Bruno Heller has found a lot of success in television, first with "Rome," and currently with CBS' long-running series "The Mentalist." Now, he's taken on showrunner duties for Fox's anticipated Batman prequel serial, "Gotham," which was recently given a series order by the network. While Heller has been pretty tight-lipped as "Gotham" news trickled out, it looks like his vow of silence has come to an end. The showrunner spoke with Entertainment Weekly, giving an in-depth view of what to expect from "Gotham" -- and it's likely that Heller's comments will only raise fans' expectations higher.
According to Heller, he'd been talking to DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns about doing a DC-centric project "for a few years," and both DC and Heller pitched the idea for "Gotham" roughly at the same time. "It opened up a whole world of storytelling that we realized hadn’t really been looked at before, which is the world before Batman -- the world of Gotham, young Bruce Wayne, and young James Gordon and the origin stories of the villains," Heller told EW, going on to say that the series was an opportunity to help audiences enter Batman's world "in a fresh way."
Heller also identified quite a few characters that will make appearances during "Gotham's" first season, including Penguin, Riddler, young Catwoman, Alfred, Poison Ivy and "possibly Harvey Dent," but didn't give up many more details. "I would be remiss to tell you who will show up when. I will say we’re not going to skimp on giving people the characters they want and expect from 'Gotham,'" Heller said. "But when and how they’re going to show up is half the fun."
One of the major topics of discussion -- and a character that fans are no doubt excited to see -- was The Joker, who Heller characterized as "the crown jewel of Batman villains," who will "be brought in with great care and a lot of thought." The showrunner also commented on bringing the character onto the show so soon after Heath Ledger's portrayal in "The Dark Knight."
"I’ve written scenes for Julius Caesar and Marc Anthony and Cleopatra. So while that is a serious and valid note, you can’t get into doing this without going there. That was a wonderful performance and -- apart from everything else -- wonderful make-up. And we should try to live up to that," he said. "It will be a different character. It’s certainly going to be more Heath Ledger than Cesar Romero. But like I say, all of these people are real people with feelings and emotions and history and parents. I just build from that."
Heller also certainly amped up expectation for the series, saying that he felt "in terms of what [director and executive producer Danny Cannon and director of photography David Stockton] are doing -- visually -- Gotham will surpass the Batman movies" of Christopher Nolan, saying inspiration for the series came from New York in the '70s. He further praised the cast, especially David Mazouz's portrayal of young Bruce Wayne, saying Mazouz is "without doubt, the best actor ever to play the part."
While Heller answered a number of other questions about "Gotham" -- and confirmed the series is a serial, not a procedural -- perhaps one of his most intriguing responses was to a question about the struggle of Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and taking on the concept of a Batman show without Batman.
"Not to comment on 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,' but [the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents] are in the same temporal space as their superheroes," Heller said. "So while watching it, I imagine you feel, well, it’s kind of mean not to show us Thor. If Thor is there in the next room, or the next town, why not come by and see us? For Gotham, if we could bring Batman in to say hello, he’d say hello. It’s not that the celebrities are in the VIP lounge while you’re out front wondering where they are. In this case, the heroes aren’t “born” yet. They’re kids. I am cognizant of that as an issue. But look: Most stories that people tell don’t have Batman in them. You’ve just got to make the story you tell as compelling as it can be."