Bruno Heller on 'Gotham's' Joker Tease: "That's Not a Bait and Switch"

"It's a long game we're playing here," the showrunner tells THR of the character's arrival.
Courtesy of FOX

The tease of a new villain in Fox's Gotham who — in the words of the network's promo for Monday's episode — "is no joke" has electrified a fanbase that is wondering whether or not the show is finally going to introduce Batman's most infamous nemesis: The Joker. Bruno Heller, the creator and showrunner of the series, is enjoying the reaction to that promo, but it doesn't mean he'll tell fans whether or not that's the real deal.

"He may or may not be The Joker," he tells THR of Shameless breakout Cameron Monaghan's mysterious character. "All I can promise is that's not a bait and switch. It's a long game we're playing here."

While he wouldn't be drawn into explaining exactly who Monaghan's Jerome, the laughing character seen in the promo for "The Blind Fortune Teller," is, Heller said that fans should be paying attention to him nonetheless.

Read more Is 'Gotham' Preparing for The Joker's Arrival?

"The great fun of this show is that it's the origin story of these famous characters, and with The Joker, the wonderful thing is that nobody knows where he came from and what his genesis was," he says. "What I can guarantee is that you have to follow that brilliant young actor Cameron Monaghan down the line, and you will see how this leads to the character we all know and love."

Heller is excited by what Monaghan does with the role (seen briefly in the promo, below). "One of the great things about this job is that you get to cast emerging young actors in iconic roles, as with Robin Lord Taylor as The Penguin," he explains, adding that the challenge for the actors is "to hit the mark, so audiences ask, 'Is that him? Could that be him?' in a way that will resonate for those who are keen Batman fans and a larger audience."

Monaghan, he says, does "a brilliant job" of meeting the challenge. "When the episode is aired, people will see it's not an imitation of somebody else or an homage to anyone. It's a performance in and of itself."

Although Heller isn't saying whether or not Jerome will be revealed to be The Joker as fans know him, he admits that the character has been on his mind since beginning work on Gotham. "In the pantheon of villains, he's the dark king of this world, so it would be cheating the audience if we didn't get into that," he says. "On the other hand, as those who are deep into the mythology know, the actual Joker — the full-on villain himself — does not appear until after Batman appears. That's both a narrative opportunity and a narrative problem at the same time."

There is a solution to that problem, Heller says, but he's not going to reveal what it is just yet. "As with all of these stories, it relies on not giving the game away too early."

Gotham airs Mondays on Fox.