The third season of “Gotham” is officially underway, and in preparation of episode 2 airing on Monday night we’ve got a really fun interview for you. Drew Powell is the man behind one of our personal favorite characters in Butch Gilzean, someone who can be brutal and dangerous while at the same time having some humor and heart.
Below, you can see our full interview with Powell about the story so far, Butch’s backstory, and how much his past work on a variety of other shows influences what he does now here.
CarterMatt – What’s this season been like for you so far? One of the things I really enjoyed about it going in was that there were still so many stories left open and villains roaming around out there.
Drew Powell – I’ve said this so many times and I’m continuing to find it to be true. It’s great to be on the show that we’re just as excited to find out what comes next as the fans are. It’s certainly true for us at the beginning of every season. We don’t know — maybe once in a while we’ll get little tidbits when we can from Bruno [Heller] and some of the other writers — but we were all very eager to see what was going to happen. It’s been fun to see where Butch is in season 3, and that he’s still got it bad for Tabitha, so we’ll see where that might lead. Also, he’s now back with Penguin, which I think is a cool combo. It’s going to be fun to see where this all leads.
As someone who doesn’t have that same sort of comic [context] as some of the other characters, is there excitement or fear in getting to see what is coming next? You have no way to know where he’s going.
It’s a little bit of both, to be honest. You love the job security of having the character who doesn’t necessarily die, but I have been told that no one’s ever really safe. I read somewhere from Bruno that ‘if you have to kill characters, you’re not really doing your job.’ That’s kind of been the trend lately in television a la ‘Game of Thrones,’ everybody dies.
But, it’s also fun to have the character who is not bound to a canon or a storyline, and can be used in a lot of different ways. There’s potential in finding out who Butch could become. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not, but that’s what I love about an origin story. We have the potential to do that.
How would you describe things between Butch and Tabitha right now? It’s interesting that he may have these feelings, but she is off now with Barbara.
I can tell you that it will play itself out as we move through the first half of the season. There are still feelings there on Tabitha’s part. She’s a tough nut to crack, as we’ve seen from her through the seasons. You can make a very valid case that she’s the most-feared villain in Gotham so far.
I have to admit that I was surprised at their relationship, and I thought that it was really cool, and an interesting thing to put these characters together — especially from where they got together, which was when Butch was in charge and Galavan was gone. They were these two people who were used to having a partner, and they were on their own and found refuge in each other. I didn’t see that coming, and I was really pleasantly surprised at that storyline.
I think you’ll see moving forward in season 3 that relationship kind of figure out where it might go. It’s not a straightforward answer, that’s for sure; there are going to be some more bumps and turns in the road. But I think they’re a pretty cute couple to be honest.
Do you think that a guy like Butch could handle a long-term relationship? What I like about the character is that he is this villain who does terrible things, but at the same time there is a softness to him and a funny side to him. There’s a relatability there.
I think you’re absolutely right. That’s what I was hoping to do [with the character]. In preparing for the role I watched a lot of ‘The Sopranos,’ in particular the early ‘Sopranos.’ I was just kind of watching it anyway, and James Gandolfini had passed during that time period so I was kind of going over that. I was always amazed at how he was able to make this fearsome character who could do fearsome things, but then at the same time cause the audience to really root for him. I just found that a really interesting thing for character development. So that was in the back of my mind as I started doing this, and I am very pleased in particular when I talk to fans and they have that same feeling, ‘oh he does some nasty things, but I sure do love him’ (laughs). I think that’s a fun bad guy to play.
What do you think Butch sees in Oswald right now? What’s that relationship like? It brings me back to some of the earlier days of the show.
I think his relationship with Oswald has always been a complicated one, because originally he was Oswald’s boss. If you go all the way back to the very beginning. He was the only one who had time for him. Then, things changed and the Penguin becomes the enemy of Butch, and then the weirdness of the mind control happens and they’re forced together.
… Ultimately from Butch’s standpoint, he is a survivor. He knows how to keep himself alive in a town that is pretty brutal, and so he sees right now that the Penguin is where the power is, and he’s smart to get in line with that. That may not stay the same throughout the season.
