The following contains spoilers from this week’s episode of Fox’s Gotham.
As Fox’s Gotham drills deeper into Season 2, the DC Comics-based drama is now playing with a slightly less full deck.
In this Monday’s episode, Theo Galavan, Jerome and Barbara put on quite a show for the town, with the latter pair lording over a mayhem-filled magic show at a charity gala. Ultimately, Theo would play the role of “hero” in front of the city’s elite, in part by going off script and plunging a knife into Jerome’s neck.
Here, Shameless star Cameron Monaghan shares the secrets behind his Gotham run, including his main inspiration in playing that joker Jerome, and how the wild role made for many sleepless nights.
TVLINE | First of all, what all did the producers tell you about this character and what they’d want from you, when you were first cast?
When I was first cast, it was for just the one episode in the first season, and they told me that he’s a character involved in the Joker mythos in some way — “He may be the Joker, he may not. But we’re going to have you do the scene.” I immediately said yes, and then I said, “Oh wait, I dont know if I want to touch this,” because this is something extremely near and dear to my heart. Then, towards the close of that season, they asked me to be a part of the second, the idea being that I would get to play around with it even more. Taking that character to new places, to new levels, was something that was extremely exciting to me.
TVLINE | What were you most conscious of doing and not doing as you created Jerome? We hear a little Jack Nicholson in his voice, see a little Heath Ledger in his glower…
I hadn’t specifically tried to draw from the context of any live-action actor. They obviously are extremely, extremely influential to me. As someone who as a kid watched these movies a lot and loved them and admired them, I’m sure they burrowed deep into my subconscious but it’s not something I consciously wanted to do. The only performance I felt at all comfortable with drawing inspiration from was Mark Hamill from the animated series. He’s lived with that character for 20 years and he’s done incredible work with it, and his dynamism is something I really appreciated. Beyond that, it was just reading every major run in the comics involving the character that I could get my hands on, looking at his face, how h’s drawn, and taking what I could from that.
TVLINE | Would you say that Jerome is one unabashedly sick puppy?
[Laughs] Yes, I think you could call him a sick puppy — and he would appreciate it. He would probably thank you. He enjoys killing his humanity, sometimes literally, as when killing his parents and what made him. He is fully committed to an idea of insanity in a way that is almost admirable. It’s completely horrifying, but there’s something strangely charismatic about his passion.
TVLINE | He had that line when he got the briefing from Theo, “You’re singin’ my song.”
Yeah, the Galavan character (played by James Frain) is the first person I think that Jerome has come across that introduces the idea of using the world as a grand stage to perform evil, of not just having small personal acts but taking it to a larger level. Galavan was almost a strange father figure to him, which was a nice turn.
TVLINE | Have you seen the finished episode? What do you make of the closing montage, which evokes Jerome’s father’s premontiion?
Yeah, Jerome even says it to Essen in the second episode, that he’ll “spread across the city like a virus.” That’s the best way to describe his personality, as infectious, in the best and worst ways possible.
TVLINE | What will you miss most about this show?
I’m going to miss playing around with this part, and I’ll miss my fellow actors who are not only phenomenal in front of the camera but are also incredibly lovely people. For a cast full of “villains” and “tough guys,” they were all really sweet and welcoming. I’m not going to miss the many, many sleepless nights that I had with this part.
TVLINE | What exactly made your nights sleepless?
It was a mixture of excitement and intimidation, and the role itself as well. I was in that character’s head space when we were filming, for 15 hours a day, so thankfully I had a very patient girlfriend. [Laughs] When I got back home while I was still “on,” she was like, “OK, Cameron, all right…. I got it.”
TVLINE | Because you were so excited to play this role, did you ever circle back with the producers to ask, “Are you sure he’s not the Joker, with a capital J? Are you certain?”
I think he’s the Joker in that he represents the idea, the greater concept. And somewhere, some kid or some person watched [his videos/the news coverage] and it burrowed into their mind, and one day it will snap and take them over. The idea of this person will possess someone completely new. So, I love that idea — something about it really is chilling and excited me when I read the episode.