GOTHAM Scoop: Milo Ventimiglia Interview

Beginning a multi-episode arc, Milo Ventimiglia joins Fox’s GOTHAM as Jason Lennon, the Orge, a serial killer who will bring some heart-clutching moments and will perhaps take the life of someone we all hold dear.  Just who will fall and who will stand against this new terrifying threat, that remains to be seen.

In a recent press call, star Milo Ventimiglia talked about digging deep in the psyche of Jason Lennon and the attraction of playing such a twisted character.

The version of the Ogre that you’re playing is quite different from the comic book. Can you kind of talk a bit about what you did take as inspiration and kind of what you added yourself to create the character?
MILO:    Of course, he is different than what’s in the DC universe.  I took what was on the page, written by Bruno Heller’s team, and I pretty much went off of that.  And my understanding of what they were looking for in a serial killer that was kind of a guy who was just looking for love, and as simple as it sounds, but as complex as it may be, and I just went knowing that it wasn’t a direct pull from the DC universe and the original Ogre.  So it was actually exciting and fun and simple, because they wrote a really, really complex, dark character that was a lot of fun to play.

How did you start working on the show?  How did you come to this part?
MILO:   I got a phone call from my agent saying that they wanted me, and I said great.  I’m a huge fan of Bruno Heller, his work, and I’m longtime friends of Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue, and I’ve been watching the show.  And it was just one of those things where I had those connections, and then I went, “I’m free at the moment.  So this sounds like a lot of fun.”

Will your character be shaking up the world for some of the main characters?  And if so what ways can you tease some of those shake-ups?
MILO:   Jason Lennon, a.k.a. the Ogre, is a serial killer.  He is a guy who’s looking for love, but the love that he’s looking for is unconditional.  And I think, as nice as that sounds and romantic as that sounds, his expectations are probably a lot more fierce and a lot past the line of what usual love is.  So he targets women for love and he also targets loved ones of cops that will investigate him.  So it’s only natural that he’s going to run into a guy like Jim Gordon, who is the hero cop of Gotham.  So yes, it’s two strong forces—one for good, one for dark—going up against each other.

How big are you into the DC universe as a fan yourself?
MILO:   I was raised on comic books.  Every Wednesday my father would take me to a comic book shop in Orange County, California, Freedonia Funnies, and so I was raised on it.  Batman, funny enough, was always my favorite.  I loved the fact that he wasn’t an alien from another planet or injected with some kind of super-serum.  I loved the fact that he was a man like anyone else, and he used his resources and his intellect and his body beyond what those other people would stop at.   And he did it for a bit of vengeance, but also—or vigilantism, but also he did it for the people he saw were caught up in a horrible society, a crime-filled society.  So I’d always been a Batman fan, I’d always been a DC fan, I grew up with Superman.  I grew up on comic books, so there was everything in there.  There was DC, there was Marvel, there was everything, even the offshoot books of other, smaller press.

With Batman’s, colorful cast of villains, how do you think Ogre is going to be able to stand out among the Joker, and Scarecrow, and Penguin?
MILO:  Look, Joker and Scarecrow and Penguin and Riddler, they’re all staples.  The Ogre, I think, you kind of have to just look at what the show is, and it’s a different version, a pre-story of a story that we already know, of characters that we already know.  So if you’re adding somebody new, hopefully—I think the writers have accomplished this, but hopefully the character is interesting enough, and seeing my silly mug up on the screen is going to be fun for audiences to say, “Oh wow, this guy is bad.  He’s not the usual that we know.”  But, at the same time, what the writers had created, and what I was able to do with the creative team on set, people, hopefully fans will enjoy it and say, “Wow, the Ogre is just as bad as the Penguin, or Scarecrow, or Riddler or anybody.”

With all those characters, is there anyone in the future you would love to kind of team up with or play with again, like work, team up with Penguin or something?
MILO:   For selfish reasons of liking the actors, I think it’d be fun to team up with Robin, who plays Cobblepot, or Cory, who’s playing the Riddler, who’s beginning to go dark.  Just because there’s a lot of fun and good guys.  But, I mean, I kind of wait until the pages come in, the scripts come in, and just go, “Oh, okay.  This is the fun I’m going to be having, this is who I’m going to be having the fun with.”

