Interview: 'Gotham' Producer On Leaving Gotham City, Valerie Vale And Council Of Owls

Gotham returns for its third season tonight. What began as "Batman without Batman," the story of Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie)'s rise to commissioner in the Gotham City Police Department, has embraced its comic book roots. Season two featured "Rise of the Villains" and "Wrath of the Villains." The third season's "Mad City" promises to see Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) prepare to suit up and introduce characters like Valerie Vale (Jamie Chung) and an aged up Poison Ivy (Maggie Geha), with the Council of Owls enacting their machinations throughout the season.

We interviewed Gotham co-executive producer Ken Woodruff over the summer when he was on a panel for the Television Critics Association. Beginning with tonight's season premiere, Woodruff discussed the plans for the third season. Hit the jump to read our Gotham Season 3 interview with Woodruff.

Gotham Season 3

Gotham Season 3 Interview: Producer Ken Woodruff

When we pick up this season, will any significant time have passed?

There's one scene that's not a time jump. It's pretty soon thereafter and then we're doing like a six month time jump. The first episode will jump ahead. What's exciting is you can really move characters along, much further along than you would. You don't have to watch a slow progression. We can catch up and go, "Wow, how did Penguin get here? How did Nygma get here?" Those kind of things, let the audience play catch up for the first few episodes.

The important question is how far along is Jim after leaving Gotham City looking for Lee?

That scene is the first scene in the first episode. So we dive into it right away. For those two characters, it's a huge scene. It's going to really influence everything that we're telling on a character level for those two character for this season.

Is Morena Baccarin back for the whole season?


The show is called Gotham. I imagine he can't be gone for too long.

Yeah, he can't be gone for too long and we wouldn't want him to. He's such an asset to us that we love to write for him.

But is there freedom that, even though it's called Gotham, you can visit other cities?

Yeah, we've talked about it. For example, the first episode we're going to be outside of Gotham. We've actually been talking about it, in the room breaking a story where Gordon is going to be outside of Gotham. It's interesting to see. You have to take into consideration other DC shows.

Are there any other DC cities that aren't already taken? We've got CW shows in Star City, Central City, National City...

There are but they're really low down the rung in terms of the canon. We have this map of all the U.S. with all the cities on it in the writers room. Some of them I've never heard of before working on the show.

Wouldn't die hard fans love that?

Yeah. They probably would.

And it wouldn't hurt anyone who doesn't get the reference.

It definitely wouldn't hurt. I think it was more just like as soon as we leave the city, if it's a whole episode or a whole story, they're automatically silo'ed off from everyone else. Part of the fun of the show is jus the fact that it is such a big ensemble cast and you can have Gordon on a story with The Penguin but he can cross with Barbara in her line of work. Or he can cross with Catwoman or he can cross with Bruce Wayne. So to keep them all in the same spot is always convenient for us, but yeah, we definitely haven't ruled it out.

At least you have a map of the whole country and it's not right across the river from Metropolis.

Yeah, exactly.

Gotham Season 3Now that you have a new, adult Poison Ivy, were there ever story ideas for the young Ivy that never came to fruition?

No. What we really wanted to accomplish, for me especially and for some of us in the room, one of the core elements that Poison Ivy brought, one of her core powers was this ability to seduce. It felt like it was more easily accomplished with the sort of aged up, older Ivy and it wouldn't be off putting. It was just one of those skills that we were like it was an opportunity we were missing out on. Not only does she change when she comes back physically, but mentally she's much, much further down the line in terms of getting close to the canon Poison Ivy that we all know.

You certainly wouldn't want to do a seduction story with an underage actress, but I was wondering if there were ever storylines you were planning to explore when she was created as the young daughter of Mario Pepper that never happened.

We did. In season two, there was this character called Silver St. Cloud. We played a love triangle between Bruce Wayne, Selena Kyle and Silver St. Cloud. For a while we were considering playing that with Ivy. We thought it would be sort of interesting if Batman, Catwoman and Poison Ivy all as teenagers were involved in the same sort of high school love drama. That was one of them.

Is Valerie Vale a character in the comics?

No. For us it's nice because as great as these canon characters are, you sometimes don't have a lot of flexibility with them. You can't kill them, or it's really hard to. As writers, that sort of handicaps you a little bit in terms of what you can accomplish. We definitely invented Valerie and also the timeline didn't work out [for Vicki] because she's a contemporary of Bruce Wayne and not James Gordon.

But is she related to Vicki Vale?

Yes, she's her aunt.

Is she also in the media business?

Yes, absolutely. She's also a reporter and she's a huge influence on Vicki Vale.

Council of OwlsWhat can the Council of Owls do that's different than the League of Shadows, which Arrow got to explore?

Ah yeah. I'm not as familiar with the Arrow version of League of Shadows, but what I can tell you about the Court of Owls is they're not just evil. What they do is what's best for Gotham in the big picture. Sometimes that comes across as evil and sometimes that comes across as good. They're much more mysterious as to their intentions and motivation. You never know if they're doing something because they want to prop up villains, or if they're doing something because they feel like the villains in the city have gotten too much power and now they want to cut their legs off. So they're much more unpredictable.

You got to do "Rise of the Villains" and "Wrath of the Villains" in season two. Was it always the plan to focus on the heroes in season three?

Yeah, yeah. The idea is, we started this show, Gotham was pretty bad. We always wanted to take it to its absolute worst over the course of the series. The reason why is because it needs to get there for a city to embrace a figure like Batman. That's always the goal. There's different steps along that path. One was explaining how villains became supervillains. That's what we accomplished in season two with Jerome, with Galavan, with Azrael, Mr. Freeze. The second part of that was you also need your heroes to fall.

What was the decision to speed along Bruce Wayne approaching Batman?

I think part of that was just we wanted it. We wanted to activate him and see not baby Batman but the young Batman that he's going to become. It's so exciting, especially for anyone who's a fan of the show and the comics. You want to see that.

You've introduced so many of the classic villains. Are there any Batman allies you're looking to add to Gotham?

At the moment, no. Only because, especially this season, we want to strip away all the allies and all the help that our people can have.

Is Jerome really gone?

He's got to come back one of these days. [Laughs]

Was part of getting rid of Jerome a way to deflect the speculation that he was The Joker?

Exactly. Jerome was always supposed to be the inspiration for The Joker. Maybe he'll go through an evolution that'll end up becoming the actual Joker that we all know. The whole idea was that he was supposed to be the inspiration for it.

So someone he interacted with could pick up the reigns?

Exactly. That's the fun of it and that's what we want to see.

Gotham airs Monday nights at 8PM on FOX.