'Gotham' Boss Bruno Heller: 'Batman Won't Appear'

Gotham Cast - H 2014

Gotham Cast - H 2014

Fox's Gotham — Jim Gordon's origin story — is less about superheroes than ordinary men and women solving problems in a city filled with villains, showrunner Bruno Heller told reporters Sunday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour.

The drama, in which characters are based on those from the DC Comics universe, stars Southland alum Ben McKenzie as commissioner-to-be James Gordon; it also includes a young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz), Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Riddler (Cory Michael Smith) and Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), among others.

The series explores Gordon's origin story as well as the villains that made Gotham famous. Donal Logue co-stars as Detective Harvey Bullock and Jada Pinkett Smith plays villain Fish Mooney, as the series looks to reveal a new chapter that has yet to be told in the DC Comics lore.

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Heller stressed that the show will not focus on superheroes including Batman. The series kicks off when Mazouz's young Bruce Wayne watches as both of his parents are gunned down and he meets Gordon for the first time.

"If there is a superhero in the show, it is Gotham," Heller said. "That's a larger than life character that's a central part of the show. To me, heroes are more interesting than superheroes because the difference is superheroes do the impossible and drama is really about the physically possible. This is about people and people trying to overcome real problems versus trying to learn how to fly."

The Mentalist executive producer also said he's not worried about fanboys backing away from the series after learning that it's not a typical Batman story. "For me, the really interesting parts of this story are the origin stories of all the characters. As soon a you're into capes and costumes, it's less interesting than seeing how these people got there."

While he said "Batman won't appear" as a fully formed superhero, Heller vowed there is hope for the city on the series and that it won't all be about the show's sinking into anarchy. "We have villains running around Gotham so it doesn't feel like the entire city sinking into a pit waiting for someone you can't introduce," Heller said. "[It's a story of] how do you deal with crime of this level when there are no superheroes? When ordinary men and women are dealing with the struggle waiting for a savior. It's about men and women and not about superheroes and that's the more interesting story."

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Heller noted that DC Comics' Geoff Johns would likely write some episodes of the series and that they regularly discuss when and what villains would be appropriate to introduce into Gotham. The pilot, he explained, is front-loaded with the best of the DC canon's villians — including Riddler, Catwoman and the Penguin, among others — but that others would join the series in a much slower rollout.

"You have to open big. As the show rolls on, we'll be careful with how we roll out the villains," he said, promising surprises along the way and "tricky" ways of bringing new characters in. Season one will focus on the rise of the Penguin and his interaction with Fish Mooney, who, too, could evolve into another villain. "These are the origin stories of these guys. The Penguin comes fully fledged for that reason and you have to show your best cards up front."

Gotham debuts Monday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on Fox.

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