Love it, or hate it, FOX’s GOTHAM is a hit. A hit I’m a fan of and always will be. The show has taken fans of The Caped Crusader back to where it all started. An origin that puts things into perspective by setting forth a story-line that’s geared itself to run along the lines of one of DC’s best known hero and villains, while tweaking it up with new, interesting characters to add a little more edge. Overseeing this darkened culture of corruption revolves around one man. The story behind Detective James Gordon’s (Ben McKenzie) rise to power in Gotham City years before Batman’s arrival.
Season one introduced the mob-ridden streets of Gotham City and what they were capable of. Season two introduced some of the strangest and most cynical who piggy-backed on the culture to further their malicious agenda. And season three? Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Before we go on yet another journey that challenges the line between good, bad, and indifferent… Much of what keeps this show’s gears grinding is its supporting cast. A standout character in this series is Detective Carlos Alvarez, played by a real hero! Marine-turned-actor, Native New Yorker, J.W. Cortes. As I gear myself up for this upcoming season, I was granted a quick chat with Mr. Cortes on what’s on the agenda with the show, his character, a leading Latino, and more!
Off we go, Corriente Nation!
Lee Romero: As a fan of the show, I’ve noticed the elevation and evolution of the show in a darker, grittier way. As a cast member, what changes (if any) have you noticed and/or experienced since your start with the production?
J.W. Cortes: Much of what we have seen these past two seasons has really involved the separation of the more complex layers of our lead characters. Bruce, for example, despite his best efforts really ventured into the darkest parts of his frustrations and anger involving the investigation of his parents’ murderer and has really allowed himself to see where that will take him. On the other hand, Gordon continues to cross back and forth from his moral compass to try and do the right thing despite Gotham being as dark and treacherous as it has been. Season three will continue to force these characters to really delve into the deepest parts of themselves to see where truth, justice and morality exist.
LR: With all the craziness that went on during season two, which villain do you think Det. Alvarez felt had the most impact, as well as most vulnerable with?
JWC: There was one particular episode that involved the introduction of Victor Zsasz that I remember made Alvarez very uncomfortable: Zsasz ordered every cop out of the precinct and that included Alvarez and Captain Essen. But if I had to pick one villain in particular, I would say that Victor Fries aka Mr. Freeze really had everyone fearful and at the same time a bit compassionate as an audience, and I felt that was brilliantly portrayed by actor Nathan Darrow.
LR: How does a Gotham City detective differ from other law enforcement roles you’ve played throughout your career?
JWC: The biggest difference is probably the most obvious, and that is the fantastical world in which Gotham is set. We have “bad-guys” who have extraordinary powers/skills that make policing in the traditional sense almost impossible. I find it to be very interesting, very dangerous,
and I love that our audience willingly takes that ride with us each episode. Alvarez in the comic book series is very much involved in the investigating of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (click here) and I look forward to see how that’ll play out on Gotham.
LR: As a native New Yorker, how does it feel to shoot here in your own backyard vs on location?
JWC: New York City is really one of the most impactful characters we’ve ever known in film and television. As a Brooklynite, it’s been a dream come true for me to work here. Recently, we were on set in Brooklyn and the amount of love that was shown to us was very comforting and encouraging. They welcomed us with open arms and throughout the day expressed how much they loved that show. On the flip side, it’s always a plus for actors and crew based here in New York who get to do what they love without having to move to another part of the U.S., or the world.
LR: Because of their comic-book characters, companies like DC, or MARVEL, seem to be making diversity cool among their TV shows, movies, etc. It’s “forced” Hollywood to pay attention to lots of demographics. From your start in Hollywood till now, do you see the playing field leveling out?
JWC: It has been really great to see how much we’ve grown as an industry as it relates to diversity within the story-lines both in front of and/or behind the lens and pen. Obviously, I believe we still have much more to go to more truthfully and accurately depict what the landscape really looks like for any of us who walk the streets across America. To see a series like LUKE CAGE receive the amount of praise, production funds and showcasing of diverse talent is a sign that we’re moving in the right direction.
For someone like me though, who is often introduced by various media outlets as a real hero who’s served in the Marine Corps (Iraq War Veteran) and in law enforcement – and as humbling as it is to be acknowledged that way, I’m also compelled to point out that someone with those credentials who looks and sounds like me – that exists in the real world can then very well live truthfully on the screen. It is time that we have a legitimate, fully fleshed out leading Latino superhero now and that’s what I’m fighting for. If I were to take it a step further, I’d say that now more than ever we need that sort of figure to draw inspiration from so that our children can say, “Wow! That’s really cool. He looks like me – I want to be just like him and he is just as American as anyone else!”
J.W. Cortes is the perfect example of what raw talent is. The best of what humanity can provide. Sky’s the limit for this man. Working on one of the most well-known and critically reviewed shows airing to date, there’s no doubt not only will we see him grow as a player in GOTHAM, but Hollywood as well. Stay tuned, CL Nation. Here’s someone to not only look forward to, but look up to as well!
For more on J.W. Cortes’s work, click here!
GOTHAM premieres Monday, September 19th on FOX!