On a quiet afternoon in Forest Hills, NY, David Mazouz, along with his current guardian, his “Alfred” of sorts, walks into Royal Collectibles. With a few shoppers flipping through the new releases, and the staff behind the counter, 13-year-old David Mazouz pauses near the entrance of the store. The afternoon sun glows through the door behind him and reminds anyone who notices that, though playing the Dark Knight (years before taking up his crusade against evil), he is anything but a dark knight. He’s bright eyed, inquisitive, unassuming, very sharp, and generous enough to stop in New York comic shop Royal Collectibles for an interview.
After a stroll through the store, taking notice of the Baman ’66 action figures and statues, he pulls up a chair, and very humbly asks if we’re comfortable. But before we can begin David takes notice of the line of Batman statues on display. What catches his eye is a mini bust of one of the earliest actors to have portrayed Batman on film – “Ah, Adam West!” Mazouz says. And, almost as if drawing inspiration from the line of varying Bat-men, he sits down and I begin a conversation with one of the smartest, most grounded, and fabulously full-headed and wavy haired of actors.
What’cha Reading: You join a list of actors such as Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck in the long tradition of Bruce Wayne on film. What stamp on the character of Bruce Wayne do you hope to leave?
David Mazouz: Well, first it’s such an iconic role that I’m stepping into. Like you said, and somebody pointed out to me the other day, that there’s only been a certain amount of a very small list of actors that have played Batman in live action. And now I’m on the list. And I’m in pretty good company. It’s such an iconic role, the role of a lifetime, an amazing experience, and a good opportunity for me. The stamp that I hope to leave on it is to show people how a regular rich kid could become a vigilante, saving his city, and giving his city justice, and making it a livable, decent city to live in. And just to show people how anybody could do that. And it’s a very valuable lesson because, Batman has always been my favorite superhero, since I was a little kid, since I was born and the reason for that is because I find it so fascinating that he doesn’t have any superpowers. It’s all internal, he finds it in himself. He has a trauma when he’s young; he turns that trauma into determination; strength into intellect, and he uses all that to become the caped crusader we all know. And he’s not born with anything like Superman or many of the other super heroes; they have a certain ability and they use that to succeed whereas Batman, it’s that he pushes himself to his limits. And I think it’s a great lesson for everybody that everybody has it within themselves to become as strong as Batman.
What’cha Reading: As the series progresses, how much different is it playing a role such as a DC Comics character, than portraying someone like Jacob on “Touch.” Is it a different experience to approach as an actor, or do you try to remain as focused on Bruce Wayne as you would anyone else?
David Mazouz: First of all, I think that Bruce Wayne and Jake from “Touch” are super, super, super interesting roles and if those two aren’t interesting roles than I don’t know if there’s such a thing as an interesting role. They are very different but they, in different ways, are very similar to one another. They are both very dark and they are both very serious. In the first few episodes, especially you’ll see Bruce Wayne in the pilot episode, he loses his parents. And for the next few episodes [he’s] going to be very dark, very angry, very lonely; he’s going to be scared, he’s going to be looking for a friend, and looking for a reason to his parents death. He’s going to be compulsive and start to have an obsession [and] there are going to be a lot of things, but for the most part he’s going to be very dark and angry. Jake wasn’t necessarily angry, but he was dark. He wasn’t happy necessarily. I would just say that they’re very different [and] both of them were great opportunities. “Touch” was a fantastic opportunity because it was really the first chance that I had to wake up every day, and go to work every single day, and to have a regular and steady type of thing. It was really a great opportunity working with Kiefer [Sutherland] and working with all of the really professional and great people who I worked with on “Touch.” They really prepared me and I came out of that show a different actor; more seasoned. I would just say they are different roles, but both of them have been an amazing opportunity, and an amazing experience playing them.
