day be Batman’s stomping ground, Falcone views himself as Gotham’s protector.
“I’m a businessman,” he tells Det. Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) in the series pilot. “You can’t have organized crime without law and order. I love this city, and I see it going to hell. I won’t let it go without a fight.”
That fight might pit him against the likes of good-guy Gordon, not to mention a legion of under-criminals — including Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), Maroni (David Zayas) and Penguin-to-be Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) — looking to usurp Falcone’s power. The series, which received a full season order after stellar ratings, continues Monday evening with a new episode titled “Arkham.”
Doman, whose previous credits include “The Wire,” “Damages” and more recently the period drama “Borgia,” brings gravitas to the character, dubbed “The Roman” in the pages of the DC comics from which the show draws its lore. Hero Complex caught up with Doman to talk about “Gotham” and Falcone.
Hero Complex: What appealed to you about the part of Carmine Falcone?
John Doman: Well, the offer of the job drew me to the role, ha-ha. But it’s fun to play bad guys, and I play bad guys a lot. But as long as they have a little complexity to them. And I think Carmine, as the story unfolds, you’ll see that he is a very complex and in some ways a very vulnerable character.
HC: He seems like a very sophisticated criminal.
JD: Well, he wears very nice suits, I can say that — all these custom-made, wonderful double-breasted suits they have for me are terrific. Yeah, I think he’s somewhat sophisticated. I don’t think he’s a real down-and-dirty lowlife kind of character. I think he’s a man of honor, really. A man of honor, a man of his word. He may be responsible for killing people, but they probably deserved to die.
HC: You’ve said that no villain views himself as a villain, and that every villain does what he does for a reason. What is Falcone’s reason?
JD: Well, he’s keeping order in the city, basically. In the first episode, I have a little speech there, where I talk about how much I love the city. And I think really, he feels that he’s doing the city a public service by keeping order. Somebody has to.
HC: Did you model your character after a particular gangster, from real life or from fiction?
JD: I just spent the last three years playing Rodrigo Borgia (in “Borgia”), who becomes Pope Alexander VI. And Mario Puzo, who wrote “The Godfather,” also wrote a book called “The Family” prior to “The Godfather” in which he told the story of Rodrigo Borgia, and he considered Rodrigo the first godfather. So Carmine is just in the line of godfathers. … He’s the boss. He’s obviously the real power figure. The other villains aren’t anywhere near as — they do not project as much power as Falcone does.
HC: Can you talk about his relationship with Fish Mooney?
JD: Well, that’s a complicated relationship as it plays out. I don’t really know where it’s going to go. Fish is supposedly working for me, but she’s obviously pretty independent in her own mind, and I think she would like to take over my position, and she’s obviously working at that. But I have no idea how that’s going to turn out.
HC: Are you a comics fan?
JD: Well, I was a comics fan when I was a little boy, but I haven’t read comics for a long time. I did read the Batman and Superman comics back when I was a kid. … I didn’t really read anything to brush up on the role. I mean, most of it’s on the page and in the script, what you need to know. And I haven’t seen any of the Batman movies, so I guess I’m a little behind the times.
HC: In “The Wire,” you played William Rawls of the Baltimore Police Dept. What’s it like playing both sides of the crime/law enforcement divide?
JD: Well, you know, these characters, there are things in common with these characters, even though they are on different sides of the law. Rawls was a real manipulator, and he really knew how to play the system and play the game. I think Carmine is the same in that sense, even though they’re on different sides of the law. They’re both very ambitious and want control and power.
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