Danny Cannon is no stranger to directing and producing well-received TV thrillers, having done the double-duty on both Alcatraz and Nikita. But he’s got his work cut out for him now that he’s entering the most famous fictional crime-ridden city in North America — in Gotham, Fox’s Batman prequel series starring Ben McKenzie as rookie police detective James Gordon and David Mazouz as the orphaned Bruce Wayne. We chatted with Cannon at the recent TCA Summer Press Tour, and he described for us just how Gotham will unveil the Batman mythos and what to expect from its young heroes and villains.
Nerdist: Is the presence of a comedian in the pilot a hint that the Joker is coming?
Danny Cannon: I can tell you this, that throughout this first season there will be many hints at Jokers. As the city falls apart and people start to take on personalities which allow them to rise above the other criminals around them, many people will surface in that chaos. We are gonna delight in going off on tangents and sending you down the wrong road sometimes.
N: What’s Bruce’s role in all this? I’m assuming he’s there for more than just inspiration for Gordon.
DC: Absolutely. Well, first of all, David, this actor, there’s nothing he can’t do. It’s incredible what an actor he is. So we’re very enthused that we have this guy because he can pull it all off. But this is the first time we can go back to the origins of this character and see the psychology and understand what damage happens to somebody, not only when they lose their parents – because unfortunately that’s happened to a lot of people – but when one is so wealthy and has the world at their fingertips, what does one do with that grief? We’re revisiting that, because Gordon and he are both lost. They’ve both lost their parents, they’re both trying to navigate this world and walk the righteous path, but they will be tested on so many levels by so many different people. So it’s not just a father figure that Bruce is gonna be looking for, it’s a man of righteousness. It’s the true path. And Gordon’s gonna stray from that as much as Bruce will.
N: That being said, do you think this version of this myth will place a greater emphasis on Gordon’s role as a father figure than we’ve seen before?
DC: Absolutely. The great thing about TV shows, more than ever now because of these great shows we all watch on cable, is that the slow burn is now possible. We don’t have to keep smashing people over the head every week, and on every act break, to keep them glued. People binge-watch television now, people watch television like it’s one long movie. So the slow development, and the many times we can veer off on tangents, is all possible to us. So that’s wonderful.
N: In the pilot, Bruce doesn’t vow at his parents grave to rid the world of crime. Was there thought given to including that iconic moment?
DC: We absolutely did think about including that moment, but we found when we were cutting the pilot – which was extremely long by the way, and I hope one day that long version will be made available – that it was really good to tease so many of these things.
N: Can you have that moment later?
DC: You can. Because things change with characters, and plans change, and motivations change.
N: Will we see Barbara and Tony Gordon be born?
DC: Many of those things can happen, and many of those things will happen, to be honest. It’s like every relationship everyone has – it gets harder and harder.
N: Smallville took variations from the mythos, yet they always honored it. Is that the goal with Gotham?
DC: Yes. Like I said, being allowed that privilege, and the faith from Fox to really slow burn this candle, really allows us to not only head towards the righteous path, but veer off it, make mistakes, come back, surprise you, and still have time to get there at the end.
N: Are Bruce and Selina the same age?
N: And the young Poison Ivy?
DC: Younger. Just a few years younger. And again, Ivy is someone, who could go many ways also. Without giving too much away… For Joker, for example, are we gonna meet the Joker or are we gonna meet somebody whom the Joker is inspired by? That’s the luxury of having a long season with which to do all this – we can get there not just in one straight line but we can get there in many ways.
N: Are you nervous about fans’ reactions?
DC: It matters to me what they think. It matters to me. And we’re part of a legacy, we understand that. But we are doing something that’s never been done before. Which is we are the prequel prequel, and hopefully they’ll just enjoy the fact that what we are doing is just building a world in which Batman will be necessary. This is not a Batman show. This is the platform with which Batman is deemed necessary.
N: What’s the biggest challenge in making Gotham a classic film noir while your shooting in present-day New York?
DC: The biggest challenge is for it not to be New York, for it not to be Chicago. We are actually creating a personality. The thing about Gotham is it’s inspired by all those pieces. Architecturally it was inspired not just by New York City, but by London, by Paris, by Barcelona. We are in the streets. So creating a city that is fictional but relatable is the biggest challenge.
N: The Batman mythos has long had a level of science fiction to it with the Dark Knight’s technology. Does that genre factor into the show at all, or are we just looking at film noir in terms of genre?
DC: Yeah, I think it’s steampunk noir. I like the idea of sci-fi. I know some people move away from that idea. But all sci-fi means is anything’s possible. And what’s great about Batman is that he’s a feet-on-the-ground mortal man who trains to be super. That’s what the city is. It’s very feet-on-the-ground. Everything will be functional. But what if New York didn’t get Mayor Koch, Giuliani, and Bloomberg? What if it just kept going down? That’s an inspiration for Gotham.
Read my review of Gotham here, then let us know what you thought in the comments below.