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The actress — perhaps best known for roles in Firefly and Homeland — debuted on the Fox drama with its first new episode of 2015, “Rogues Gallery,” bringing a sense of self-righteousness and playfulness to the series as Dr. Leslie Thompkins. Coming on the heels of voice-overs for animated series including Justice League and Batman: The Brave and the Bold, it’s far from her first comic book role (“It kind of happened accidentally, believe it or not,” she says of her repeated visits to the DC universe. “It wasn’t on purpose”), but what brought her to Gotham in particular?
“I really liked the world, I really liked the story and how it was being told, and thought it’d be really fun to be part of the cast and have such amazing actors and such a talented group of people all around,” the actress tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I liked the mythology of it, I liked what they told me about the character, her background and what she was going to do with Jim [Gordon, the show’s lead as played by Ben McKenzie]. It seemed like a smart gamble.”
For those unfamiliar with Dr. Thompkins, the character — introduced in 1976’s Detective Comics No. 457 — is a former colleague of Bruce Wayne’s father Thomas, who would eventually become one of Batman’s few true confidents (and, when required, an on-call surgeon after some of the rougher nights on Gotham’s streets). With a sense of justice that rivals the Dark Knight’s, she’s someone who has no problem doing what she thinks is right, regardless of what the law, or anyone else around her, might say in response.
Baccarin’s Thompkins might be firmly entrenched in the asylum during her first appearance in the show, but, she promises with a laugh, “we do eventually get out of Arkham.” In future episodes, she says, “there are a ton of people that I get to interact with, especially as we get further and further into the season. Leslie and some other characters will kind of … pair up. That’s all I’ll say.”
For now, though, she’s sharing the majority of her screen time with McKenzie, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. “Ben has been fantastic,” Baccarin says. She describes the experience of working together as “a total blast.”
“Our characters have great chemistry together and are real pals. It’s a great relationship; Leslie’s very unabashed and speaks her mind, and I think it’s a breath of fresh air for [Jim Gordon] to have a different dynamic in play,” she says. “They’re really fun together.”
Coming to Gotham after her experience on Showtime’s Homeland was a refreshing change, she recalls. “It’s incredibly fun as an actor to get to play different styles and different genres, for completely different audiences. I remember the first day on set of Gotham, I was trying to make sense of some things and was asking some questions, and Ben turned to me and said, ‘This is Gotham. We got it.’ What he meant was, it’s a fantastical, creative, very different world. You have to let yourself get into it and not think too logically about what’s going on around you. I had to shed my previous seriousness and just start to play again.”
While Leslie Thompkins is a name familiar to hardcore Batman comic book fans, Baccarin said that the television version of the character might come as a surprise. “I did a little bit [of research into the comic books], just to know who she was, but [showrunner] Bruno [Heller] told me that they’re not necessarily sticking to the comic book mythology,” she says. “They’re not going to keep it in synch with the comics.” (Apologies to everyone who is waiting for her to kill a Robin.)
Instead, the future of Baccarin’s Thompkins is as wide open as any character on the show — perhaps even more considering she was brought on with an option to become a regular member of the cast if the series gets a second season.
“I was excited by the possibility,” Baccarin says of the chance to develop the character long term, though she admits that she’s not taking anything for granted just yet. “I feel like, it’s one of those things that you have to wait and see how it works. You bring on any major new character, and you have to see how all the moving parts and going to hold together. But I think there’s a lot of possibility for her to stick around for a bit.”
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
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