Gotham's Mad Hatter speaks on bending people to his will and Nygma kinship

Contributed by
Sep 28, 2016, 8:06 AM EDT

It is a lair creepy enough to unnerve the veterans of Gotham City Police Department.

It's crowded with rotted teddy bears, broken clocks, hanging porcelain dolls, a Humpty Dumpty toy teetering on the edge of a shelf, giant wooden artist mannequins, high-backed chairs and, of course, hats. Lots of hats. Here and there are oversized chess pieces and playing cards, but the main attraction of the room has to be a tea party that looks set for the dead -- in a state of constant preservation, not unlike a corpse.

The whole affair is covered in dust, foreboding, and well, looks quite mad. That’s the point, of course, for it is the set belonging to Jervis Tetch, the classic Batman villain known as the Mad Hatter, and newest resident of Fox’s series Gotham.

Described as a “talented hypnotist" (with mind-control talents, perhaps?) "teetering on the edge of madness,” the Gotham incarnation of Jervis, debuting next Monday in the third episode of Season 3, is a creation of Hugo Strange and played by actor Benedict Samuel.

Samuel should be recognizable to The Walking Dead fans as the Alpha Wolf/Owen the memorable and manipulative intruder held captive by Morgan in Season 6. But as a new series regular on the show, Samuel joined me on the Gotham set to talk about his Jervis, who he describes as childlike but psychotic.

Check out the interview with Benedict Samuel, then proceed to my gallery of the Mad Hatter lair below. And if you want to get mad, tune into Gotham on Fox, Monday at 8 p.m.


I saw your lair, and it’s a very creepy, intriguing set …

We work with a talented bunch!

Amongst the dolls, the tea party set, the hat, what is your favorite thing to pick up and play with?

A lot of time there are notices up of “do not touch anything.” I guess just being in that space is incredibly helpful. You just look anywhere, and there is a source of information. I guess I can really relax in that space because it is so enveloping of the character. Everything in there is amazing. It is a treasure trove in there.

You made an impression on The Walking Dead as unnerving, manipulative character. Going from that to developing your take on Jervis, what are the similarities between those two?

I think there’s similarities in that they are incredibly manipulative people. He has a child inside and a psychopath. But the difference between them is the Wolf kind of bent the world to his view. Jervis Tetch bends people to his will. He is not concerned about the world; he is concerned about himself, and other people. That is the biggest difference.

Who is the character Jervis gets to be simpatico with in Gotham?

I definitely think there could be a kinship with Nygma. They could spend all day having tea, and kind of shooting the breeze with rhymes back and forth. I am not sure if that will happen or not. I don’t know how exciting that would be to just see a scene where they are riddling back and forth. That would be cool. I think Jervis looks for people who have secrets.

What is his game? We presume he came out of Hugo Strange’s experiments based on an Alice in Wonderland tease last season, but what is his goal?

His goal is to reunite with his missing sister, Alice [played by Naian Gonzales Norvind]. It is a very interesting and complex relationship. That is what really drives him: trying to find her, and being reunited with her.

How did you learn to live within this character, from physicality to costuming?

I am not an external actor who comes up with random things, and in a room looking like a nutcase by myself trying to figure this out. I feel very supported by the costume department. It is some of the most beautiful, and detailed, and imaginative costuming I have seen. So that supports me. The hair and makeup support me; it is so subtle that it is other than what I am. All of those environmental things. And being in that lair. They kind of all produce an environment that is just available to creativity. For me to discover these things as he goes, because he is developing and evolving as I read more, and play him more.