GOTHAM EXCLUSIVE: Meet the Penguin’s Mother

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Tonight on Gotham, meet the mother of the future Penguin, Gertrude Kabelput!


If you watched the premiere of Gotham last week, you might make the argument that Det. James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) inadvertently made low-level thug Oswald Copplepot (Robin Lord Taylor) into the man who will eventually become the Penguin with his simple act of kindness.  Any normal person would be grateful for the second chance at life and try to turn over a new leaf.  Oswald, on the other hand, with his tenuous hold on sanity, sees things very differently.

So, the question remains: How did Oswald Copplepot become the way that he is?

According to Bruno Heller, Gotham‘s creator, in an interview with, “If you meet someone’s mother, you immediately get an insight into their inner character.  It seemed to me that the Napoleonic certainty and self-confidence that the Penguin possesses must have come from a loving and supportive mother.  But his mother was pouring love on a vicious sociopath. To render the true pathos of that delusion requires a comic actress of great skill and sensitivity and heart, and Carol Kane has all that in spades along with a silent movie heroine’s face that works perfectly with Penguin.”

In tonight’s Gotham episode, we get to meet Gertrude Kabelput, a European immigrant played by Oscar nominee and two-time Emmy winner Carol Kane, who discusses her son’s disappearance with GCPD Major Crimes Unit Detectives Allen (Andrew Stewart-Jones) and Montoya (Victoria Cartagena) in such a manner that suggests more of an intimate mother-son relationship than normal.  Perhaps that plays a significant role in Copplepot’s sociopathic behavior?

Check out Carol Kane’s exclusive interview with below:

41st Annual Chaplin AwardsHow did you become involved with the show?
Carol Kane: They just came to me, and I was extremely excited because it’s such a great, intricate, fascinating character they’ve written. Now, I’m sort of beside myself with joy because I just love my son. I love Robin.  He is so brilliant, and I was ignorant and didn’t know of him before I worked with him. He’s just an extraordinary actor, an extraordinary young man.

We’ve seen the Penguin’s mother in differing versions of the Batman story through the years. Did you look to any of those for inspiration?
No. I wanted to stick to what they wrote for me because it’s very distinctive. It’s a lot to go on, what they’ve written, and really informative about who Gertrude is. Because this is pre-anything else we’ve seen in a way, I thought I would just go with what they created.

You’ve done both dramatic and comedic work. Gotham is a pretty dark world, but will your character lighten things up?
Kane: I don’t think of Gertrude as comic. I was nominated for an Academy Award for a dramatic role [in Hester Street] in which I barely spoke English. So, this is a nice kind of throwback and return to that kind of work, which I really adore. I feel that the character is delicious. And that it would come to me at this time in my life — it’s just a special gift.

What can you tell us about who Gertrude is?
Kane: She’s European, and I think she lived a much more genteel life when she was young and in Europe. Now, money is obviously a problem. [As Gertrude] I strive to keep up my standards of etiquette and dressing carefully and trying to impart the best standards for my son. I love and treasure him, and I wish I could take care of him, but he’s a grown-up now. So, he’s gone out in the world, and that’s difficult for me.

You said it’s difficult for Gertrude to deal with Oswald being out on his own. Has that brought strife to their relationship?
Kane: No, I think not. He loves me back. He comes to visit me, which is very nice because not all grown boys do that. I’ve raised him very well. I’ve raised him to dress beautifully, to be very polite, and I’ve educated him in European manners.  Since it’s just him and I… I think that we have become very, very, very close in a way that you do bond if it’s just the two of you.

So what does Gertrude think about Oswald’s lifestyle?
Kane: It’s worrisome because he works in the restaurant business and his hours are horrible. He doesn’t get enough sleep. I’m assuming he eats OK because they probably feed him there, but I think it’s a very stressful business, and I don’t understand why. And I want him to be very careful in his choice of women, and I fear that he might not be.

Why is Gertrude worried about other women? Does she feel they would take Oswald away from her?
Kane: I can’t tell you why. That’s private between me and him. [Laughs]

In this episode, Gertrude is concerned that Oswald has gone missing.  How worried is she?
Kane: Well, I don’t think something bad has happened to him because I would sense it, I would feel it. It is worrisome, but I think I have a certain amount of confidence that he will always come back and tell me what’s happening in his life.

Well, the audience obviously knows that Oswald has some darkness in him. What about Gertrude? Does the apple fall far from the tree?
Kane: Well, I think he is similar [to Gertrude], but I think the big difference is that as a young man, and my sole supporter, he has the obligation to make money. That can change a person. He can get into negative influences out in the world, and I’m just hoping very much that that doesn’t happen to him.

The_Penguin-Gotham1But I assume she’s gotten good at protecting Oswald through the years, too.
 Oh, yes. He’s unusual. He’s always been unique, and because he has good manners, I think he was bullied and made fun of.

So can Gertrude be a Mama Bear when she needs to?
 No question. I will protect my son at all costs.

Intriguing?  Don’t miss an all-new episode of Gotham, tonight at 8 pm, on FoxCT!

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