A moment of silence for “Gotham,” please. In the third episode of Season 2, “The Last Laugh,” it was time to say goodbye to Jerome (Cameron Monaghan).
Throughout four episodes of “Gotham,” Jerome became a definite favorite among fans and the likeliest suspect to become the Joker. Of course, after taking a knife to the neck from Theo Galavan (James Frain), that’s clearly not the case. However, it’s impossible to deny he’s started Gotham City down a terrible and violent path — just what Galavan needs to be the city’s hero.
After coming to terms with Jerome’s death, Zap2it spoke to Monaghan about his time on “Gotham” and the lasting effects his character will have on the show.
Zap2it: Before getting to end of Jerome’s journey, let’s jump back in time a bit to when you first signed on to appear on ‘Gotham.’ How much information were you given about Jerome’s story arc?
Cameron Monaghan: I was given the full run down. I received a call from Danny Canon while I was working on another production a month or so prior to filming “Gotham” when they were still in the writers room and they were ironing out the details.
They had a pretty firm grasp of what they wanted to happen. Obviously, it wasn’t fully written out to dialogue or anything that specific. At the same time they were open to ideas or suggestions from me of what I wanted to see what the character.
We had a really nice, long conversation about that and I was able to plan accordingly for these three episode — find the beats, find the arc and know where we go to lead up to a logical climax that felt like a sucker punch for the audience.
That’s sort of the perfect way to explain it. Jerome really did get the last laugh, especially after making such an impact in the first three episodes. It led you to believe he was going to be a menacing force going forward and in a way, he’s going to be.
Certainly his influence is something that’s going to echo for a very long time. Maybe forever. [laughs]
Clearly we know now that Jerome isn’t the Joker, though he may inspire that character at some point. For you, when preparing for the role did you look back on previous versions of the Joker for inspiration?
Yeah. For the first season I had only known I was going to be doing that one episode — that one scene, for sure. They’d told me they’d gone on a Christmas break so I had three or four weeks where I got to prep for it.
At the time, I was already extremely familiar with the films and I didn’t want to watch them again because I didn’t want them to be in my mind as much as possible. I did read as many of the comics as I could — pretty much any famous run I could get my hands on and a bunch people didn’t talk about.
I was also a massive fan of “Batman: The Animated Series” when I was younger, so I went back and watched some of it and realized just how dynamic Mark Hamill’s performance is and how admirable it is. Plus, just how well the character was animated and some of the one-off stories with that character inspired me with what I would want to see within a live action context.
Thankfully, going back for the second season, some of that stuff was able to make it into the show.
Truthfully, Hamill’s Joker doesn’t seem to get the respect it deserves in a world where Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger have played him in movies. It’s nice to hear you took inspiration from that take on Joker.
Yeah. There really is something to be said about someone who not only does an incredible job with a character but find new things after, what is it, two decades of playing it? It’s still absolutely amazing to listen to him every single time he approaches the role.
Something that always stands out about Joker is his laugh. How did you find Jerome’s laugh?
[laughs] Well, I laugh a lot. Those four weeks I was locked in my apartment and just a shut in and laughed over and over and over. I did that again before we started filming the season, to the point where I lost my voice. Thankfully I was able to get it back before filming, but I had to lay off of it a bit.
Sadly, we’ve not said goodbye to Jerome, but he died with a smile on his face. The end of the episode is left a bit open to interpretation, but do you think he’s happy with what he left behind?
Well, it is a comic book world and you never know for sure.
Yes, the fact that he got his punchline, he got his joke, he got to play it on this entire city, he really did get the last laugh.
Between “Gotham” and “Shameless,” you’ve been able to play two very different kinds of mental illness. Naturally “Shameless” portrays it in a very realistic way, but in taking on these two roles what have you learned about mental illness and the way the brain works?
Well, obviously I has a pretty big season last year on “Shameless,” where I did get to explore that. It was great because I’ve had some of my own experiences with family and friends dealing with mental illness in many different forms. I’ve seen it and I’ve seen it affect people, so it was great to try to understand that and research it.
From there, I actually worked on another series called “Mercy Street.” It’s a Civil War show and my character has post traumatic stress disorder, so he’s falling apart and losing his mind in an entirely different way.
Then, obviously, I went on to “Gotham.” That is extremely balls to the wall, unsubtle in a great way.
With any character, all you can do is attach it to yourself and your personal experiences and try to find what feels true to your own personality and who you are. I had to find parts of me with each of these roles that felt true.