‘Gotham’: The parallels of Robin Lord Taylor and the Penguin

April 28, 2015 | 7:38 p.m.

The villains on Fox’s “Gotham” were often thought to be the most compelling part of the pre-Batman show, and Robin Lord Taylor, aka Penguin, may have been the breakout character among them.

The actor made a few memorable comments during his Emmy contender video chat with Los Angeles Times reporter Greg Braxton. You can watch the entire chat above, or over on Show Tracker, but we plucked out five moments from Taylor that may give a little more insight into how the actor connects with his character and the show in general.

1. How his journey on the show parallels that of his character, Oswald Cobblepot.

In a way, I’m coming into [“Gotham”] with a low status, working with someone with incredible status such as Jada Pinkett Smith — and she is absolutely fabulous, both on-screen and off — finding my own way, working through a show for an entire season — which is something I’ve never done — [and] playing a character through that extended period finding his own journey and his own arc. Then weirdly finding it mirroring my own [arc] in some ways — I feel like I’m becoming an adult in a certain way, establishing myself and growing up.

2. How he gets into the fractured psyche of Cobblepot.

I reached out to Geoff Johns, who is the head of DC Comics. He hand-selected some stories that really focused on where Oswald came from — his younger years.  In reading those, I learned that he was a bullied kid. Mercilessly. For the way that he looked, for his interests. Being from a small town and interested in the arts in a very sports-oriented school, I knew exactly how that felt. I was never bullied to the extent that Oswald was, but I did know what it felt like to be treated as less than a human being, to be discounted and ruled out. That was my hook into who Oswald is and what feeds his incredible ambition.

3. On the Penguin’s limp …

What I found helpful was that the injury, the limp itself, was established in the pilot. It was an actual physical injury. It was something I was able to ask our stunt coordinator about. … The bottle cap ended up in the shoe, mostly because — well, it was a day where everything was happening in the scene. We were in Chinatown with the bus, there were extras all over the place, New York City in the middle of August, insanity. We shot the thing and I went back to where I was sitting and realized I had completely forgotten the walk. I have to give a shout-out to my wardrobe assistant Kyle. She came over and said ‘What if we put something in your shoe?’ Since then, whenever I do it, there is a bottle cap in my right shoe. It’s just enough to bring me to that reality.

Robin Lord Taylor. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Robin Lord Taylor (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

4. How does he approach Oswald’s murderous impulses?

It’s happened several times where he’s been pushed to the point of murder. It’s not easy for me to do that.  The way I’m able to make sense of it is that I go back to the bullying. … He had to find some incredible strength and he lost his humanity in those moments. … He had to learn to put himself above everyone else at the expense of everyone else. If someone is going to cross him in the slightest way, they don’t even deserve to exist.

5. What can you tell us about the finale?

As we’ve seen through the last few episodes, Oswald has set a gang war in motion. His MO is to have the two big lions go at each other and kill each other, then he’ll be there to step in. However, there is one person in Gotham City who stands in his way, and that is Fish Mooney. … We have a confrontation in the final episode that is really intense. It’s another example of real life blending with the fantasy that we’re creating. She is the one who is standing in Oswald’s way — not to say that Jada is standing in my way at all! — but for him to succeed, she has to go.  It’s ambiguous and it’s not completely clear what happens to her, but it’s a very poignant scene. Truth be told, it was a very intense night when we shot this. We were shooting on a roof in Brooklyn on the waterfront, and when it was over, I completely burst into tears. To have this connection with my fellow actor, and to have it be Jada — who has taught me so much in this last year about navigating this world that suddenly I find myself in, being in the limelight — it was a really, really poignant, intense moment for me personally as well as for Oswald.

– Jevon Phillips | @storiz@LATherocomplex

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One Response to ‘Gotham’: The parallels of Robin Lord Taylor and the Penguin

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