We’ve seen you play mostly good guys, heroes, and do you think—was there any particular challenge for you playing a villain for these episodes?
MILO:   Is it scary if I say no, there wasn’t a challenge playing a bad guy?  No, that is the nice thing about just being an actor.  You get thrown into a lot of different roles, so you get to embrace the good guy when you’re playing the good guy, and you get to embrace the bad guy when you’re playing the bad guy.  This guy is pretty horrible.  It’s hopefully one of those things that my mother won’t ask me questions about my upbringing, when she and my father weren’t around, when they watch it.  But it’s always fun to play the villain.  It’s always fun to play the foil to the good guy, the dark to the light, and the Ogre was probably about as much fun as you could have with playing a villain.

How do you think that fans might react to your playing a villain when they’re not used to seeing you as one?
MILO:   Fans of my work, I think they’ve seen me go pretty dark and be pretty bad, but I think they’ll hopefully enjoy this version of it, which is a little smoother, a lot more charming, but then flips on a dime and is evil, evil, evil.

What kind of interaction your character is going to have with Barbara Kean, because some photos were released in the trailer.  It looks like they’re kind of cozy.
MILO:   They are cozy.  A guy picks a girl up at a bar and you see what happens.  But if you kind of look at who the Ogre is, and what his motives are; yes, he’s looking for unconditional love with a woman, but alSo when detectives are investigating him, he kills someone close to them.  So you have to ask yourself, he’s possibly close to Jim Gordon, and what, without him, that would entail.

You play a lot of dark, dramatic characters.  Is there something about these roles that continues to draw them to you?
MILO:   I don’t even know if they’re drawn to me or if I’m drawn to them, or vice versa.  I pretty much get the phone call and show up.  I don’t know, or maybe it’s the dark hair, dark eyes, I really don’t know.  Or maybe it’s because they think I’m teen vogue.  I might have said at one point that I was dark and moody.  Who knows?  Luckily, though, good opportunities like this keep coming my way.  Thankfully there are great writer-producers like Bruno Heller that take a chance on a guy and say, “Look, we think you can pull this off, and you can pull this off better than anybody else can.”  So for me, I’m just honored that people choose me to work with them and want to bring a character to life.  So when I get a juicy one like this, it’s always a lot more exciting.

Are you looking forward to the instant fan feedback you’ll receive when the episodes premiere?
MILO:    It’s funny.  When I’m on set, I do it for the crew, I do it for the cast that I’m with, and then you just kind of hand it off to the fans.  And some people are going to love what you do, some people are going to pick apart what you do.  But, at the end of the day, it’s like, I feel really good about the work, and I had a lot of fun.  I mean, this cast and crew of Gotham is just, they’re the best.  There’s a lot of laughter and a lot of fun had.  And I think, looking on Twitter, or something like that, and seeing the fans’ immediate reaction, of even just the featurette, it’s all pretty positive so far.  So I think people are going to enjoy seeing what we put together.

Do you prefer playing the villain as opposed to the good guy?  Which one is more enjoyable for you to play?
MILO:    Good roles are good roles.  It doesn’t matter if they’re the bad guy, if they’re the good guy, if they’re the sideline guy, they’re anything.  It’s just, good roles are good roles, and I think, right when I—probably, after I come out of playing the bad guy, sometimes you’re like, “Oh, maybe I want to be a bit of a golden heart on the next one,” and then you play the good guy and you’re like, “Oh, maybe I want to go dark for the next one,” but, you just kind of have to, or I have to, just take the roles that come at me, and embrace what it is, and put my heart into it and paint my heart with a lot of gold or a lot of shadow.  So for me, I just play them as they come.  And I enjoy the h*** out of all of them.  I really, really do.

This version of the Ogre is suave-seducer-serial killer.  How do you prepare for this type of character in trying to get into the mind of a killer?
MILO:   Is it wrong that I said I was just being myself?  Honestly, this guy, he’s relaxed, he’s sincere, he is much darker than me as a man, but I was just trying to be myself, because he is a man.  He’s affected by things that happened to him when he was younger, and he’s approaching his life the way that he knows how, and he’s operating off of wants that he has, which may not be very good to the majority of people, but to him, it’s what his life is.  So for me, I think I was just trying to be a human being onscreen and understand what this guy went through to make him who he was. . . I’ll tell you what I didn’t want to be was a villain twisting his mustache while there’s a dame tied up on a train track.  That’s what I didn’t want to be.  What I basically wanted to do, I think, I was lucky because I had this amazing material, these great words and these good scripts.  I was able to just follow that, and follow my instincts, and follow my want to just be an honest person.  Honest with what he wants, like I said, even though what he wants is horrible and kind of odd, and how he gets it, what measures he goes to.  He’s a sociopath.

