Gotham's Ben McKenzie on living 'in the grey' as TV's new Det. Jim Gordon

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Jun 12, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT (Updated)

Though the pilot has gotten some solid buzz, we still have a while to wait until we get a look at Fox’s small-screen Batman spinoff, Gotham

Ben McKenzie, who will star as a younger version of Detective Jim Gordon before he climbs the ranks to become police commissioner, chatted with Entertainment Weekly about his take on the character during a recent set visit to the New York production.

McKenzie had some interesting things to say, and the full interview is well worth a read. It’s refreshing to see the actor’s passion for the project and the pitch he gives on the material — and it at least sounds like they’re really trying to make this a compelling show.

As the trailers we’ve seen up to this point make clear, they won’t be shying away from the morally dubious areas, and we geeked out a bit when McKenzie likened young Jim Gordon to Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective Philip Marlowe. If they can nail down that type of noir feel, this could seriously rock.

Check out some choice excerpts below:

“He’s a truly honest man. The last honest man in a city full of crooked people. It’s very tricky nowadays to play a true, honest-to-goodness hero. Everybody is so cynical of people’s intentions. What’s interesting about him is he comes into this city that he hasn’t lived in for two decades, since he was a kid, and has fresh eyes to a world he doesn’t actually know. He thinks he knows it, and his journey will be to figure out how to make it better both for Gotham and himself without completely [losing] the moral standing that he has. He’s not an anti-hero, he’s a true hero — but he will have to compromise …

He won’t [maintain his ideals]. And that’s one of the things we talked about very early on. This is not a Batman-from-the-’50s kind of show, with moral duality in black and white. In this world, everybody lives in the grey. Everybody is on the take. Everybody is compromised. There is no way he’ll emerge unscathed from that. How does he hold onto the thread of his mortality while getting things done? …

The thing I run into here is that — there’s nothing wrong with having a moral center, and it sets [Gordon] apart for the rest of the people in this world. And that’s an incredibly compelling concept. At the same time, for audiences, that moral centeredness can come across as naivete unless the character is written to be as smart as everybody else in the room, if not smarter. It’s sort of that noir-ish thing — Phillip Marlow is going to stumble, and he’s not going to know what the criminals know. But he’s as smart as they are, if not smarter, and so he’s going to figure it out as he goes along. So you have to juggle those balls without having the character go, ‘I can’t believe everybody is corrupt! What are the odds?’ So that’s been an ongoing conversation. The good news is Bruno and [director Danny Cannon] are fully on board with that take on the character.”

Gotham is set to debut this fall on Fox. Do you think this’ll be the Batman-esque series we’ve always wanted?

(Via Entertainment Weekly)