Few TV stars have won a place in the hearts of genre fans like Morena Baccarin. After breaking through in Joss Whedon’s Firefly and its spin-off film Serenity, the Brazilian-born stunner won memorable roles on Stargate SG-1 (and its direct-to-video spin-off Stargate: The Ark of Truth), V, Homeland, and the animated Justice League, for which she provided the voice of the Black Canary. She’s even found time for guest turns on The Flash (as the voice of Harrison Wells’ computer Gideon) and Batman: The Brave and the Bold (as the voice of the Cheetah). This month saw her return to the Batman universe in high style on Gotham, as the first live-action incarnation of Dr. Leslie Thompkins, longtime confidant of the Dark Knight and Jim Gordon, with whom she’s already initiated a romance on the show.
We caught up with Baccarin at last weekend’s TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena and she explained how she won the role, as well as what lies ahead for the good doctor.
The Nerdist: You’ve shown a great deal of chemistry with Ben McKenzie. How did your casting come about? Did you test with him?
Morena Baccarin: No, they just kind of threw us together and it worked. So it was both sheer luck and tenacity.
N: In developing your Leslie Thompkins, what did you draw from? She’s very different than she is in the comic books.
MB: Yeah, it was on the page. Bruno wrote a very well-rounded character right away, and that’s what I was playing — what I was given.
N: Leslie’s a hardened professional, but she has a warmth that we haven’t really seen so far on the show.
MB: Yes, that’s true.
N: Was that something the producers said they were looking for?
MB: Yes, I think the show was wanting that, a female energy, something a little bit different. Somebody who can [tolerate] the shit that she’s gotta put up with and not be phased. That’s how she was written.
N: After your experiences with Firefly, Stargate, and V, is it comforting to know you have fans who will follow you from project to project?
MB: Absolutely, I think it’s a wonderful world to be in. It was very stigmatized ten years ago, but now we’re here and we’re all very lucky to have such fans. They really do follow you. A lot of them watch Homeland, which is not at all their cup of tea, and follow me to whatever I do. It’s really nice.
N: What do you think attracts Gordon and Leslie to each other?
MB: They get together pretty quickly [because] they’re both very lonely and they find refuge in each other. They’re kindred spirits.
N: Now that you’re a regular on the show, will we see you in every episode for the remainder of this season?
MB: No, not necessarily. Next season perhaps.
N: Bruno Heller has told us Leslie will soon become a part of the police force.
MB: Yes, I start working at the GCPD very quickly. So I’ll be around.
N: Have you had a chance to interact with the rest of the cast now that you’re at police headquarters?
MB: Not too much. A little bit with Bullock and a little bit with Nygma, which was really fun. But mostly just with Jim.
N: What’s Leslie’s position with GCPD?
MB: She’s the medical examiner. So she’s pretty much there on every case.
N: Will we learn more of her backstory in the days ahead? We don’t know much about her past yet.
MB: To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I think eventually. They do such a great job of making everybody a well-rounded character that you can kind of spin off on any character. So hopefully they’ll give her a little more back story. Right now we’re just going day by day.
N: Did you come up with one for her in your head?
MB: No, because that stuff changes. So I’m just really trying to take it a day at a time, and what they’ve written has been mostly focused on our relationship. So that’s been really the key element to it.
N: Does that relationship get at all complicated by Jim’s prior relationship?
MB: Mildly, but not too much. It gets more complicated as the season goes on just by the virtue of what we do, and the troubles in Gotham.
N: Well it’s reassuring to know the show won’t fall prey to a cliched love triangle.
MB: No, it won’t.
N: Great meeting you, Morena! Thanks for your time.
MB: Absolutely! Nice to meet you. Thank you. I appreciate it.
Gotham airs Monday nights at 8/7c on Fox. Stay tuned for our weekly episode recaps, every Tuesday morning right here on Nerdist!