Cory Michael Smith in GOTHAM - Season 2 | ©2015 Fox

Cory Michael Smith in GOTHAM - Season 2 | ©2015 Fox

When we first met Cory Michael Smith’s character Edward Nygma in GOTHAM, Mondays at 8 PM on Fox, he was a shy morgue worker with a fondness for riddles and a crush on female coworker Kristen Kringle (Chelsea Spack). Hard-working detectives Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) don’t worry about Ed and young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) doesn’t really register Ed’s existence.

Then Edward finds that Kristen’s cop boyfriend Officer Dougherty is abusing her, one thing leads to another and Ed finds that he’s that startled perpetrator of a bloody murder. He begins to see and hear a very different Ed advising him from across the room, the beginnings of the persona that the Batman universe will one day know as the Riddler.

Smith, who can currently be seen in the new feature film CAROL opposite Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, talks about Edward’s continuing journey as the series has its mid-season finale tonight.

ASSIGNMENT X: In Season 2, it seems like the Riddler comes into his own quite a bit more …

CORY MICHAEL SMITH: Edward comes into his own a bit more. We’re not to the Riddler yet – where we left off with him is very much where we pick up, except this kind of duality has advanced. In the finale, he’s left alone in this room and he’s losing it and talking to himself, and there are these two sides of his ego that are battling against each other, and in Season 2, they will manifest very literally, and this darker side of him is personified and he’s confronting himself, and he’s confronting his ego. I get to play two Edward Nygmas [laughs].

AX: How is it doing those scenes where you’re playing both sides of the character?

SMITH: Technically, it’s tough, but storywise, it’s really fun. It feels right. It feels like this character has been thinking both of these sides all the time, but everything has been so forced to this uptight, well-meaning, kind, generous, happy-go-lucky guy, and now he really gets to – well, he doesn’t “get to,” he has to embrace this other side of him. He has to listen to this part of him that is like, “This isn’t right, I need to make different choices. Maybe [Kristin Kringle, the co-worker Edward likes] should talk to me. I’ve been nothing but kind to her.” And then there are some events with her that – I don’t want to give anything away, but [the more aggressive Ed] essentially encourages Ed Nygma to really pursue her in a different way that may or may not be fruitful.

AX: Exactly what is Edward’s second self?

SMITH: I think it’s just a physical manifestation of what is happening in his head. There are definite physical differences. The voice, the body movement – the nice thing about this dark Nygma is not that he exists – this isn’t the Riddler, I’m not playing the Riddler – it’s just the most opposite version of Edward possible.

AX: For your acting process, do you actually write down any of the differences between the two aspects of Edward, or do you keep everything in your head?

SMITH: No, it’s all physicalized with my body. The intention with the other Nygma is not to be portraying the Riddler, or who Edward will become, that’s not the point, because Edward has to make those decisions himself. But it is certainly this voice in Edward that is the exact opposite of him, living in his body, in his clothes, and all of that. There’s definitely just a different way of communicating and a different way of living in his body, because Edward is so tightly wound.

AX: So the second Nygma is a much more loosely wound person?

SMITH: Yes. Just direct. Direct, aggressive, fearless, perhaps more sexual.

AX: Are you doing any more action sequences and, if so, have you had to learn anything to do that action?

SMITH: I will say there is an action sequence that I did, and I nailed it on the first take. I worked with our stunt coordinator for the first time, so that was pretty cool. You definitely spend more time with that. It was very intentional for me that Season 1 was exploring [Edward’s] adolescent behavior, and I wanted him to seem young, so there was far to go, and essentially after murdering Dougherty, there’s kind of this – you can call it maturity, but he’s immediately going to look at life a little differently, and in Season 2, he’s just growing up quickly. He’s kind of becoming a man, he has to embrace these realities in his life. I think Season 1, you were seeing a certain emotional range that matched his maturity, and as we move into Season 2, it will [evolve] as he becomes more of a man.

AX: Is Edward on a solo trajectory in Season 2, or does he align with other people?

SMITH: At the beginning, it’s solo. I look forward to Edward and Oswald [joining forces]. It’s destiny [laughs].

AX: Are you enjoying working with Robin Lord Taylor, who plays Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin?

SMITH: Oh, God, yes. He and I are very dear friends now. I absolutely love him.

AX: And how are you enjoying working with Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue?

SMITH: The nice thing is, I can go through any interview and someone asks me what I think about any cast member and I can genuinely say that I like them [laughs], which is an amazing place to be. We can travel together, any of them I feel absolutely comfortable with. It’s a beautiful thing. Ben is such a fantastic leader, he is at the helm of our cast, and I think he sets a bar, not only for the cast, but for the crew. He expects a certain level of attention and detail and seriousness on set, so that we get a lot of work done. Because it’s a big show, and we have to move, move, move, and for us to have the opportunity to really work on the scenes and be able to do them a few times – it’s not a David Fincher film, we can’t sit there and do sixty takes or however many takes. So it’s about moving efficiently so that we get the best work the most efficient way. And then Donal is the comedic relief of that duo. They’re truly the pair that they are in the show, Ben and Donal [laughs].

