Bruno Heller on Gotham’s Villains & Casting Young Actors as Traditionally Sexualized Comic Book Characters

This article is over 9 years old and may contain outdated information

We were concerned about Fox’s Gotham when we found out it would be partially populated by young versions of Batman villains. From a story standpoint, it didn’t make sense to a lot of fans to have characters based around Batman living in a universe where he doesn’t exist yet. But we also felt there was potential for things to get uncomfortable as they cast younger versions of Catwoman and Poison Ivy, two DC Comics characters known for using their sexuality against their foes. Find out what Executive Producer/Writer Bruno Heller had to say about that and the potential for other villains showing up over the course of the series.

Recommended Videos

In roundtable interviews conducted at San Diego Comic-Con this summer, the topic of the children on Gotham was discussed, first as Bruce Wayne’s role in the series grew when David Mazouz was cast.

“He’s hands down the best young actor I’ve ever worked with. Of anyone,” Heller told us. “He has profound understanding of human emotion and a kind of focus and concentration and energy that allows him to play adult themes with a kid. The danger was, which we tried to steer away from initially, was that if you have a kid in a lead role, then it’s a kid’s show. And you have to sort of write it to the kid. But with David, he understands and can play very complex, difficult, dysfunctional or sometimes scary stuff.”

Child actors Camren Bicondova and Clare Foley play characters meant to become Catwoman and Poison Ivy one day. They’re also characters known for using their sexuality in their crimes. Obviously in Gotham they haven’t gotten to that point in their lives yet but how did Heller approach their characterization? The Mary Sue asked and he said:

By treating it as natural. They won’t – as they grow up, they won’t be as sexualized as the characters are in the comic book. Not to get into the “why they were that way” but it’s a kind of visual thing. You could say the men are also sexualized but you don’t see unpleasant physical specimens of men either. Like Batman is a hunk. And a big part of the unspoken attraction of those characters is that they’re very big, handsome guys. Which is not to say that we’re going to create unsexual versions of those characters, but we will know them as people. We will know them from when they were young. We won’t have to rely on the visual pop of a bustier. That’s the characters. You’ve got a bustier on. There’s more to it than that.

As we’ve seen, there’s a glut of Batman villains set to appear just in Season 1 and not everyone is thrilled with that. But Heller admitted they’re considering far past the first season.

“There are some villains that can and do precede Batman. There’s others that don’t. And we’ll play with that,” said Heller. “I always think in terms of the long run. I’m thinking in terms of like what if this was a 7 year show? How do we play things out? So yeah, there will be vigilantes. There will be all kinds of precursors of famous characters and the famous characters themselves in early stages of their life. But well…rationing is the wrong word. That doesn’t sound like much fun – rationing. Easter eggs is more the thing. You don’t get easter eggs except on easter. Well, it can happen any time of year but generally only on Easter. So on special occasions, it’s not going to be every week here’s a famous villain that you remember because that just gets too…plus within one year you’re down to, I won’t insult any of the characters by saying those are kind of tertiary characters but some of them kind of are and we want to wait a few years before you have to go to them.”

We’re only two episodes in of course, but what do you think of Gotham’s villain usage so far?

Previously in Gotham

Are you following The Mary Sue on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, & Google +?

The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
Image of Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi
Jill Pantozzi is a pop-culture journalist and host who writes about all things nerdy and beyond! She’s Editor in Chief of the geek girl culture site The Mary Sue (Abrams Media Network), and hosts her own blog “Has Boobs, Reads Comics” ( She co-hosts the Crazy Sexy Geeks podcast along with superhero historian Alan Kistler, contributed to a book of essays titled “Chicks Read Comics,” (Mad Norwegian Press) and had her first comic book story in the IDW anthology, “Womanthology.” In 2012, she was featured on National Geographic’s "Comic Store Heroes," a documentary on the lives of comic book fans and the following year she was one of many Batman fans profiled in the documentary, "Legends of the Knight."