‘Gotham’ co-star Cory Michael Smith discusses slowly building to The Riddler

Given the limited amount of time he's featured in the pilot for “Gotham,” Cory Michael Smith is appearing in a lot of the FOX drama's publicity.

In fact, chances are good that if Smith were just playing any old character working in the Gotham Police Department, you'd merely think the guy was a little bit quirky, a little bit weird, a little bit mysterious. Dare I say you might call the character a bit of an…

No. Don't use the word “enigma.” 

The 27-year-old Smith is experiencing a career breakout that stretches back to his Broadway debut in “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” a role in the Sundance drama “Camp X-Ray” and a part in HBO's upcoming miniseries “Olive Kitteridge,” but it's “Gotham” that has put him on billboards around Los Angeles, an interesting feat for a role that is in the pilot for maybe a minute.

Smith plays Edward Nygma in the pilot and interest has focused less on who the character is — he's actually a fairly helpful good guy, assisting the cops in their investigation — and more on who he will eventually be, specifically the Batman villain known as The Riddler.

When I sat down with Smith, though, he made it clear that his interest is in Edward Nygma, rather than nefarious puzzle poser he will eventually become. In order to fill out his initially slight part, he had a long conversation with series creator Bruno Heller before the pilot to make sure that he understood where the character was progressing beyond that introductory scene.

“Ed, everyone knows him as The Riddler, which he will eventually become, but it's like 'Let's start as far away from that as possible,'” Smith says. “It's more interesting and it's certainly much more fun for me and the writers. So we wanted to capture his joy in working on the good side and his joy in understanding crimes and investigating crimes and being a forensic scientist.”

So does that mean that we won't be getting a “Riddle me this…” on “Gotham”?

“The whole idea of the 'Riddle me this' in the comics is it's a challenge and it's a very aggressive kind of challenge, a very taunting challenge and that's not where we're coming from yet,” Smith says, while admitting that should we get there in the series, he'll come up with his own spin on the line.

In our interview, posted above, Smith discusses the potential influence of previous Riddlers, from Frank Gorshin — I accidentally called him “Gorham,” I think… Apologies — to Jim Carrey, as well as what he's been able to take from his own comic reading.

Check out the interview above.

Also check out my chat with “Gotham” star Ben McKenzie.

“Gotham” premieres on Monday, September 22 at 8 p.m. on FOX.