'Gotham' TV show keeps love of crime fighter alive


By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

When actress Morena Baccarin chooses a role, she needs to not only like the material, but also to be inspired by something in the story and/or the character.

Best known for playing strong and nuanced characters — most notably military wife Jessica Brody on “Homeland” and Inara on the cult sci-fi/western “Firefly” — Baccarin currently portrays Dr. Leslie Thompkins on “Gotham.”

A Batman prequel series with a crime noir feel, “Gotham” chronicles the lives of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) before he becomes police commissioner and a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) who begins his journey to becoming Batman after his parents are brutally gunned down.

In the comics published by DC Comics, Leslie is a surrogate mother of Bruce and is aware that he’s Batman.

“She’s a bit of a breath of fresh air in a world that’s so corrupt and so downtrodden. She’s strong, she’s smart, she doesn’t take any (expletive), and she’s supportive of (Gordon’s) desire to uncorrupt Gotham. I think that unifies them. They have a lot of chemistry together, so it’s a natural progression to what I think will become a good relationship,” Baccarin described her character.

“I will say we’ll be teaming up in more ways than one, however I can tease that.”

As seen in the past several episodes, Gordon and Leslie have become a couple. When the show debuted, Gordon was engaged to Barbara Kean (Erin Richards) —his wife in Bat-lore — but circumstances forced them to break up.

In the Feb. 16 episode, Barbara wanted to win Gordon back, but instead witnessed him and Leslie kissing, unbeknownst to them.

Adam Mitzner, an attorney-turned-author who has managed to weave his love of Batman into his legal thrillers, has high praise for Baccarin, one of his favorite actresses.

“I’ve loved her in everything she’s done — from ‘Firefly’ to ‘V’ to ‘Homeland’ and ‘The Mentalist.’ She’s a great addition to the ‘Gotham’ cast,” said Mitzner. “One of ‘Gotham’s strengths is that it’s a dark show, but when she’s on screen it’s also fun.

Mitzner said Baccarin “has this really-happy-to-be there quality — especially in the episode when she seemed genuinely thrilled to be doing policework with (Gordon).”

“I had read on some blog that (fans) hated Barbara as Jim’s girlfriend, and there’s a much greater spark, I think, between Leslie and Jim,” Baccarin said. “That being said… I’m interested in seeing the story arc on her character. You know she’s not going to wind up with Gordon in the end — at least I don’t think so — so I’m interested in the here and now with Jim, but also with how she transitions to be more involved with Bruce like in the comics.”

“Gotham” fan Kathi Sartori, of White Lake, Mich., agreed with Mitzner’s assessment.

“Morena brings new life to the character of Jim Gordon,” said Sartori. “Her character shows us a side of him that we didn’t see in other incarnations. In most incarnations, he’s just the commissioner and almost a secondary character.

“In ‘Gotham,’ he was always meant to be the main character, but his relationship with Leslie seems to really give life to him. She is sexy without being overly sexual like some of the other female characters. As a fan, I really want to see more of her and Gordon together as she really seems to understand who he is, which adds to his appeal. Morena gives the character a charm that makes you want to root for her and hope that she sticks around for the long run.”

Baccarin, in turn, has high praise for McKenzie.

“He’s great, very sweet, a very hard-worker,” Baccarin said. “He really has an affinity for this character and is really doing a good job making him not too precious – he’s tough but has a really good heart. I think he’s doing a terrific job of playing that character. Plus, he’s easy on the eyes, so that helps too.”

Currently, Baccarin’s role as Leslie is a recurring one. However, that doesn’t rule out that she’ll become a regular next season (it was announced in January that “Gotham” was renewed for a second season).

“There’s a chance, yeah,” she said. “We’ll figure it out. Next season’s a possibility.”

Created in 1939 by Bob Kane, Batman debuted in “Detective Comics” No. 27.

Throughout the character’s 75-year history, he has been adapted in almost all media in various incarnations.

He went through a campy phase with the 1966-68 “Batman” TV series, starring Adam West as the titular character.

The 1986 best-selling graphic novel “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns” — a grim, gritty, adult-oriented tale — really dynamited Batman’s campy image for a more mainstream audience.

This set the tone for the 1989 blockbuster “Batman” with Michael Keaton, who reprised this role in 1992’s “Batman Returns.”

Batman returned to his campy roots in some ways with 1995’s “Batman Forever” and especially with 1997’s “Batman and Robin,” where Val Kilmer and George Clooney played the character, respectively.

Both movies — directed by Joel Schumacher — are much maligned by fans and critics alike.

That changed in 2005 when director Christopher Nolan re-launched the franchise with his mega-successful “Dark Knight Trilogy.”

This series reintroduced Batman as a gritty, humorless warrior played by Christian Bale in 2005’s “Batman Begins,” 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” and 2009’s “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“Gotham” debuted last fall to critical acclaim. It is the first live-action TV series featuring Batman since the aforementioned “Batman” in the mid-1960s.

“It’s both exciting to be a part off this kind of mythology that’s been around for 75 years, but it’s also a bit daunting,” admitted McKenzie.

Mitzner and fellow attorney-turned-author Brad Meltzer —who’s written Batman for DC on several occasions — spoke about the character’s staying power after three-quarters of a century.

Mitzner pointed out that part of Batman’s appeal is he doesn’t have super-powers, which make him more accessible to fans because “you could dream that someday you could be him.”

“My father loved Batman, so that was a great bonding thing between us. He grew up on the comics and was really quite the expert. He wasn’t much of a sports fan, so the way some kids talk to their fathers about the Yankees, we would talk about Batman,” Mitzner fondly recalled. “(Batman’s) one of those rare characters that is defined, but timeless. So, every Batman has certain
characteristics that make him Batman, but he’s able to change with the times so that each new generation can relate to him.”

Added Meltzer, a University of Michigan alumnus: “Batman is the most honed and perfect character in literature. The reason he’s lasted so long and will stay so long is the result of thousands of writers and artists sharpening him to the perfect pinnacle of character. There’s nothing like writing Batman — and nothing more intimidating. He is truly a reflection of our greatest hopes and deepest fears. He’s a shield for our psyches in this scary world.”