Bellus Magazine (BM): What inspired you to get into acting?
Cameron Monaghan (CM): I get this question very often. Long story short, I started very young (acting in my first movie at eight). I had too much energy and imagination and my mom needed a creative outlet for it. I grew up watching film and television so it was a natural fit. Since I’ve answered that question many times, at the risk of derailing this interview with the very first response, perhaps I can redirect that into a new one which can result in a fresher answer. That new question being,
Which I think is the desire, a hunger, for new experiences. I think actors are a strange breed. We have a short attention span, especially for our own personalities. We desire desperately to be new people, to see the world through a new lens, the eyes of another. I know with each new character I play, it changes how I perceive other people, it affects my empathy and understanding of who they are as well as who I am. I think that’s ultimately why people love stories so much, isn’t it? We desire that vicarious experience. We want to walk in other people’s shoes, we want to experience new lives to better comprehend our own. I suppose being an actor is that sensation, but amped-up on steroids.
BM: How do you continue to stay inspired and working towards acting career?
CM: It’s no big secret or mystery: I love my job. Ultimately, I love the puzzle of it all, of piecing a personality together, of grabbing little bits over here from my real life and putting them over there in a fictional one. Inspiration is everywhere. It’s in a funny story a friend tells, in the way a stranger limps down the street, or the peculiar way he might wear his cap on the back of his head. I try to stay diligent, create a little bank in my head, a repository of quirks and behaviors and ideas that might one day be used. “Steal like an artist” as they say. And of course consuming good media is important too. Every time I read a great book, or a comic, or watch an excellent film, tv show, even cartoon, I get this nagging little itch urging me to create.
CM: It’s great. It’s this thing I’ve grown up with for so long. I’ve watched my fellow actors mature as their characters have developed. I’ve learned firsthand the process of creating a show and compelling storytelling, all from the inside. It’s such a rare opportunity, a real gift, to gain such experience from these many talented, fine people. I feel lucky I’ve been able to cut my teeth with this show, learn what it is I like and don’t like, what I find honest and not, what goals I want to accomplish, or at least strive for, as an actor. I started so young on this show and I’ve certainly made mistakes (I still do!) and learned from them, and I’m so lucky to be able to do that in the midst of people I truly respect and admire, my costars and crew.
BM: How did you prepare for the role as the Jerome (Joker) on Gotham?
CM: Just consuming as much Bat-media as I possibly could. I had the benefit of having years of experience in that already, being a big comicbook fan growing up. I see Jerome as a sort of love letter to all seventy-five years of Joker history and mythos thus far, so I wanted to research as much as I possibly could, finding ways I could tribute or homage the character in his many different forms. That meant reading every Joker comic I could get my hands on, watching all of his different animated appearances, sampling literally every actor who’s touched the role, live-action or otherwise. From there it was then down to choosing what aspects I felt were compelling and applicable for Jerome and developing my own laugh, voice, posture, etc.
BM: Would you ever be willing to take on the Joker character in a Batman movie?
CM: Perhaps, if it felt right. It would mean conversations with the director and producers. You have to understand, my take would most likely be VERY different from Jerome. You see, Jerome is purposely tailored to Gotham’s slightly-fantastical, heightened, even campy nature. He’s youthful and manic and imposing in his own over-the-top way that I think that universe’s Joker should be. A film version would most likely be significantly more sinister, quiet, and much, much weirder. I’d want to do something that hadn’t been done on the big screen before. And that would require many, many conversations with the film’s creators as well as months of contemplation, which ultimately might not even result in me deciding to do it. Lastly, The Joker would have to be specifically suited to be a proper inverse of that story’s Batman. After all, what’s the point of The Joker if he doesn’t properly compliment The Dark Knight?
CM: Foremost is music. I like to listen to what that character might enjoy, or music from that era if it’s a period piece, or just songs that put me in a similar emotion headspace as my guy. There’s something about music that slips past the subconscious and can completely affect mood and behavior. From there, clothes are so important. It’s amazing how much a pair of pants or a specific jacket can inform whether you feel like someone. And shoes. Shoes are so important. Finally, it’s just bringing your personal experience to the role. Finding common ground from your own life with your characters until the two blend and seamlessly interact. That what The Method truly is, to me anyway.
BM: What is one of the best pieces of advice you have received given as an actor?
CM: “Keep your head down, don’t be an asshole, be persistent. You’ll make it.” It was from a stand-up comic, but I think it’s applicable to actors too.
BM: If you weren’t an actor, what profession would you choose?
CM: Screenwriter, director, producer. All of which, I’d like to transition into eventually. If I couldn’t be in the entertainment industry, who knows… Probably something illegal. Is being dead or in jail considered a profession?
BM: Are you working on any current projects? What is next for you?
CM: I’m currently working on Shameless, about halfway through the season. I’m possibly returning to Gotham sometime in the near future. I also have four or five lead roles in indie films. The only one that’s currently announced is a starring role in Anna Dressed in Blood, a supernatural action-comedy-romance picture based off a young-adult novel being produced by Stephanie Meyer. I’m really excited about that one, the script is a blast and the role is very different than one I’ve gotten to show before, he’s got this Han Solo sarcastic, swashbuckling swagger to him. I’m looking forward to working with our director, Trish Sie, on that one.
BM: What are some of your favorite movies of all time?
CM: That’s such a difficult question. I watch so many movies, and I feel every time you come out of a great movie you go, “That was the greatest movie I’ve ever seen!” I just don’t know. I’m currently looking at my living room wall; I have a couple dozen different pictures of actors I admire framed and I look at it whenever I feel stuck. I’ll just name same of the movies from my wall: Taxi Driver, Chinatown, Reservoir Dogs, Fight Club, Brick, American Psycho, Sunset Boulevard, Cool Hand Luke, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. That last one wasn’t even on my wall but I’m including it anyway. I don’t know, too many to count.
CM: I answered this one in the video, but I’m not sure I answered it very coherently. I’m too nervous to go back and look (and I hate watching myself) so I’ll just try again here. I think beauty is by definition something temporary, fleeting. It exists, not really by itself, but as a part of other things. Beauty is a modifier. Allow me to get a little pretentious here, by that I mean beauty can be a moment of kindness between strangers. It can be when light casts the perfect shadow across a woman’s cheek bone. It can be the spark of inspiration in a child’s eye when he watches a great film for the first time. It can be the way a lion moves on a hunt. An ember floating and disappearing into the night sky. Like the bloom of a flower, beauty is not destined to last forever. Beauty’s companion is tragedy. It slips by us and leaves us dumbstruck for a few awesome moments. I think that’s why artists are so obsessed with capturing beauty, we want to immortalize that which cannot naturally exist forever.