What was the toughest scene for you to do?
MILO:   Gosh.  I mean, there were a lot of scenes, a lot of tough scenes, but I think the first one is always the hardest one, just because you’re on a set, you’ve got a bunch of new people, I’m always trying to learn everybody’s name, and do my job.  The first scene that I shot, it was not even as the character.  It was the character within the character within the character.  So I think that might have been the hardest one.  But it was just because you’re the new kid at school.  You’re the new kid at school, and you just want to go in there and do good work and not get noticed in a bad way, so the first scene is always just the hardest scene.  Everything after that you settle in, you’re relaxed, you’re amongst friends, and you’re among the people that want you to do good work.  You want them to do good work.  So then you just do good work together.

Is there anything besides being a serial killer that’s actually likable?
MILO:   I think there’s a lot to be liked about the guy.  He’s looking for love, I think, which is something we can all connect with in one way or another.  We’re looking to be accepted.  And he’s a guy who is looking for that.  He’s charming without being arrogant, but there is arrogance in his way of being, because he can’t see outside of himself, and what he imposes on women that ultimately lead to him killing them.   So I think there is something that is true in his search, but his means of doing it are completely wrong.  And what he’s asking for, to the degree that he’s asking for, is just, it’s skewed, it’s off, it’s not right, it’s not kind, it’s not good.  But his kind of way of being and talking to a girl—I didn’t think, as I was reading the scripts, and as I was playing it, it wasn’t an act to get the girl so he can just kill the girl.  He doesn’t want to kill the girl.  But he eventually will, because, well, they’re not quite who he thinks they are.  He’s already pushed them past the point where he’d probably be in trouble.  So why not just discard this woman and find another one?  So I think that there are small redeeming qualities about him, but the majority of who he is shadows any other good that’s possibly in there.

You’re being very careful in describing this guy to avoid words like ‘evil’ and stuff.  He’s just a guy looking for love, he’s just slaughtering people on the way.  So does that come into your thought process when you get someone who tells you this guy is just looking for love, and his way of doing that is killing women?
MILO:   Well, I think killing women is the byproduct of things not working out, where a normal human being could just break up with the girl and say, “Listen, this isn’t working out.  I think you’re lovely; you’re going to find the right guy, you’re going to be great for him.  It’s me, it’s not you.”  Jason Lennon just—I think he can’t handle the idea that this person, this woman that things didn’t work out with, exists.  And I think he also knows in his demented mind that he goes too far with these women, and what he’s asking of them, even though in—I guess it’s semantics in saying that he’s just a guy looking for love.  He’s really looking for the most heinous of partners possible.  But he’s just off.  He’s just off, but I didn’t want to paint the guy as not having any kind of sense of humanity inside of him just because that’s, I guess, me as an actor.  I had to humanize the guy in some way.  But he’s just mentally off in how he views the world, and I think, so selfish.  So so selfish that he believes that he can do whatever he wants to whoever he wants because of his charm or his nice Gucci suits or money.  But ultimately, I mean, it’s power.  It’s wielding a power.  I think, when I was thinking about this role and I was kind of researching and looking at other serial killers, like Ted Bundy was someone who kind of stuck with me, and how he approached people in life, and women, and what other people had crossed his path that he didn’t kill said about him; that he was charming.  You could talk to him, and he was engaging, and that was the way to pull you in.  But Ted Bundy, he was all about possession, having possessions.  And in this unconditional love that Jason Lennon is looking for, I think he wants to possess.  Not like say a spell and be a witch, but he wants to actually own every thought and part of a person, of a woman, that he can.  So that they are completely entrusted and enslaved, and he feels unconditionally loved, but it’s not that because there’s zero partnership.

To see how dark The Orge makes things for our heroes in GOTHAM, be sure to tune in for all new episodes on Monday nights at 8:00 pm on Fox.