McKenzie played a cop on the TV show 'Southland'

When Ben McKenzie stepped onto the set of Gotham, his first scene was simple — he just had to drive a car up to Wayne Manor. “I’m sitting behind the wheel, and I’m thinking, ‘This is crazy, this is crazy. What am I doing? This is nuts. I’m never going to be able to pull this off,’” he told Entertainment Weekly. “And it all went great.”

McKenzie plays a young James Gordon in FOX’s upcoming TV show Gotham, which tells the origin stories of the great DC Comics villains and vigilantes. Check out some excerpts from his new interview with Entertainment Weekly:

What excites you about the character?

He’s a truly honest man. The last honest man in a city full of crooked people. It’s very tricky nowadays to play a true, honest-to-goodness hero. Everybody is so cynical of people’s intentions. What’s interesting about him is he comes into this city that he hasn’t lived in for two decades, since he was a kid, and has fresh eyes to a world he doesn’t actually know. He thinks he knows it, and his journey will be to figure out how to make it better both for Gotham and himself without completely [losing] the moral standing that he has. He’s not an anti-hero, he’s a true hero — but he will have to compromise.

From reading the pilot script, it seems like, given the tightrope he has to walk in just the first episode of the show, it’s hard to see how Gordon could maintain his ideals throughout the series.

He won’t. And that’s one of the things we talked about very early on. This is not a Batman-from-the-’50s kind of show, with moral duality in black and white. In this world, everybody lives in the grey. Everybody is on the take. Everybody is compromised. There is no way he’ll emerge unscathed from that. How does he hold onto the thread of his mortality while getting things done?

How familiar were you with the Batman universe before this?

I’m a big fan of Batman. I can’t claim I grew up reading a lot of comics — weirdly the one I remember is Iron Man. I would watch repeats of the cheesy biff-pow-bang show, the Adam West version, in the afternoons in Texas. As I grew older, [the depictions of Batman] grew more sophisticated, and I loved the [Christopher] Nolan films. The thing that I think is universally relateable about Batman is he’s not a superhero. He has no special powers. He’s simply a man who’s experienced this extreme trauma, and has access to all sort of gadgets and weaponry that a wealthy person could have, and has an emotional need for justice. As an actor, I’m much more interested in people. When they have superpowers, it’s not that I don’t find them enjoyable, it’s just that….

You feel detached.

I feel a little detached. Not to rag on a completely unrelated topic, but to me it’s like musicals. I’m like, “Oh, I’m with this story,” and then they start singing and that seems strange. I probably shouldn’t say that in New York City! Long story short: Gordon couldn’t be more human. In a DC universe where all of these characters are human, he is Exhibit A in being a simple, flawed human being. He’s strong and smart and tough, but he’s going to make wrong decisions and trust the wrong people. And he has no out — he can’t put on a cape and fly off.

It’s a great interview, be sure to head over to Entertainment Weekly for the full thing. McKenzie talks about how he prepared for the role, what it was like shooting in New York City, and more.

SOURCE: Entertainment Weekly