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‘Gotham’s’ Cameron Monaghan takes us inside the mind of Jerome

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The return of Jerome (Cameron Monaghan) has turned “Gotham” on its head — as the resurrection of a dead person should! — but it’s in his absence that his message of chaos truly spread. Gotham City is begging for a crazed leader to send them down the road of destruction.

Filling that void is a very different Jerome than the one we met in Season 2 — and a man bent on destroying Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz). Monaghan took Screener into Jerome’s mind, telling us all about what’s changed in him since he was killed in Season 2 — and giving us some hints about his coming showdown with young Bruce.

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First and foremost, what was your first thought when the producers told said you were coming back without a face?

I knew I was going to be returning. We’d had a couple talks in the second season about coming back for the third. A couple months prior to actually filming it, I tried to get in contact with them to have some conversations with the head writer, and the producers — whoever I could — to discuss the direction of the character.

They gave me a rough outline, and some things ended up different — in a way I think was actually better. But they did tell me about having an acolyte who was a really big fan of him, and a cult of followers, and someone taking his face and trying to wear it for himself. Then Jerome would kill him to get it back.

As soon as I heard that — it was obviously very reminiscent of the New 52 Joker’s storyline — I knew exactly where it was from, and I was excited because that storyline wasn’t what I was expecting, and it wasn’t one I necessarily thought could be done in live action. I always pictured it as some strange offshoot arc you could do in a very dark, animated something, but I never thought it could be live action.

So when I heard it, I was initially excited — and then wondering how the hell we’re going to do this! I think ultimately, it worked… We pulled a lot of it off, you know?

In the comic it’s very gruesome, and we wanted to retain some of the level of how grisly it is. But at the same time, there’s a certain level of translation that’s necessary for adapting something like that. I had a lot of conversations with Mike Maddi, the special effects makeup artist. We kind of had to skirt the line of what can an audience look at, and be horrified by — but not so disgusted by that they immediately shut it off. Or so distracted by it that they’re not able to pay attention to the performance or the story itself.

It was this tightrope act we were walking.

For me, it was exactly what you were aiming for. I was disgusted by it, but just couldn’t look away. I was honestly surprised by how much you were able to get away with on network TV.

Yeah, I know! It’s amazing what we were able to get away with on network.

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Looking at the personality change, this is a very different Jerome, after going through his death. What sort of discussions did you have with the producers on what form he was taking this time?

We both kind of came in with similar ideas, personality-wise. We were lucky to be similar minds meeting on this. Obviously he’s coming back from death — that means he’s seen the other side of something. He’s seen a greater scope. So he is changed. He’d be darker, more succinct in what he wanted. He’d have a focus on something greater, a grander scale.

At the same time, he’s more mature. The Jerome in Season 2 felt more boyish. In the third it feels like he’s really come into his own as a man. I guess that’s what dying will do for you.

We wanted to bump certain aspects of his personality, and mute others. We wanted to really bump the showman side of him, and really push the idea of twisting the world into a stage. At the same time we wanted to suppress some of the manic bits of him so they only come out in certain punctuations.

It was about making him feel older and darker — and meaner. [laughs]

You mention the showman side of him, which stands out so much. You can hear other versions of the Joker in the way his voice sounds, but we’ve never really seen this level of “demented showman” portrayed in live action before.

Yeah! You know, the Joker’s a clown. It’s an element that’s really not pushed. I think if anyone did it — besides Cesar Romero, obviously, in [the] “Batman” 1966 series — I think if anyone did it, Jack Nicholson’s performance initially was the most gleefully over the top, and I wanted to retain the gleeful, over the top nature. Because the show “Gotham” itself is kind of gleefully over the top!

It’s in this strange pocket of being very dark and very violent, but at the same time it embraces the more heightened aspects of comic books. It’s willing to go the stranger, or sillier, or more fun places.

Jerome is a naturally heightened character, so he needs to feel even more heightened in the universe that he’s in. So we had to find ways to kind of boost that part of him. At the same time, the word “joker” is a bit of a play on itself. Joker could mean someone that’s crafting jokes — or it could be the playing card, meaning that he’s completely unpredictable. He’s the wild card.

We wanted to introduce as many elements as we could into the Jerome character, and make him feel like a person that could go from one second making you laugh to the next second having a knife at your throat. We tried to make him feel as dynamic as possible.

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In this episode, Jerome sets his sights on Bruce once again. Given that this is essentially young Joker tangling with young Batman, can you talk a bit about those scenes with David?

Obviously “Gotham” has its own canon and we’re twisting and reflecting ideas that have already been established. One of those that has been established for a very, very long time — and done very well — is [that] Bruce becoming Batman creates, and escalates, the villains. His quest for goodness creates villains, like the Joker.

In this story, I think we’re kind of coming at it from a different angle of, Jerome is introducing these elements earlier to Bruce, and he’s twisting him earlier. He’s showing him things that are so unabashedly awful that the only sane response is for Bruce to kind of embrace the insanity of dressing up as a big bat, you know?

That is such an insane idea in itself that I think it makes sense for it to be brought out in the insanity of the world around him.

“Gotham” airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.

Category: TelevisionTV Shows: GothamCelebrities: Cameron MonaghanTV Network: The CW

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