‘Gotham’ Star Robin Lord Taylor Talks Inspirations, Social Media and Humanizing the Penguin

One of Gotham‘s emerging villains, Penguin, is expertly played by Robin Lord Taylor and the star took some time to talk a bit about his role on the show.

Taylor’s portrayal of the character is certainly conflicting, with fans knowing what he eventually becomes, but they also can’t help but feel a little sorry for him along the way. The emotional range you feel is the signal of a good actor, and Taylor is certainly one to keep an eye on. He recently took some time to chat about where he gets his inspiration for playing the iconic role, and how he maintains the balance of humanizing a villain.

Keep reading below for highlights from the interview!

Was there anybody, other than watching the actors that have played Penguin before, was there anybody else that inspired your portrayal?

“I’m inspired by—I was definitely inspired by both Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito. They’re just two just amazing characters and to be connected to them in anyway is just—I’m still wrapping my brain around that, but I would say definitely they’ve been an amazing influence on me and then also just I’d read briefly that when they were considering years ago about in the Chris Nolan series—This may have all been rumor and conjecture. It probably was, but the thought of bringing in a Penguin character and have it be played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is one of my idols in terms of actors. I look at him and he’s just been such an inspiration for me in everything that I’ve done. I would say those guys.”

You’re a part of social media. Are you enjoying that instant fan feedback you’ve been given when the episodes air?

“I have been. It’s been like—it’s a rollercoaster. When we’re watching the show and I’m live Tweeting, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. I have two computers open, my phone. It’s an intense experience because you want to respond to everybody and you want to—you just want to absorb how people are reacting to your work. It’s just I never thought I would be part of something that would be so immediately—that people would have such an immediate response to and then also on top of that be able to respond in real time.

It’s a connection to the audience that you only really find—it’s almost like going back to theater. You know what I mean? Because when you’re doing a play and you’re on stage, you feel that energy from people and you can tell when things are landing and you can tell what people are responding to, and then having Twitter there, it’s a very similar experience in a way. Only, in this world I’m actually responding back as opposed to just doing the thing on stage or whatever.”

Do you see more of a black-comedy tone working its way into your character’s performance and into the show a little bit as we move forward?

“I would hope so. That’s the thing. When I think about influences for me, like Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito, what I walk away from with their performance is just the sheer glee and fun that they bring to this sadistic person and the show itself is a dark show and it deals with very dark themes, but I love those moments where—Since we’re starting at the beginning of his life, I want to see him—I love those moments where he makes missteps and you watch him grow and develop in front of you.

It would be almost a disservice to the character if he just started off right away and knew exactly what he was doing. You know what I mean? It’s those little like hiccups and failures that make him I think sympathetic. Well, sympathetic is weird because he’s terrible, but that make him identifiable or that people can identify with and not just a two-dimensional, just bad guy. “

How do you balance humanizing the Penguin and yet remembering, in a world now where we all think penguins are cute because of Disney, remembering that this is a very bad guy and you also have to portray that side?

“I would say the way I personally approach it is the fact that, and this is where I identify with the character, not that I was ever bullied to the extent that he was, but we all understand what it means to be different and what it means to be treated like you’re less than another person just based on whatever it may be; the way you look or whatever it is, and that fear of being powerless and just being at the whim of everyone else.

The only difference though is that Oswald has very little empathy in terms of—He just refuses to go back to that place of powerlessness. It is not even a conversation that—There’s no conflict in his mind about that, so in terms of becoming powerful and not being walked upon any more, that’s the fuel that drives him to make these terrible decisions, and I think that is somewhat the human aspect of him.

I think once you understand where someone has come from and their situation and their life and it does not excuse their horrible, horrible behavior, but it does humanize them and I think that’s definitely what I’m keying into and that’s what we’re trying to portray on the show.”

You can catch more of Robin in an all new episode of Gotham, premiering Monday at 8pm ET on FOX.

Photo Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX


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