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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for Monday’s episode of Gotham, “Tonight’s the Night”]
After remaining in the background for most of season two, Monday’s Gotham allowed Barbara Kean — former fiancee of Jim Gordon turned murderer and all-round bad influence — to come to the forefront and create trouble for everyone around her…including herself, after tumbling from a building and ending up in critical condition in hospital.
To Erin Richards, who plays Barbara, that’s only a mild setback in her character’s new goal in life — which, despite appearances, isn’t doing the bidding of current series big bad Theo Galavan. The Hollywood Reporter asked Richards about Barbara’s new outlook on life, why she can’t let Jim Gordon go and where she’d like to see the character end up (Hint: the White House).
Normally I’d ask what happens next for your character, but Barbara ended the episode with a fairly definitive moment…
Well, she’s fallen out of a window and is in critical condition. Which is trouble for her. (Laughs.) There is something very fun that happens in episode 13.
Barbara has changed so much from the really restrained version that appeared in the pilot…
When she was “Old Barbara,” she was so constrained in her life, she felt like a caged animal because she had all these people surrounding her that she didn’t — not that she didn’t trust them, but she didn’t get anything from them. She kept asking Jim to let her into his life, and he wasn’t, and she obviously wasn’t part of her parents’ lives, even Montoya wasn’t letting her in anymore, so she just felt trapped. And now she’s this new, dark being, and she can do whatever the hell she wants. She’s the most free, dark, fun version of herself, and she’s loving it.
Did you have any input into creating “new Barbara”?
I like to think that the new Barbara came from me as a person. Old Barbara is not really very similar to me — not that I would ever stab my parents! — but new Barbara is much freer, wilder, funner and closer to who I am or would want to be in my life. Someone who isn’t scared to say what they mean or do what they want.
I love that you reassure that you wouldn’t stab your parents. So, no confronting exes in terrifying ways either, I assume?
That scene in the wedding dress that I filmed with Ben [McKenzie] and Morena [Baccarin] was so much fun to film. I feel so wild playing Barbara, I feel like I could do anything. It’s sometimes a little scary because I feel like she could lash out and do anything, and I’ve got all these props in my hands: I’ve got guns and knives, and I think, “Do people really want to trust me with these things? I’m Barbara right now.”
Why does Barbara still feel drawn to Jim? Doesn’t he represent her old life? Wouldn’t she just want to move on?
No! Jim is her ultimate. She’s seeing the world through these new eyes and thinking, “This is fantastic, I’m dark, I’m having fun, I get to run around using people and just relying on my base instincts!” She loves it so much that she wants to suck everybody into it. She thinks that the more people who are in her darkness, the more fun it is.
She wants to go back and tell Jim, “Listen, we were a great couple. I knew there was darkness within you, because otherwise we wouldn’t have been together in the start anyway.” She wants to pull him out of this goody-goody cop that he’s pretending to be and bring him into her dark place so they can have fabulous sex and cause trouble in this new dark world together. (Laughs.) She wants to play with that, she wants to bring it out of him in the most crazy, violent way that she can, so that she can explode him open. She’s so frustrated by who he’s pretending to be.
You make it sound like she’s trying to help him.
It’s for his own good! If she could go out into the whole world and make them like her, she would. For her, she thinks this is a level everybody should be on. She’s completely instinctual. Anything she wants, she’ll do, which is surely how everyone wants to live their lives, but we can’t, because of jobs and whatever else. She’s doing it because she cares! She should be president. Barbara Kean for president! (Laughs.)
How do Theo and Tabitha Galavan fit into this, then? Are they part of Barbara’s darkness?
With Tabitha, I think there’s an intrigue there. Tabitha is a powerful woman and she has all these skills, and Barbara — if you think of her as having just come out of an egg as this new person, she needs to learn, she’s kind of curious and excited and needs to learn all the different tools she can use in this new world. She thinks Tabitha is the one who can teach her that.
The relationship with Theo Galavan — she’s very aware that she doesn’t really have the means right now to do what she wants, especially to get Jim, so she needs to find the most powerful element in Gotham right now. I think Barbara’s superpower is that she knows everybody’s weaknesses and uses that fully against them on purpose, and Galavan’s weakness is that he wants to be the most powerful person, he wants to feel as if everyone is working for him, so she’ll fill that role for now, until he is no longer useful.
Can you imagine her moving on to other villains in the show?
I would love her to hook up with some other villains! Once the Galavan story plays out, I think there might be potentially different people coming in and different things happening for her. I just want her to have as much fun as she can have.
To hear you talk, I’m beginning to wonder if Barbara is actually the real villain of the series.
Potentially. Wouldn’t that be fun? (Laughs.)
Could Barbara go from being the hero’s unhappy, sidelined girlfriend to the show’s biggest bad guy? Leave your takes in the comments below. Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
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