This season of “Gotham,” FOX’s drama about the origins of Batman and some of his criminal rivals such as the Penguin and Catwoman, has been subtitled “Rise of the Villains.”
But a recent episode saw the arrival of a new character obsessed with law and order that might cause those bad guys more than a pit of problems.
The new cop on the beat is Capt. Nathaniel Barnes, a tough-as-nails police chief who has been brought in to clean up the Gotham City Police Dept. by organizing a strike force. Barnes is even more formidable because he’s being played by Michael Chiklis, an actor who has brought a force-of-nature fierceness to several projects in the last two decades.
Chiklis is ideally suited to the role because of his resume: He is best known for his role as renegade cop Vic Mackey in FX’s landmark drama “The Shield,” a portrayal that won him an Emmy. Previously, Chiklis was more of a good-guy lawman, playing the lead role in ABC’s “The Commish.”
The actor also has considerable cred in the superhero genre: He played the Thing in two Fantastic Four movies (2000’s “Fantastic Four” and 2007’s “Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer”) and a family man with superhuman powers in ABC’s short-lived “No Ordinary Family” in 2010.
In an interview from his apartment in New York where “Gotham” is filmed, Chiklis talked about diving in the “Gotham” universe, playing good cops and bad cops, and the continuing clamor for a return of Vic Mackey and “The Shield.”
Question: So you’re back on the beat.
Michael Chiklis: This seemed like a perfect hybrid of familiar genres for me. Obviously a cross between cops and robbers, and the superhero genre. This was a natural for me. The slipper just fit.
How did this come about?
My agent asked if I wanted to meet with (“Gotham” creator Bruno Heller). I thought, this is a really well-made show with a terrific cast and production. It just seemed like something fun to be involved in, and a bit of a combo platter for me.
How would you describe Barnes? Is he a good cop or a bad cop?
That’s what I thought was interesting about this guy. He’s a law-and-order zealot. He believes in the rule of law and the letter of the law. What you’ll find out down the line are the reasons he is that way.
The name of this season is “Rise of the Villains.” Up until my entrance, there really have been the bad guys running amok in Gotham. Barnes is a counterbalance and an answer to all this calamity. He’s brought in as an ally to lawman James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) — Barnes sees Gordon as the hope of the future of law enforcement in Gotham, but he’s also concerned about what the kid is slipping into, which is the end-justifies-the-means kind of law enforcement. Barnes is adamantly opposed to that.
Given the role you played in “The Shield,” that is so ironic.
That’s what I thought. Let’s go to the other side of that coin and see how that feels. There’s some really familiar stuff here, but it’s a definitely different world. “Gotham” is heightened, not the same tone or tenor of “The Shield.” This is an entertainment, heightened comic-book fare. It’s fun and I’m having a great time with it.
Were you already familiar with the show?
Yes. I was watching last season with my wife, and we were saying, “This looks like a feature film, it’s beautifully shot and really is a tremendous production.”
“The Shield” ended in 2008. What are your perspectives on that show now?
I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the past. I’m very proud of the accomplishments that “The Shield” represents, historically and otherwise. I loved that experience but I’m always a person that is looking ahead. Also, I’m the kind of person who likes to consider a body of work. I hope people look at my career as a body of work, and that Vic Mackey is just one of the characters that people look to and say, “That goes on the highlight reel.” I feel like a lot of my best is ahead of me.
Ever since that show ended, there’s been buzz about a possible reboot or sequel.
It’s certainly the No. 1 question I’m asked in social media, or walking around on the street. There seems to be a real desire by fans for that character to live on. I get asked all the time, “When are you playing Mackey again?” It’s flattering and frustrating. Shawn Ryan (who created the series) and I have discussed it — there’s definitely an idea for a feature film there. There would have to be a confluence of things that would have to come together in order to make that happen. Whether it will actually happen, I have no idea. Is it possible? Sure. Will it? I don’t know.