6:00pm PT by Graeme McMillan
'Gotham' Star Dissects Mr. Freeze's Heartbreak: He's Ready to Cause a Lot of Pain
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's episode of Gotham, "A Dead Man Feels No Cold."]
Things are getting chilly in Gotham. After two weeks of attempting to perfect a method to cryogenically preserve his dying wife, Nora, the best-laid plans of scientist Victor Fries (Nathan Darrow) were put on ice when Nora herself (Kristen Hager) sabotaged his scheme in an attempt to save him from future heartbreak. Unfortunately, that led him to attempt suicide … only to wake up alive, but transformed, in the basement of Arkham Asylum under the watchful eye of B.D. Wong's Hugo Strange.
The Hollywood Reporter talked to Darrow, also known for his role on House of Cards, about the Victor Fries that was, and the Mr. Freeze that's taken his place.
Gotham has played with many of the big-name Batman villains before now — the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler — but Mr. Freeze is a little more obscure. Were you familiar with him before you got the role? Did you grow up reading the character?
I had a brief flirtation with being a comic book reader when I was younger. A kid a little bit older than me moved onto my street when I was 9, and he was crazy about comic books. So I kind of got into it because of that, but it was too expensive for me! So, no, I had no knowledge of this character.
In that case, what was it about Victor that made him a character you wanted to play? Even for Gotham, he's a particularly tragic figure.
I found him to have a creativity and a drive and a real interest in what he was doing in terms of his work. I thought he had a pure interest in science, while still using it as a method to save his wife. I thought that was really interesting.
I also was very drawn to the relationship with Nora. I imagined Victor as a person who was more socially isolated, and had been all of his life, but his relationship with her was his singular attachment to another human being. When that was threatened, what would that mean? And then, of course, what does it mean now that that attachment has been totally severed?
The fact that he was, up to the end of this episode, driven by the need to save his wife, made Victor a sympathetic figure even as he was murdering chemists and cops. Did the noble, if doomed, quest make it easier for you to play the role?
I mean, it's always easier in acting when you can find specific reasons for doing what the character does in the story. I guess, if those things are sympathetic or what we'd consider positive, it's easier because you know the audience is going to understand and relate to you, but what really helps is when the reasons are specific and clear to you as an actor. If it's clear from the script, and in this case it really was. That makes it seem believable.
You said that Nora was Victor's "singular attachment to another human being," and he was clearly going to great lengths to save her. But what made her so special to him?
I think that part of what the relationship does for Victor is that it calms a lot of his impulses, that are — I don't know what you'd call them. Anti-social, maybe? I did some research into the character, and there are many, many different backstories for him out there, and I found them all interesting. It was nice to be able to pick the parts that worked for me and put them together with what was written in Gotham.
One of them concentrated on his father, and how isolated he was from his father, and how he never felt good enough. The idea that he poured himself into science as a means to occupying himself so that he doesn't need human contact — and then he meets Nora, and you have this really intense relationship that allows Victor to live this relatively normal human life that doesn't necessarily have to deal with the kind of trauma that he'd had.
And now the only contact he has with humanity is Hugo Strange.
I don't know where Strange is going, to be honest. He's very complex. I don't know if he's just unsatisfied with his power, or if he has some kind of greater mission in mind, but Freeze can certainly become a useful tool of his.
Monday's episode ended with Victor waking up after what he'd assumed was a suicide attempt. With Nora gone, who do you think he's going to become? He didn't seem to immediately embrace the villainous role.
I think a lot of his anger, his disappointment and what might be this anti-social stuff that has been in him for a long time, all of this had been kept in through his relationship with Nora and now that's over. He's probably ready to cause a lot of pain — and maybe feel a lot of pain, if he can feel anything. I suspect he's trying to discover if he can feel anything inside, only to find that it's not there. It's a really interesting place for him to be.
A lot of people attempt suicide and fail, and wake up back in the life they thought they were leaving behind. Something stranger has happened with Victor — you could even think of it as an alternate reality from his point of view. I think at the point he's at, he's asking, "What happened to me? Am I dead? Am I in hell right now?"
Arkham Asylum has been called many things, but is it going to turn into Victor's personal sub-zero hell? Leave your comments below. Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.