'Gotham' Showrunner Answers Burning Questions About Batman Prequel Series

This week's release of the Gotham trailer raised as many questions as it answered. The upcoming Fox TV show set in the world of Batman certainly had that gritty, Gotham City, Dark Knight look. But it also seemed to be set a little further away from the canon than fans expected. The original pitch was a show about Jim Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) investigating the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents, telling a cross section of the city years before Batman shows up. But the trailer showed more than a few prominent villains in their formative years too, as well as tons of other things.

Gotham, which will premiere on Fox this Fall, is being helmed by Bruno Heller, who previously ran Rome and The Mentalist. For his first interview about the show, Heller sat down with Entertainment Weekly to answer a lot of the questions you had after watching the trailer. How much Bruce Wayne will be used? What's the end game? How do you build suspense if none of the characters can die? Is it serialized? Get answers to all your Gotham burning questions below.

The full interview with Bruno Heller is at Entertainment Weekly. Head there to read the full thing as I've just pulled a few of the more pressing questions below.

How did he settle on a tone?

The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that's where we calibrated. This is a world that's going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it's not there yet. It's an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he's a gofer for a gangster. It's about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that's where we build from.

Is it serialized (one continuous story) or procedural (ever episode stands alone)?

Serialized....There's a procedural framework for it, but the world of Gotham is too big and operatic and complex to do it any other way but serialized.

Which Batman characters are in season one?

Obviously, the Penguin, Riddler, young Catwoman, Alfred. Possibly Harvey Dent. Poison Ivy. Um ... and then there will be others, but I hate to — I'm so used to doing a police procedural, so I'm used to telling, "Next week he's going to go there." With this, it's very much storytelling. So I would be remiss to tell you who will show up when. I will say we're not going to skimp on giving people the characters they want and expect from Gotham. But when and how they're going to show up is half the fun. Penguin is one of those guys that, as soon as you see him, you go, "Oh, that's the Penguin." It would be hard to disguise him as somebody else.

What about The Joker?

He's the crown jewel of the Batman villains. He will be brought in with great care and a lot of thought.

Does having the Nolan movies so fresh in people minds make this show harder?

I'm not at all concerned. Actually I would [pauses ... considers] — yeah, in that area, I would say in terms of what [director and executive producer Danny Cannon and director of photography David Stockton] are doing — visually — Gotham will surpass the Batman movies. The movies are a very rigorous, kind of Germanic take on that world. They're visually stunning, but not particularly visually pleasurable. I would say this is much more on the street level of Gotham. There's more people, it's a more colorful place, it's a more vivid place, it's more crowded. The inspiration for me and Danny was New York in the '70s, because we both remember that as a seminal moment, coming to the city for the first time. This is very much that kind of Gotham — intensely visual and three-dimensional and layered and gritty and dirty and sexy and dangerous. From that point of view — and it's easy for me to say, I just have to write the thing, Danny and David have to visualize it — but I think you'll see it's fabulous.

Will it run into the similar problems as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

Not to comment on Agents of SHIELD, but [the SHIELD agents] are in the same temporal space as their superheroes. So while watching it, I imagine you feel, well, it's kind of mean not to show us Thor. If Thor is there in the next room, or the next town, why not come by and see us? For Gotham, if we could bring Batman in to say hello, he'd say hello. It's not that the celebrities are in the VIP lounge while you're out front wondering where they are. In this case, the heroes aren't "born" yet. They're kids. I am cognizant of that as an issue. But look: Most stories that people tell don't have Batman in them. You've just got to make the story you tell as compelling as it can be.

Is there an issue since so many of the main characters have to survive for years and can't die on the show?

No. Because there's lots of other people in the world, and one of the conceits of the show is, where did they get all their ideas? There's precursors to that for the villains and the heroes. They got inspiration from other people, and it's about how they got to that point in the world. It's invigorating and expansive how many stories you can tell once you get away from the gravity of Batman. What happens with superheroes is they suck all the air out of the room. You can't play a scene between two people when there's a guy in a cape and a mask in the corner of the room. As far as the history goes,  people don't know the ins and outs of it. Even in the well-known stories, there are secrets and backstories that people are not aware of. We also have the pre-iconic villains, like Fish Mooney, played by Jada Pinkett Smith, and those characters that people won't have seen before.

Does Jada Pinkett Smith become another character?

She doesn't become another character. But we will be telling as many interesting stories about people who are not going to become costumed figures, and she gives a performance that will surprise and shock people, I think.

Why the decision to make Alfred a marine?

That was part of the story that I had to reverse engineer. What kind of man would allow their teenage charge to turn into Batman? Obviously, someone with very original parenting notions. So yeah, he's both a father figure and a dangerous father figure. He's a tough character, and Sean Pertwee plays Alfred with gravity and humor. We're lucky to have him.

How prominent with Bruce Wayne (played by David Mazouz) be in the series?

I'm hoping to use him as much as his mum will allow us to, and in the kind of stories you'd imagine. It's not going to be young Bruce Wayne going out and saving the day, because that's not what kids do. It's about the strange education of this young man. He has a good idea of where he's going early on. But it's about the growth of this young man.

Does the series end with Bruce Wayne putting on the cowl?

Yes, whether metaphorically or literally — something like that. But that's six or seven years down the line. Hopefully.

Again, that's only about half of what was discussed. Head to EW for the whole thing, but there are certainly lots of good thoughts here. What do you think?