What’cha Reading: In many ways, “Gotham” is a tale of two fathers. We are treated to re-imagined portrayals of Jim Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth. How would you describe them as “mentors” to your character and in your professional acting career?
David Mazouz: The two main actors I work with are Sean Pertwee, Alfred, and he’s such a professional, and genuinely a really, really good guy. He’s from London and his son Freddie, who’s my age, maybe a little younger than me, and his wife came to visit. I hung out with Freddie and played soccer with him almost every day when he was here on the days that I wasn’t working; it was really a great opportunity for me spending time with Sean, spending time with him and his family because he’s such a really great actor and someone who I really look up to. And the same goes for Ben McKenzie who plays Gordon. He is just so great [and] he’s really a great person, and I love spending time with him. He’s also an amazing and really great actor. He’s a very great role model for me; I feel very honored and blessed that I get to work with such good people. I will be working with some other series regulars later this season, but I don’t want to spoil those for you.
What’cha Reading: There’s a real sense of physicality that comes natural to a role such as this. Could you speak to the nature of physicality that plays not only into stunt work, but for an actor preparing to get yourself to that mindset that Bruce Wayne has?
David Mazouz: Well, like you said he becomes obsessed. He’s testing himself, he’s hurting himself [and] you’ll see more of that later on. He’ll get into fights later on in the season, he’ll start to have new relationships; you’ll see his encounters with kids, regular kids, that go to school. [Kids] that he used to be friends with and you’ll see what he thinks of them now, after this few month experience that he’s had and gone through. It’s been really interesting getting into the role because I remember in the pilot, whenever I would sit down, I naturally sit kind of slouched, and so whenever I would sit like this [David then leans forward, slouching for effect] on camera, Danny Cannon, our fabulous director, he’d be like “David” and I’d go like that [David then proceeds to sit up, ramrod straight, almost militaristic], like the way Bruce Wayne is supposed to sit because it’s a very different manner that he has and a very different demeanor. He’s very composed, very calm, but even if he’s really angry at somebody, he doesn’t really show it. It’s all very internal and it’s really interesting playing him, and he’s just a very smart, very determined, [and] very strong. He knows what he wants when he wants it; he knows exactly what he wants all the time, and he’s just really, really, really smart and it’s just very interesting getting into the role all the time.
What’cha Reading: I could only imagine how easy it must be to be able to get into the role when you’re surrounded by such great talent. In the way you have a relationship with your director, Danny Cannon, there’s that whole aspect to the relationship Bruce shares with Alfred that has never been shown before…
David Mazouz: It’s a very different relationship that you see than in a lot of the other comic books. I think Sean Pertwee is going to bring a whole different dimension to Alfred that you haven’t really seen before, maybe a little bit with Michael Caine, but never really before that. In a lot of the other versions if Bruce says to Alfred “go do this for me”, Alfred would say “yes Master Bruce” and then go do it. In this, maybe Bruce would say the same thing “go do this for me, Alfred” and Alfred would go “no, I’m not doing that. That’s stupid.” It’s more of a two way street relationship. It’s more of a relationship. They have a friendship; [however] it’s not so clear that Alfred works for Bruce. It’s more that they are friends, but at the same time he does work for Bruce; at the same time he is kind of raising him, at the same time he is his father, but is he supposed to be more strict? Is he supposed to be more lenient because he’s not really his father? [With] all those questions you start to ask yourself later on, and I think somewhere along the line; maybe the middle of the first season, they kind of have a breaking point and they start working together as opposed to working against each other. In the first and second episode you really saw that Alfred doesn’t support this behavior; that he is testing himself and that he doesn’t support it at all and you’ll see that throughout the next episodes. You’ll see that they really start working together, as I said before. Alfred will start teaching him how to fight; he starts boxing. He’ll start helping him with research, Bruce is going to have a lot of research, and he’s going to start to have an obsession of really wanting to see how Gotham works. Alfred is going to help him with that and they are really going to work as one.
What’cha Reading: It speaks to the creative vision of Danny Cannon and Bruno Heller that they’ve chosen to focus this series on the choices men and women make that will eventually give rise to the necessity of Bruce becoming Batman. How much input have WB and the producers given you in following a certain route in portraying Bruce Wayne?
David Mazouz: Actually in the pilot episode I was going crazy buying comic books and doing my full research. They actually said something, not directly to me, but towards the whole cast in general “Don’t really look at the comic books and the graphic novels too much. Don’t look at it in depth and play your character on that because you’re not that character yet.” I’m not Batman yet. The Riddler is not the Riddler yet. The Penguin is not the Penguin yet…
What’cha Reading: And Robin Lord [Taylor] is fantastic as Oswald Cobblepot.
David Mazouz: He’s great. He’s so brilliantly scary, but he’s just so likeable at the same time that you feel bad for him, but he does such awful things that he’s… well amazing. I could go on and on about Robin. He’s the nicest, he’s the sweetest guy also. He’s just such a sweet guy.
But in the show it’s Edward Nygma, not the Riddler. It’s Oswald Cobblepot, not the Penguin, it’s Selina Kyle, not Catwoman. And you’re going to see how each of them become who they are even though each of them start [out] as a regular kid; not necessarily regular because Bruce Wayne is rich and Selina is homeless, but that they are on the same page and in the same boat as most people as they rise above that and become who they are destined to be. In terms of input from producers, it’s really Bruno [Heller, the showrunner] in the pilot gave me a lot of direction of how composed Bruce is. And I really take a lot of inspiration from the previous actors that have played him. I really, really look up to [them]. Like I said, I’m in great company on that list.
What’cha Reading: You certainly are in great company. I’m sure you’ve been asked this countless times – do you have a favorite Batman?
David Mazouz: Ha ha. I don’t have a favorite Batman. They are all so unique and so different. They’ve all brought something different in each of their versions. Christian Bale really brought the darker, more serious side to Batman, whereas Adam West was campy and fun, and was more playful and funny. They’re all the same character, Bruce Wayne/Batman, but they all brought such different sides to him that I couldn’t really pick a favorite. But if I had to choose one for inspiration, to look up to in playing this role, it would have to be Christian Bale because everybody knows Batman as the Dark Knight, but you never really saw that darker [and] more serious, really angry side of him. And that’s a side that you’re going to see of him in “Gotham.” He’s going to be dark, he’s going to be depressed, he’s going to have post traumatic stress disorder, he’s going to have nightmares, he’s going to be very dark in general and so if I had to pick one for inspiration I’d have to pick Christian Bale.
What’cha Reading: I believe Christian’s performance really became the definitive Bruce Wayne/Batman for so many people across the world. And, I truly believe that in the same decisions he made as an actor, audiences have started to pick up that you are doing something that has never been seen before. As you said, Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman and I think that’s a perfect opportunity for you as a young actor to leave your spin on the character that will forever be known as David’s Bruce Wayne (and possibly Batman.)
David Mazouz: Thank you.
With that polite “thank you” and a smile, 13-year-old David gets up from his chair and we’re done with the interview. What follows is just a young boy enjoying his time at Royal Collectibles, a comic book mecca in Queens, NY. He eagerly looks through the fully stocked bookshelves of graphic novels and searches the store for something particular – Jim Gordon merchandise. In conversing with the staff, anyone overhearing this young man speak could tell you that he is very well read in his Batman stories. And after finding a few items that capture his interest, and a belated gift for Ben McKenize (Jim Gordon), he is reminded that he is due at a Queens film studio for a fitting. David Mazouz says his goodbyes, shakes a few hands, and politely leaves in just the same way he arrived – unassuming.
Be sure to watch David on “Gotham”, 8 p.m. ET Monday nights on FOX. Check your local listings. And be sure to follow David on Twitter at https://twitter.com/realdavidmazouz