The iconic DC Comics character Jervis Tetch (Benedict Samuel) made a splash in his debut episode last week, “Mad City: Look Into My Eyes,” when he successfully got into and controlled the minds of Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) and Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) alike. Two of the strongest minds on Gotham were toyed with almost instantly when Jervis turned on his charm, and it’s clear that both were left shaken by their encounters with the Hatter.
With only one episode of his game-changing arc on the Fox series under his belt, Samuel told Nerdist that viewers haven’t seen anything yet when it comes to the Hatter’s antics. But where did he get his inspiration for how he decided to portray the comic book character?
“I know the Mad Hatter has a long history in the Batman canon,” Samuel says. “He’s quite a historically rich character and he’s come in a lot of shapes and forms and interpretations. I felt supported by the history of this particular character. I didn’t want to make something completely new and outlandish. Through the process of reading the scripts and being in the costume, which is so fabulous, and working with these other actors, the character developed with the support of everything around it.”
He continues, “I’m just moving within that and still discovering him. It’s not like I sat down and said, ‘He’s going to walk like this and talk like this.’ It was certainly a collaboration with wardrobe, makeup, hair, and of course, being guided by the producers and showrunners.”
The Mad Hatter is a new kind of villain for Gotham since he deals with the psychology of his victims, and he poses a threat much more personal than the villains in the past.
“It’s interesting because it’s not as if he’s a villain that is trying to blow things up or leave problems for you to solve or even try to directly intimidate you,” Samuel says. “What we’re seeing develop in the relationship between Jim Gordon and the Hatter is that the reason why he’s so dangerous is that he can tap into your psyche and turn you completely on your head and against yourself. That’s what is most scary for a lot of people, being turned upon yourself.”
Samuel calls The Mad Hatter “the ultimate manipulator.”
“He presents himself in a very different light to different people,” he says. “Onstage, he’s charming and almost subservient. In the house, he’s a killer. And then with Gordon, there’s a sad, tragic backstory. As far as the true history of the Mad Hatter’s story, Alice [Naian Gonzalez Norvind] will be a key player in revealing that.”
As for what’s coming up in the next few episodes for the Mad Hatter, Samuel teases that viewers should expect to see an unraveling of the formidable new villain. After all, the tagline for season three of Gotham was initially announced as “Heroes Will Fall,” but after the producers saw Samuel’s interpretation of the Mad Hatter on the series, they ended up changing it to “Mad City” instead.
“As the search for his sister gets more intense, we’re going to see more of the truer colors of the Mad Hatter, his actual intentions and ultimate goals,” Samuel says. “And the way that the Mad Hatter deals with failure, he’s not like any of the other villains. He’s closely walking that line between sanity and madness, and stumbling more into madness than anything. When you set someone like that out in Gotham, it’s dangerous.”
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox. What do you think of Gotham‘s newest villain? Let us know!