How do you think Butch is handling the sudden emergence of Fish Mooney and all of these people from Indian Hill with powers? If it was me there’d be a certain temptation to get the hell out of there, but Butch stays. What’s keeping Butch there in the midst of all the craziness?
I think Butch is a product of that. There have been a few moments where Butch has talked about things in his past, and one of those things early on was with Fish, when they had built that bar that they ran together from the ground up. He’s a child of Gotham. There have been conversations with Saviano about his misspent youth, him stealing meat from the butcher shop, all of that stuff. Danny Cannon said it to me at the beginning of season 2 — ‘Butch is a survivor, that’s his thing.’ That’s how I’ve always looked at it. He knows exactly where to align himself. The thing that I learned early on from Bruno is that people underestimate Butch before it’s too late. I think that’s proven to be true. That’s what I love from the character; he’s not what you expect, and in some ways he is the product of this crazy city. He is a little bit of everything. It’s dark, but you have to be smart to get through it — you can’t be a big dummy.
Do you think Butch’s backstory could ever be extensively explored, or are we going to be getting little pieces of the Butch history book over time.
Maybe in season 7 or 8 we’ll have the time to tell Butch’s backstory (laughs). I think it’d be fun. But that’s not the point of the show. I do like the idea that Gotham City created Batman, but it also created these other people, these other villains. I think that’s one of the strengths of the show is focusing on [all that].
The show has such a big cast, and that’s probably why it’s hard to focus on any one story. Have you went to the writers before and sort of said ‘you know, I’d really love to work with this person’?
I haven’t ever made a specific appeal, although I’ve been asked that question in the past and it’s interesting thing to think about. This season I’ve gotten to work with Cory [Michael Smith], which I hadn’t before, and I think the fans are really going to enjoy those interactions between Edward and Butch. I think they’re really interesting in the upcoming episodes.
Also, there’s going to be some more [stuff] upcoming with Barbara. I say this jokingly, but I think it would be great if there’s some, or at least part of an episode where Butch and Bruce end up in a car together driving somewhere, almost like a little road trip between them. I think that’d be fun, and I’d love to see what happens there — or, and maybe this is just because he’s my buddy, I would love to have a little repartee with Mr. [Chris] Chalk. That’d be fun, but the truth is that we truly have a lovefest with this cast. We all really love each other, so whoever you end up drawing on a certain day is someone you’re going to be happy with.
So is there any one thing in tonight’s episode you want to tease?
We shot episodes 1 and 2 together, so in my mind it’s almost like there is a part 1 and part 2, even if it’s not technically that way. It’s interesting to have this on just before the [Presidential] debates, because we’re going to start diving into the political aspirations of Mr. Penguin, and the parallels to real life are much more stunning than I would have imagined.
You’ve done so much work on a variety of different shows over the years before getting a more long-term role here. In playing Butch, do you take little elements from everyone else you’ve played?
I think any actor has that, whether they admit to it or not. I think back to the first job I had back on ‘Malcolm in the Middle.’ Every little point in the past 15 years, it all adds a little piece to that puzzle which I draw from. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, but it’s all there and I’m thankful for all of those opportunities — especially for me as a character actor, I’ve found myself in my career being the guest star who comes in and moves the plot along. At one stretch, I did 14 different shows in a year. There were a lot of different casts, a lot of different types of shows — comedy, drama, dark and light and all that — so being able to focus on this character for the past three years and hopefully many years moving forward, it’s been cool to take all of that I’ve learned from those different scripts and different sets and all of those different directors and focus all of my attention on this one character. It also helps that it’s on a show that I love and people that I love, and being written and directed by really smart people. You can argue that it’s like a perfect coming-out party for me. It will be great launching point for the rest of my career as I look back on it.
And I think it’s a really good question, because as actors we take a little piece of every job with us.
Thanks to Drew for his time and insight into the world of “Gotham”. You can read more news on Monday’s “Gotham,” including some scoop on Ivy 2.0, over at this link. Also, sign up over here to score some other TV news on everything we cover via our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: Fox.)
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