If you haven’t jumped on the Gotham bandwagon yet, you’re missing out. The highly entertaining FOX program has taken the nation by storm with characters you can’t take your eyes off of and storylines that leave you on the edge of your seat. The show is set in a pre-Batman time (Bruce Wayne is still just a young boy) but that doesn’t mean the program doesn’t have its heroes. In fact, a real life hero is part of a very talented cast.
For Batman maniacs like myself, this show is a must see, but what makes Gotham truly special is that a non-Batman follower could very well enjoy it just as much. It’s a good cop show. It’s a good mob show. The hour always flies by.
The actors of Gotham deliver on their respective characters. Ben McKenzie shines as Detective Jim Gordon, before his days as commissioner. His partner Harvey Bullock, played by Donal Logue often steals the show. We learn that Alfred was quite the badass in his younger years. Sean Pertwee plays the Wayne Manor butler and his job often includes some serious fisticuffs along with the expected cooking and cleaning.
The villains and villains-to-be are amazing. Robin Lord Taylor’s portrayal of the iconic Penguin is the talk of social media every Monday night. Meantime, fans wait with anticipation as Edward Nygma, who has yet to morph into the Riddler, shows us signs of what mayhem he may be capable of down the road. Cory Michael Smith plays a spot on Nygma especially when he’s awkwardly dealing with the delightful Chelsea Spack, the actress who delivers big time as the bookish Kristen Kringle.
The mafia aspect of Gotham really makes things cook. John Doman gives a very believable performance as mob boss Carmine Falcone. His run-ins with Fish Mooney, a character created just for the show are priceless. Jada Pinkett Smith’s Mooney may be under five feet, but she stands tall when confronting some very bad boys in Gotham city.
To me, there hasn’t been appointment television like this since The Sopranos. Like The Sopranos, Gotham has a mob family playing a major role. The show uses music and humor brilliantly, something else The Sopranos did so well.
But without Batman how can the show thrive? Isn’t the Caped Crusader the hero? Yes–and he’s there–but he’s just a child. Catwoman and Poison Ivy are also youngsters in this adaptation. It works. We learn about Gordon’s courage and heroism and we get to see young Bruce develop the mindset that will ultimately make him the Dark Knight. Just because Bruce is wet behind the Bat ears doesn’t mean the show has no heroes. Quite the contrary.
Look no further than Detective Carlos Alvarez, the philandering, often quiet cop on the Gotham City Police Department. Doesn’t sound too heroic? Well, it’s not so much Alvarez but the man who portrays him. JW Cortes is an actual New York City police officer. He’s also a retired Marine who served in Iraq. When it comes to heroes, Cortes is one of a few who Batman has nothing on.
This isn’t Cortes’ first foray into television but it is certainly a huge break. He teamed up with Todd Palin on the reality program Stars Earn Stripes. There he got to be himself. On Gotham it’s about acting chops and Cortes got the job like anyone else would. “Like most actors, I’ve been working hard training and auditioning for nearly eight years,” Cortes told Breitbart News. “I booked the role after an audition.”
A role that he treasures and a role that he knows comes with the responsibility of nurturing the American institution that is Batman. Growing up in Brooklyn, the 39-year old Cortes became a big fan of the Dynamic Duo. “I remember, quite vividly watching as a little boy, Adam West and Burt Ward on our television and reenacting all the parts of the fight scenes with sound effects and all,” Cortes said. “I’d have to say I also had a love/hate relationship with the genius of Cesar Romero’s ‘Joker.’ I couldn’t help watching him just as much as I was afraid of him.”
Through the filming of Gotham, Cortes has discovered some similarities and differences in being a cop and playing a cop.”Coming from a place of authenticity always helps when crafting for any role,” he said. “When a part feels so close to me it helps tremendously, it also informs my choices. So for example, do I understand the realistic expectations of procedural police work? Yes, I do. Do I also understand the joy of following through with a victim and helping them find closure? Yes, I do. Do I understand that much of what a cop does goes unnoticed and unreported? Yes, I do – and, that’s why it’s a job that demands you be there for all the right reasons.”
This is Gotham, however, and the DC Comics aspect is not lost on Cortes. “On the flip side, I think that Gotham presents a lot of unique opportunities in the way we get to meet villains and come to understand their methodology. They might not be a Penguin running through the streets of New York City but there are other kinds of threats to us in the form of terrorism and lone-wolves.”
Watch five minutes of Gotham and one thing stands out. It’s gritty and often very dark–figuratively and literally. The GCPD precinct has that Batman ambiance to it for sure. That can get to a real man of law enforcement. “Although they can sometimes be a bit bleak, I wouldn’t say anything quite compares to the GCPD,” said Cortes. “In episode seven when the precinct basically surrendered to Victor Zsasz’s requests I, as JW the police officer, had a tough time with that one.”
Some of Cortes’ fellow officers have jokingly dubbed him “Officer Hollywood” since his new found fame. Meanwhile, Hollywood vets are getting to know Cortes the actor. “At first they didn’t know about my police or military background,” Cortes said. “But when certain things came up on set, and I demonstrated a level of confidence in the use of tactics and understanding the sensibility of the workings of a precinct, I think it became pretty obvious. I’m glad that they met me first as a trained actor who can handle himself and the work.”
As much as viewers have enjoyed tuning in each week, Gotham’s cast is having a ball as well. “Overall I love everything about the show in regards to the aesthetics, the storyline, the characters,” Cortes said. “I get to spend time with these impeccable actors and crew, and they are all such amazing human beings in it for all of the right reasons. It is very inspiring and infectious. I’m very, very blessed to be a part of that world.”
The show has been riveting. Several villains have been introduced. Others may or may not be on the way. Rumors as to who may turn out to be Joker have lit up the Internet. Is Miss Kringle Harley Quinn? We will get none of these answers here. “I have absolutely zero-percent knowledge of what’s to come and usually only learn what is happening a week or so before we begin shooting,” Cortes told Breitbart News. “I’ve learned that it can be very exciting to work this way.”
Along with being a military vet and a police officer, Cortes is a devoted family man. He and his wife have two sons and a dog named, quite appropriately, Blue. Normal in every way, except of course for this awesome little gig on Gotham. So what does his wife think of the storyline that Detective Alvarez is a notorious cheater?
“We teamed up with the USO, Ben McKenzie, and the folks over at Fort Hamilton to give the troops and their families a private screening of episode eight,” said Cortes. “I was in the audience watching the episode with my family when that moment came up. Let’s just say that I received a generous/affectionate elbow to my side with a comment that said ‘…good job with the scene, but that was entirely too real.'”
As for his boys, it’s what you’d expect from kids who have hardworking, present, loving parents. “Although they are still very much mama’s boys, on Mondays daddy can do no wrong,” laughed Cortes.
He’s already fought for us overseas and in the concrete jungle of the Big Apple, and now JW Cortes is having the time of his life. “Things have changed and are changing every day,” Cortes said. “The changes have come in a lot of ways but one of the most significant ways is that it has helped me do a lot more of the work that I feel is very important outside of acting. And, that is activism. Advocating for those who are currently serving, and have served our nation and helping to raise funds for research that directly supports children afflicted with certain diseases and illnesses, is very important to me. As my name continues to grow I plan to do a lot more of that work.”
Batman may not be donning the cape and cowl just yet, but clearly Gotham has its good guy. His name is JW Cortes.