AX: Are there any directors coming back from Season 1?

SMITH: The directors that are back this season are the ones that everyone loved last year. So we’ve created this stable of directors that are directing multiple episodes throughout the season, and it is all of our favorites. The amazing thing was, there was a general consensus of who we all liked, which episodes we thought were strongest, clearest. That’s really exciting. Also, TV doing twenty-two episodes and moving so quickly, it’s nice to have people that understand the characters, understand the trajectory, are invested in the show and in the community of people working on it, so that the dialogue – there’s some history to the dialogue and there’s just a little bit more investment.

AX: How are you finding the GOTHAM fandom?

SMITH: It’s amazing. The comic book community is incredible. The comic book fans take me back to marching band, in high school, where it was this community of people that, regardless of anyone else’s opinion of them and their interests and their passions, were like how unabashedly obsessed they were with it. They just didn’t care. And so when you go to a convention, it feels like how marching band felt to me, just by what anyone else was saying, or how weird they thought it was, but it was like this collective euphoria. And it’s so nice to be participating in a show that exists in that community. It’s a real blessing.

The devotion of our fans on Twitter and Instagram, the fan mail that I’ve received, the gifts that have been sent to me, we went to Japan, some of us, and did this Asian press tour – the enthusiasm globally, it’s really exciting. It’s that kind of nerdy deliciousness, just unapologetic excitement, which I kind of live for and I appreciate that. I just had some random stranger acquire my cell phone and start harassing me. That’s the first thing that’s been a little weird.

AX: It’s a little early to pick episodes from Season 2, but do you have a favorite episode or a favorite scene from Season 1?

SMITH: I have two. I have Episode Twenty, which is when I had my first kill – T.J. Scott directed that – it was his third episode that he directed in Season 1 and I thought the way that he shot that entire sequence was really exciting and really beautiful and kind of epic, the train and the sparks and the noise, and I remember that evening so well, it was really exciting. And T.J. is coming back for three episodes in Season 2 as well. And the [Season 1] finale. When I read the scene in the finale, I was like, “Yes! This is what I’ve been waiting nine months to dip down into.” And he just has this moment when he falls into this pool, and he’ll come out of it, but it was a beautiful moment, falling into this pool where he’s just going to live eventually.

AX: Do you have any other projects you’re working on?

SMITH: I did not participate in pursuing anything else during my break. I spent a couple months and I traveled the globe. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the opportunity to get to do that, so I took the time to travel and I went to a lot of cities and countries that I wanted to go to, so that’s how I spent my hiatus. I did a couple of conventions, and then we did a big press tour in Japan, but we had some free time to explore. But most of it was solo travel, by myself. It was nice. And now I’m exploring writing some stuff, but I can’t talk about that yet.

AX: And what would you most like people to know about Season 2?

SMITH: It feels really different. The procedural aspect of the show is sucked out for the most part, and all the conflict is happening in-house. We no longer have the mobsters fighting against each other, and in that void is the Penguin, sitting at the top. And the person that’s essentially running Gotham is unreliable, unpredictable, ruthless, doesn’t play by any rules, and that is the person that everyone’s going to be trying to beat and conquer. And that’s the very thing that we’re staring at. So our show is so much more focused and intense and kind of ruthless than it was the first season. So I’m really f*****g excited [laughs].

This interview was conducted at Fox Network’s party for the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.

Related: GOTHAM: Robin Lord Taylor on the final episodes of Season 2 – exclusive interview Part 2

RelatedGOTHAM star Ben McKenzie talks Season 1 – exclusive interview

Related: TV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “Everyone Has a Cobblepot”

RelatedTV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “Red Hood”

RelatedGOTHAM star Camren Bicondova gives the scoop on Season 1 – exclusive interview

RelatedTV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “The Fearsome Dr. Crane”

RelatedTV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “Welcome Back, Jim Gordon”

Related: TV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “What the Little Bird Told Him”

Related: GOTHAM star Donal Logue on the second half of Season 1 – exclusive interview

Related: TV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “Rogues Gallery”

Related: Interview with GOTHAM star Donal Logue

Related:TV Review: GOTHAM – Season 1 – “Pilot” – Series Premiere

Related: Exclusive interview with GOTHAM creator Bruno Heller on Season 1 of young Batman

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Article: Exclusive Interview with Cory Michael Smith on playing the Riddler in Season 2 of GOTHAM


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