Gothamite Ralf Little: I would share an Arkham cell with Penguin

/ 10 June 2016

After hosting our fan screening of the Gotham season two finale, British comedy treasure Ralf Little spoke to Channel 5’s Simon James about the show and his love for all things Batman.

So you’re a fan of Gotham?

Yes. I love Batman and I think this is a fantastic show. A cracking acquisition for Channel 5.

As a serious Batman fan, which characters were you pleased to see in the series?

I was really happy to see Azrael turn up. He’s not a character that has never made it to live-action before because he’s so unusual. In the world of comics, he’s much more plausible. And yet, the Gotham creators not only took him on, but gave him credible reasoning and a great costume without being too fancy or theatrical. He was brilliantly played by James Frain, who is an extraordinary actor.

Are you hoping that somehow, Azrael may return in some form?

Perhaps it could happen – nobody ever truly dies in a comic book world. The good guys never win – they only temporarily get a reprieve until somehow, someone comes back again.

Which villains would you like to see in series three?

Killer Croc. I think we may have seen a scaley chin at the end of the season two finale – he might be on the way… I think it’s very difficult to make a live-action Killer Croc work – I’ll be interested to see what they do with him in Suicide Squad. Riddler and Penguin have such strong characterisation that has extensively set the groundwork – when we saw the new threats at the end of season two, I was like: ‘I’m ready for a bit of that!’

One of the wonderful things about this show is that they know their history really well. I don’t get the feeling they’ll crowbar anyone in. But I do think if the time is right, they will bring them in at the right moment. One of the things that amazed me most about the Arkham Asylum videogames is the range of characters they managed to bring in and make relevant to the story – if they can do that in a game that probably lasted 15 hours, they can do it in this show, which has proven itself to be more than capable.

Who can you picture yourself sharing a cell with at Arkham?

Oswald [the Penguin] is quite sweet. I think if I could share a cell with him, put an arm round him and say ‘it’s alright mate, relax – you’re a nice bloke at heart,’ I might get through to him. I would find that a rewarding experience. Ed [the Riddler] not so much – when he isn’t trying to kill me, he’d be incessantly hard work, asking me riddles all the time. For fear of sheer irritation, I couldn’t be put in a cell with Edward Nygma.

There has been lots of talk suggesting the final shot of the series has to be Bruce Wayne donning the cowl. Would you agree that this is where Gotham should end, when it eventually does?

I would have thought so, yes. Everyone knows and understands that this is what the series is building to. It’s interesting and honorable for them to so openly state that and not try and create some air of mystery. It’s the right thing and the decent thing for the show to say ‘when Batman arrives, the show is finished.’ It’s not about that – it’s about how Batman comes to be, and that’s an interesting way to look at it.

I feel sorry for David Mazouz, who is absolutely brilliant as the young Bruce Wayne. He must be thinking ‘I’m the young Batman!’ They’re going to put him in the cape and cowl, make it look really cool, shout ‘action’, the camera will pan in for about fifteen seconds and then they’ll go… ‘cut! Right, take the suit off, you’re done.’ He’ll be like: ‘I was Batman for fifteen seconds, that’s devastating!’ Who knows, maybe Gotham continues into the first live-action Batman series since Adam West.

Do you see any similarities between Gotham and the Adam West series?

There is still a slight twinkle-in-the-eye of loveable campness. Maybe it’s intended to be more dark and realistic than that, but I think they walk that line brilliantly: It’s just sinister enough, but you can’t help laughing at a lot of tongue-in-cheek moments. I think that works really well – it’s a comic book after all.

What is your favourite Batman interpretation?

While everyone’s favourite incarnation tends to be the Christopher Nolan films, mine is the Arkham Asylum games, particularly the first two. Considering they’re video games, they have extraordinary characterisation. Mark Hamill is obviously brilliant as the Joker. The way they managed to incorporate all of the characters (that I imagine we will see in Gotham if we haven’t already), the depth of that was extraordinary.

Was Batman always your favourite superhero?

I was a Superman fan as a kid. Christopher Reeve’s Superman was released three years before I was born. Growing up in the 80s, you were either a Superman fan or a Spider-Man fan, and I was always Superman. Campy Adam West Batman, who as far as I could tell, was just a dude in a slightly weird outfit, was not a patch on Superman, who could fly and lift up buildings. I came to Batman later once I got into the comics and discovered the dark history. I used to watch the 90s Batman cartoon, and that was cool.

Many fans consider that series to be the definitive on-screen interpretation of Batman, moreso than any movies. What do you think?

I can see that. We have more sophisticated animation these days, so it looks a bit dated for those reasons. But in terms of how Batman was presented – how many times did we get that beautiful image of seeing Batman as just a shadow with two white eyes? Amazing. I also think that the 90s X-Men cartoon was the best version of X-Men there’s been. The Spider-Man one was great too – I loved all that!

Gotham is a new way of approaching the Batman mythos by establishing the characters and storylines earlier than we have seen before. What could be another new approach to telling a popular superhero story?

The musical Wicked is all about what is it like to see a story from an antagonist’s point of view. There’d be something really interesting in applying that to a superhero story. Batman is a vigilante. If your protagonist was a villain on paper and you gave him a really credible reason for being a villain, Batman could be one of your antagonists. One of the reasons the Batman legend is so rich and in-depth, is because the comics do ask the question ‘what gives him the right?’

If you could change anything about Gotham City what would it be?

Get better street lighting – supervillains wouldn’t be able to swan around in the dark! As a psychological experiment, it’s difficult to know how to cure Gotham – the police force are crooked; Carmine Falcone runs everything… In Batman Begins, the League of Shadows thought they should burn it to the ground; maybe they had a point!

Do you think comic book adaptations could go the way of the Western?

Probably, in its current incarnation. But it’s the nature of film, art, television, fashion, anything – all things have their time. The current thirst for comic book movies and TV won’t last forever. But there will always be a huge fanbase of people who think that these characters are extraordinary. Because they are, that’s why they’ve lasted so long. But when it does die down (it might be in twenty years), just like all of Batman’s villains, I’m sure it will eventually come back.

Catch the Gotham season 2 finale on Monday 13th June, at 10pm on Channel 5. Catch up on recent episodes of Gotham on My5.