Robin Lord Taylor Previews Penguin's Gotham Game: How Much Power Does He Want?

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Oh, Oswald Cobblepot.

The villain-in-the-making on Gotham Season 1 has been busy playing some powerful figures against each other - but will tonight’s Gotham Season 1 Episode 12 see The Penguin get caught by his own game? Or will things work in his favor?

Over the weekend, I sat down with Robin Lord Taylor to talk about the just-announced second season renewal for the freshman series, what Penguin really wants and how he approaches the physicality of the role...

Penguin Pic

TV Fanatic:  Congrats on the second season! Did you see it coming?

Robin Lord Taylor: I mean, it looked good, and you know people on set have been talking about it since like the pilot, you know what I mean? I remember I brought my mom and my sister and my little niece to set and they visited and we got a tour from one of the construction guys and he said to my mom, he brought them to the GCPD headquarters, which is one of the most beautiful sets I’ve ever seen. It’s transformative. It’s stepping into another world, it’s huge and it’s amazing. He brings them into there and then he says, you know, “This is how you know you have a second season, because they don’t build s**t like this for just one season.”

On top of that, the response was so great and we did well and then also it’s not just domestically, but internationally the show is doing very well. So, all of the signs were there that it was going to be good but I’m so superstitious that I was just not allowing myself to even entertain the thought. I’m just glad I don’t have to knock on wood anymore.

TVF: We haven’t seen much with Penguin as far as any romance because he definitely very busy doing other manipulative fun things. Is that going to come into play at all? Does he even have a type?

RLT: You know, I don’t know. I think that his ambitions and his goals are so beyond that that I think he’s more interested in power and I think he also, somewhat, shut that part of himself off because I think that he sees that as a vulnerability, something that could be exploited because he certainly does it to other people. He certainly exploits people’s personal relationships for his own gain.

I would not be adverse to him figuring it out. I just don’t think he’s ever allowed himself to figure it out because, again, he’s been bullied for the way he looks, for his interests as a child, all of this has led to his ambitions. He’s been treated like he’s completely powerless and worthless. I just don’t think he even sees himself as worthy of that, so I don’t know, it’s going to be interesting to see.

TVF:  Is power his primary objective, or is there something behind the power? What do you think drives him?

RLT: No, I don’t think it’s power. It’s ultimately power but it’s what goes along with it, what’s really deeper inside of there, I think, is a desire to be accepted and to be accepted by people for who he is. I think because he was not ever accepted that’s led him to this intense need for power and this need for control because if you control somebody they can’t hurt you and they can’t make you feel like you’re less of a person and that’s been his whole life to this point.

TVF:  Is his mother a vulnerable spot for him?

RLT: I think so, and that worries me, to step back as an actor. I don’t know anything but I love my scenes with Carol [Kane who plays Oswald’s mother] and I just love the fact that he has a mom and it’s the only other part of his life. We don’t see where he sleeps and we don’t know what he eats for breakfast, we don’t know anything personal about him but what we do know is that he has a mom. We see her, we see their relationship, as twisted as it may be. It just makes so much sense.

But at the same time, as the actor, it’s not the smartest thing for him to have a mother who’s in the same city. It’s vulnerability for him, it’s something that could be exploited, and I’m like, “No one better mess with my mom. I need Carol around.” You know what I mean? She brings so much to show. She’s amazing.

TVF: Moving into the next episode, Penguin is really playing all sides of the fence. Where is his plan heading at this point?

RLT: What comes in this next episode is that he’s bitten off a lot and he’s playing Maroni against Falcone and Falcone against Maroni, and then there’s Fish there, and then also ultimately himself. He’s still doing it all ultimately just for himself so you’re going to see him torn between all three and then also make some major mistakes, which personally I love. I love it when he makes mistakes. I love it when he fails because it’s just so much more interesting and there’s somewhere for us to go. He’s brilliant but he’s not perfect so you’re just going to see a lot of that.

TVF:  Talk about Oswald’s physicality because those moments where he’s just filled with glee are amazing. But even other times, there is a physical way you’re playing him.

RLT: I do the old Stella Adler trick where I put the bottle cap in my shoe. And it’s a little reminder that every step that he takes is painful. It’s a real injury that he suffered, it’s not just an affectation, but at the same time, yeah, it’s an actor’s dream because it’s like with the makeup and with the hair and with the clothes and then the shoe and the bottle cap, and all of this, it’s all these like eternal things, it’s like putting on the character and stepping into his skin, and then it just makes it, you know, so much more visceral of an experience, which I love.

TVF: With a show like this, it’s very high profile, you’ve gotten a lot of attention for it, how have you handled just the fact that people want to know more about you and your life?

RLT: Well, it’s a balance. I consider myself a character actor and I think the most successful character actors are the guys where you’re like, “Oh, it’s that guy in that thing.” You know what I mean? You recognize them but you don’t necessarily know who they are and that way they can sort of seamlessly go from one role to another, and you know because ideally we’re trying to create an illusion where I am not Robin Taylor, I am someone else, and so it’s a delicate balance.

I’m still navigating it. I’m still trying to figure it out. Part of you wants to just be completely open and talk about every aspect of your life, who your parents are, where they live and this and that and the other thing, and the other part of me is just like, “No, it’s oversharing. I don’t want to be a celebrity. I don’t really want that at all,” so it’s just a push and a pull. I’m just figuring it out as we go. 

Gotham airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.

Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of Follow him on Twitter.

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Gotham Season 1 Episode 12 Quotes

Edward: The cupcake is sweet, the bullet is deadly: a beautiful woman's a dangerous thing.

For the first time in a long time, I feel alive. I remember who I am. I remember why I'm here.