The Riddler is one of Batman’s most infamous foes, and with FOX’s new drama Gotham (premiering September 22) showing the origin stories of many of the notorious villains of Batman lore, it’s no surprise that Edward Nygma – The Riddler – shows up pretty quickly.
We caught up with the actor playing Nygma, Cory Michael Smith, for some intel about what we should expect from his character on the highly-anticipated show.
KSITETV’s CRAIG BYRNE: When you got the role on Gotham, did you know that it was going to be Edward Nygma/The Riddler?
CORY MICHAEL SMITH: I did. I don’t think we were supposed to.
When I got the appointment, I knew that it was the Riddler, but they gave us dummy sides, so I was constructing the audition based on sides that weren’t going to be in the pilot. But my pursuit of it, it was intense, because I was like “this is f—ing awesome,” the origin stories for the show.
To me, it’s like the coolest job ever, because what is more exciting for an actor than telling the part, going from how someone evolves into doing terrible things. What happens to a good person to make them do terrible things?
So do you think Edward Nygma is a good person at this point?
Absolutely. And what I’m so happy about… we’re all starting at different points in our lives. We’re meeting Oswald at a place where he is actively being beaten and slowly turning. This first season’s going to be about the rise of the Penguin. But I’m starting from a place of being with the Gotham City Police Department, being a good guy…. my intentions are completely positive. I’m trying to contribute, and it’s starting from the beginning, that Harvey Bullock is being a little rude, mistreating me… I’m underappreciated; I’m misunderstood, and I don’t understand why people don’t understand me. And that’s where I’m coming from.
The lovely thing about the Riddler is he’s not someone that is a sadist; he doesn’t hurt people. In the history of all the comics, he’s not someone that’s trying to harm people, necessarily. What he does is he sets up tricks to make people be as smart as him. “Prove you’re as smart as me. Figure this out. I’m smarter than you. You don’t understand that. Try to figure this out. If you don’t get it, something terrible is going to happen. I don’t want it to happen, you don’t want it to happen, so figure it out.” So his whole thing is about being misunderstood, mistreated, underappreciated. He just wants people to understand how smart he is, and that he can contribute.
Is that why he often speaks in riddles, to just see who can figure him out?
I think you’re dealing with someone who operates in a non-traditional way. I think he emotionally non-traditional; psychologically non-traditional. He’s someone that is scientifically and mathematically dominant. He feels most comfortable talking in question answers. That’s just his social comfort level. He’s someone who is socially unconventional; perhaps a bit inept. I don’t think it’s a conscious thing of “I’m going to challenge, you asking questions;” I just think that’s how he is. And people don’t understand him, and he doesn’t understand why they don’t understand him.
Will we see more of Edward in Gotham Episode 2? He only has a really quick scene in the pilot.
Not really. A little bit. My role in the first handful of episodes is really going to be setting up my role with the police department, and showing my relationship with Ben McKenzie’s James Gordon and Donal Logue’s Harvey Bullock, and also the police captain, Sarah Essen. Kind of showing my place there, how I’m treated… giving people a taste of the way I interact socially; how it’s a bit awkward and uncomfortable. I add some levity to the episodes; at least I hope I do, I hope I add some humor to them. It’s like a slow introduction. Stuff starts heating up for me, probably at midseason.
Gotham premieres Monday, September 22 on FOX. Stay tuned for more Gotham interviews and be sure to visit our Gotham portal, GothamSite: