From Sidekick to Super Villain
Drew Powell appreciates his place in the Gotham universe.
Drew Powell has had quite an evolution on Fox’s Gotham.
Introduced as minor character Butch Gilzean in season one, Powell enters season 4 with a new name – two, in fact – and a much larger role. At the end of season 3, it was revealed that Butch’s real name is Cyrus Gold, which perked up the ears of longtime fans of the Batman mythos. Gold morphs into super villain Solomon Grundy this season, which is a far cry from the sidekick he started out playing.
It was all a part of the plan, according to Powell. “Bruno Heller, the showrunner and creator, told me when I started, 'Just be patient. People will underestimate Butch until it’s too late.' And I was patient and I trusted him, and by the time we got to the end of season one, he [Butch] really had as much to do with the outcome of the show as anybody. He shot Fish and all that.
“And then he’s tried all the different players: he’s worked with Penguin, he’s worked with Tabby and Babs, and it’s been great. For me, I’ve gotten to work with all these different actors, and we all are so close on this show, and we love each other, so it’s been fun to have the opportunity to play with all the different folks, depending on the season or part of the season, and now this is a whole new cast.
“I have to say, I love Butch, but it’s really fun to get a chance to try something new, and we’ll see if Butch is still inside, or if Cyrus is still inside Grundy, and that will be a fun thing to play, as well."
Powell also appreciates working in a show that is different from the norm.
“I’ve said this many times, as an actor, you just really want to work. That’s all you care about. You don’t really care what it is. But if you get the chance to work and are lucky enough to have a gig like this, you really feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. This is no basic procedural. We get to do all kinds of fun stuff. I’ve gotten to do things on this show that I didn’t get to do on any other show, and I do not take that for granted, I can tell you. “
He also doesn’t take for granted the fan base that is unique to television based on comic books. The cast regularly participates in comic book and science fiction conventions across the country, including the famous San Diego ComicCon.
“That’s been a whole new world for me. I hadn’t even known that world existed, outside of ComiCon in San Diego, and now I realize that every weekend, there’s several all over the world. And for me, I just find it such an awesome opportunity to get to interact with fans in a one-on-one basis, and hear what they have to say, because I hadn’t seen it.
"People really care about a show like this. That’s its nature, a comic book show, a serialized show, people really care about it, so it’s been really neat to see fans of all ages, I have to say. You have sometimes multiple generations, three, four generations in a family coming up to the table and say, 'Yeah, we all watch it together' and that’s really neat.
"So, that’s been an unexpected joy. I have friends that have been on other great shows, like Mad Men, and things like that, and they don’t get the opportunity, because that show doesn’t fit into that genre, so I feel like that’s kind of an added bonus to this show to get to do that.”
Powell has a large following on social media, as well, with over 35,000 Twitter followers.
“I have to say, it’s something I had to learn to do with this show because I do think it’s important to represent your brand, what you are as an actor. I’m an independent contractor, and it’s a good way, I think, to have fan interaction. Outside of a fan letter, it’s the only way to interact with your favorite actors or singers or athletes or whatever, and social media is a very unique way to do that.
"It appeals to my ADD nature, which is bad sometimes, so I have to sometimes put that phone away and walk away for a while, but mostly it’s been neat to see that interaction and also connect with other people, people that I’m fans of. That part is cool.”
He also likes the fact that social media is allowing him to show another side to his work and personality. “I also like that it allows people to see different sides.
"One of the things that happened by chance was this thing I do called Hotel Bathroom Sessions, which literally happened when I was doing a press thing in L.A., and I happened to have my guitar there, because I was bringing it back to New York, and it had this cavernous bathroom, and I thought, wow, the acoustics are great.
"So I recorded a couple of songs in there, and I thought – because I’m a musician, as well – and I haven’t had as many opportunities to show that. So, then I thought, gee, I’m in a lot of different hotel bathrooms. This should be a thing I do. I get one-minute bursts in song wherever I am and that’s been fun. I’ve really been digging that. It does allow you to do different things.
"Or see [different things]. I saw my buddy Millie Bobby Brown the other day, and we posted a photo, and people were like, 'Oh my gosh, you guys are friends!' It allows the fans to get a glimpse into the world outside of just the show that you happen to be on at the moment.”
Appreciation is an ongoing theme for Powell, from appreciating his fans to appreciating those with whom he works. “It’s not just lip service, we really do appreciate all of our fans and them watching, and they’re really the reason that we do it. It’s not lost on me that with all the competition, to be on a show that’s going into its fourth season.
"I’m thankful, a. that the show’s good, and b. that I get to be a part of it, particularly this season that I get to reinvent myself in this new role. I’ve spent a lot of time with a trainer physically to get ready, and doing research on the character. We take this stuff seriously. I think I speak for all of us when I say that.
"And I think the fans really appreciate that. It’s exciting for us to start the new season with stuff that we’ve been working on since mid-June that finally gets to come to the light of day and the fans get to see it. I’m biased, but I think this season is the best one yet. It just keeps getting better and better, they keep figuring out what this stuff’s going to be and pushing it to new levels and darker places and I think this season is no different.
“I have to add a shout out to John Stephens and Danny Cannon and Bruno Heller, the writers. I’m continually amazed with what they can come up with, how they’re able to improve. Twenty-two episodes is a lot of television. I haven’t done the numbers, but I’m willing to bet that 90% of the episodes that are nominated for writing, directing, acting were shows that do 10-12 episodes a season.
"To do 10-12 more episodes more per season is just a big deal. That’s a lot of time spent. I’m started to feel disappointed sometimes. It’s starting to feel like there’s two different categories, the pay-TV category where the series are smaller, which allows them to do more, and then the network categories, certainly on the drama side, that have a lot more to cover and more constraints.
"There’s a part of me that wishes there were a network TV drama category, a pay TV drama category, a cable TV category.
“I don’t know that people get this, but for those of us who understand how television is made, it’s a whole different thing. We’re doing twice the work with half the recognition. It’s not about that, but it is important to recognize good quality work, and I think that’s a part of the equation that’s not acknowledged in the way that it should be.
"I’m not complaining about that, but it is something I’ve noticed. It is what it is. And the way TV is going, who knows what the future holds? We could be the last of a dying breed. I hope not. I hope there’s always going to be [shows like this]. There are qualities about this show, being on a national network and doing that many shows, it's going to be a little different.
"But, we started with, and I’ll end with just complimenting our incredible writing staff and producers for keeping this ship afloat.”