Gotham interview: Sean Pertwee previews Alfred’s new challenge

Sean PertweeThursday night marks the return of Gotham on Fox, and with that this also marks an opportunity in order to see a very different sort of story for one Alfred Pennyworth. If you recall, the midseason finale saw him thrown out of Wayne Manor by Bruce and we now find him in a situation where he’s out on his own, attempting to figure out what his life looks like without his central purpose.

Leading up to this new episode CarterMatt sat down with Sean Pertwee to discuss where Alfred is mentally and emotionally, if Bruce is going to have to be the one to win him back, and also what the sense of optimism is on set for a fifth season beyond this current one.

CarterMatt – I want to start by going back to the end of the fall with the Bruce – Alfred fight scene. What are we going to see in the aftermath of that?

Sean Pertwee – What I love about the first half of this season, and it’s been my favorite season so far, is that there is an acceptance from both Alfred and Bruce. They found themselves working together, which was a different experience than what we saw with Alfred and Master Bruce before. That was a joy, but things started to unravel as Bruce started to become rudderless, which Alfred became sort of aware of. He wasn’t going to let him destroy himself. He tried everything, but the darkness came back in spades. It was devastating.

The nature of Alfred, as we’ve talked about before, is that he keeps himself wound tight by his profession. The moment that he’s out on his own and the boy’s not around, he doesn’t really have so much of a reason to live. He sacrificed his soul and his body for the boy last season, so without him he goes into the void. He goes into the darkness and loses the one thing that kept him straight.

This has happened before, this separation, but it’s taken a little bit further this time. Alfred finds himself lost, alone, and in the Narrows, which is Skid Row, really. Thompkins is there and you’ll see her there trying to offer up some form of light and direction to the people who live there. You’ll see him there, and he will have an encounter that brings out his past nature, which is never very pleasant.

It’s an interesting journey with [Alfred and Bruce] trying to find their way back to each other — and a painful one.

While this may be painful for Alfred as the character, I have to imagine for you as an actor there is some excitement in getting to do something like this that you haven’t really done before.

Very much so. It was very much exciting to see this character on his own. You realize how important the boy is to the man, and the man is to the boy. That is something that we discovered. It’s something that I think is very moving — all they really have is each other.

When Bruce was entering the void in the second part of last fall, you could see the loneliness and sadness. It became palpable. It’s been really fascinating, and long may it continue.

I suppose in putting Alfred on his own, you get a chance to work with some cast members who you may not always have that many opportunities to work with.

Yes, I get to work with the majority of the cast this season in one form or another. It’s been awesome and absolutely fabulous. There’s a great story with Jerome coming up and someone else with ties to him. I have a lot to do with that, so I’m super-excited about it.

It’s been an extraordinary season. We’ve spent so much time with some of these characters that, in the second half of this season, we start to really explore things with some of the more famous characters within the Batman canon. You get to start to see what makes them tick, and you start to see a little bit more of their later beings.

Are we now in a position where Bruce is going to need to win Alfred back? Is he going to have to be the one to make things right?

Very much so. Bruce has to step up and be a man, which is difficult since he’s used to [assigning] blame to everybody, in part due to personal experiences and what’s happened to him.

This is the thing about Gotham — if you’re going to play with the big boys you have to be treated as a big boy and wear big boy pants. Alfred sticks to his guns and the boy has to prove himself to Alfred in order for him to come back. When does that servitude element stop? When can Alfred talk to him as a man? Alfred is acutely aware of some of his escapades and what he’s up to and has been prepared to let the bird fly and of course be concerned as any parent would be. That’s the interesting aspect of it entering season 5. Bruce is becoming the man and we could be approaching a point where they are the unified characters that we know and love. They’ve been through it. They can start to genuinely work together and trust each other, which is really going to be interesting for us. We’re going into a stretch that has been seen before and done before [in the comics], and that could be interesting to play.

Let’s go along with that season 5 thread for a second because every time that we’ve talked before you’ve said that there was a sense of optimism about a renewal. Is that the same this time?

We are very optimistic. I’ve spoken with [executive producers] John Stephens and Danny Cannon and they are absolutely convinced that it will continue. It’s the waiting for Fox and Warner [Bros. TV]. We’re sitting here, ready to go. We know what happens at the end of this season — it ends on an extremely high note and I know that the fans will be begging for more, as will we. That’s the great thing about our show – everybody’s so behind it and we’re blessed. We’ve got a fabulous crew; we’re family, and we’re heading now towards the birth of the bat, which is going to be fascinating.

Related What’s happening with Lee Thompkins on Thursday night’s Gotham?

Have you ever thought about being on a season of the show that is almost a reflection of the Batman comics?

We’re still getting towards it and we’re fast approaching the time. They’re working on the detective elements of [David Mazouz’s] character now and we’re approaching the time when he starts to take this stuff seriously.

I hope that it actually does happen. I’d love to give you a straight answer, but as you know, you never know. I know where the crescendo point is at the end of the season and what happens in the city of Gotham, and I know that Bruce and Alfred make a very important decision.

The frustrating thing, of course, is that we all just want to know what we’re doing [when it comes to a renewal].

Poison Ivy is coming back and she’s being played now by Peyton List. Does Alfred have a chance to have any encounters with her?

Yeah, I do! I have a very brief one in a couple of weeks’ time. She’s fabulous. Our ships pass. She’s an awesome addition and Ivy is very dangerous. Ever since her self-medication she’s become one of the most lethal villainesses in Gotham.

If you missed it…

Take a look at the sneak peek below featuring Alfred from this coming episode! Meanwhile, be sure to like CarterMatt on Facebook to get some other insight when it comes to the show. (Photo: Fox.)


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