Cameron Monaghan has been on nearly as wild of a journey as an actor as his dual Joker-esque characters on Fox’s Gotham, which airs the second episode of its gonzo fifth and final season on Thursday night. Yet there’s still a third character that audiences have yet to see — and Monaghan says its the best one yet.
For those not caught up: Monaghan was introduced at the end of season one as Jerome Valeska, an insane Joker-like anarchist. Jerome was killed off in season 2, then resurrected by a follower in season 3, and then killed off again in season 4 — but not before gassing his calculating twin brother Jeremiah, turning him evil and insane in a rather different way. Look, it all kinda makes sense when you watch it (read our final season review). Let’s get to Monaghan — who also his new film Anthem of a Teenage Prophet coming out this week — with some compelling insight on his character(s).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This has been such a weird character for you. Your character has died, was resurrected, died again and then was replaced by his twin brother. What’s that even like?
CAMERON MONAGHAN: It’s a very strange and surreal thing but on a show that’s as strange and absurd and heightened as Gotham, it makes sense. It’s a weird challenge. It’s definitely not what I expected going into it, to develop one character for as long as I did and be like, all right, time for a new thing that’s also distinct. And then I’ve had to do that again recently in the final season as well — I won’t say how or why but there’s another huge transition for the character too. It’s definitely an extremely unique challenge that’s unique to the comic book medium.
So obviously you weren’t told this was the plan when you started on the show, that you’d have this intermittent involvement and radical dual characters…
No man, I didn’t even think I was going to come back for a second season. Every time I came back I was told I was going to be killed off at the end of that arc. I was preparing for every other episode to be my last and I’m really glad I was able to come back and do more. It’s a joy to play characters so heightened and insane as these are. But I definitely didn’t have any concept of where the story was going.
So how would you describe Jeremiah at this point in the story vs. Jerome?
I would say the transformation is not fully complete yet. Jeremiah at this juncture is much more methodical and obsessive. Jerome was more of a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks kind of dude. I find Jeremiah is very exacting and precise. He doesn’t believe he’s insane. He thinks his behavior is a natural response to the order and he has a very distinct plan to convince the one person that he really cares about to get onto his side and see his worldview and that’s Bruce. Every action he takes is trying to bring Bruce to his side. Whereas Jerome was more of a generalized chaos kind of person.
Which is more fun to play?
They’re both a complete joy. I’ve had a lot of fun with Jeremiah in season 5. Because Jeremiah and Jerome were on screen at the same time in season 4, I had to take make them extremely distinct. So I had to take the extreme of Jeremiah of making him much more stoic. Now with Jerome out of the picture I get to make Jeremiah much more heightened in his own unique way. He’s eccentric as like a David Bowie type. He’s foppish a little bit. I took a lot of inspiration from Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show. He’s this eccentric, flamboyant, arrogant character. But the character I most enjoyed playing is the one in the final episode that we haven’t seen yet.
What’s been the weirdest or toughest scene for you to shoot?
I guess one of the toughest would have to be in season 4 we had this setup where Jerome takes a concert hostage. The only way to do this scene was to do one long 20-minute take with all the extras there. And even though it was broken up in the actual episode, and we’re cutting back and forth, the only way to keep the continuity was to do it as one long take. So it was like doing a short play and required a lot of communication and precision. The final product turned out pretty decent but it was a hard thing to do.
Our critic noted that you have played two of the best Jokers ever. But you’re still not allowed to actually call him The Joker because of specific corporate legal issues in terms of the show vs the films, is that accurate to assume at this point?
For now. That was the case when I talked about it prior. I will say we’ve been given certain liberties in this final season that we haven’t been given before that’s going to make itself pretty apparent as you watch it. All I’ll say is when you have an episode that’s a full-on Batman episode running around in the future, you’re going to have characters that you’ll expect to see. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say at this point that it’s 10 years in the future — that’s been talked about openly by the producers and showrunners — I don’t want to say exactly what my role in that is, but it was kick ass. It’s one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had.
As an actor that must have been frustrating for a while though. Because I would think you’d just want to say: “Yeah I’m playing The Joker — it’s Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Joaquin Phoenix, and me.” Wasn’t that kind of frustrating?
Well, yeah, but you know … the idea for me was always that one of these guys could become him, it’s not necessarily that they are him, it’s not necessarily that they’re not. It looks like that one of these guys are going to become him. As a fan of the medium, I always asked myself, does it make sense that he’d be calling himself by a pseudonym yet because he doesn’t have a reason to call himself a pseudonym. He wouldn’t have a reason to operate under an alter ego, that concept hasn’t been popularized and understood yet. So even if he’s behaving in this manner and cutting his teeth and learning how to behave chaotically and sadistically, he wouldn’t necessarily have that brand on him. I think we now have an arc to how we get to that point, and a lot it has to do with this obsession with Bruce and his vanity. I think a lot of this final season is really satisfying in getting to that point and having five years fo build-up will help push that payoff through.
Is Jeremiah somehow redeemable in a way Jerome wasn’t?
It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure if Jerome was necessarily irredeemable either. He’s the victim of terrible circumstances. Even if he was bad from the second he was born, maybe he’s the victim of his genetics or hormones or whatever it is going on. That said, obviously, Jeremiah had a more level head and it is unclear if there’s a good person somewhere deep down in there. The problem with him is he doesn’t see himself as bad or evil or insane so there’s no ability to redeem somebody who doesn’t want to be redeemed.
Is there any chance of seeing Jerome again, somehow?
The spirit of Jerome lives inside of Jeremiah. I think Jeremiah is at war with a lot of different parts of himself, and one of the parts of himself is Jerome. We’re seeing this confluence of ideologies within Jeremiah creating this new thing. I can’t say where that leads but even though Jerome is physically dead we’re running with this idea that there’s this virus, this cult of personality in Gotham and that’s building up within Jeremiah.
One final Gotham question: They’re not secretly triplets, are they?
Not triplets! No secret other twin. we’re seeing a very linear story arc with Jeremiah. Our point A is where we left off last season and our point B is a huge jump and I can’t wait for people to see it.
Gotham airs on Fox on Thursdays at 8 p.m.:
And here’s the trailer for Monaghan’s new film Anthem of a Teenage Prophet: