Robin Lord Taylor made one of the biggest splashes of the fall TV season, even though he had some pretty big web-like feet to fill.
Taylor's colorful portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot, the sneaky underworld figure who eventually transforms into the Penguin, has been a highlight of "Gotham," Fox's moody crime thriller exploring the origins of Batman and his many nemeses. The series, which premiered to critical praise last fall, has become one of Fox's biggest freshman hits, receiving a full-season order a few weeks after its debut.
Though the series focuses on rookie detective and future Batman ally James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), Taylor has stolen his share of scenes as Cobblepot, evolving from a bullied, pathetic underling who hates being called Penguin to a crafty psychopath who commits murders with malicious glee.
Making his performance more noteworthy: He waddled into a character memorably played by Burgess Meredith in the campy 1960s TV series "Batman" and Danny DeVito in Tim Burton's darker 1992 film "Batman Returns."
Taylor has put his own distinctive, grounded menace into the role, winning over fans and critics. Cobblepot wears a sinister smirk while carrying out his evil deeds, and his relationship with his mother, Gertrude Kapelput (Carol Kane), a European immigrant with a freakish appearance, might be called a bit too close.
Co-starring in "Gotham" has been just one of Taylor's accomplishments. He had a brief but memorable role during the last two seasons on "The Walking Dead" as Sam, one of the hapless captives whose throat was slashed by cannibals at the opening of the fifth season.
Taylor recently talked about "Gotham" by phone from the show's New York set.
What has the experience of "Gotham" been like?
I'll try to keep from being trite, but it's been absolutely mind-blowing. I never in a million years imagined I would be on something this huge, this iconic.
You're no doubt familiar with how Meredith and DeVito played the Penguin. Did that intimidate you?
Absolutely. I don't think I could be human and not be intimidated to follow in the footsteps of Burgess and Danny. They are iconic actors, and their portrayals were iconic. I grew up watching both of them. It was daunting, but when I ultimately got to read the script, I saw it was a unique take on the character and illuminated parts of the character that hadn't been illuminated in previous incarnations. The pressure was lessened because I know I could make my own choices and make the character my own.
Cobblepot seems to land in the sweet spot between the TV show, where he was really outrageous, and "Batman Returns," which was much darker.
I have to give the credit for that to [executive producer] Bruno Heller, who has created such a rich world and a rich interpretation for the character. When I get a new script, I feel like it's there all in front of me. Not one note rings false.
Cobblepot's relationship with his mother is rather creepy.
She immigrated to this country from Europe, and there's no father on the scene, so all they have is each other, this really kinetic connection and bond. They're outsiders. They're strange but connected. Playing those scenes with Carol is a dream.
What's next for Cobblepot in the coming episodes?
He's learning as he goes, and mistakes are going to be made, but at the same time, I see him achieving a lot of what he wants to accomplish and becoming a major player on the Gotham crime scene.
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Rating: TV-14-LSV (may be unsuitable for children younger than 14 with advisories for coarse language, sex and violence)