SPOILER ALERT! This post contains details from the series premiere of The CW‘s Gotham Knights.
The CW’s Gotham Knights premiered Monday and, with it, Misha Collins made his return to the network, about three years after the end of his 12-season run on Supernatural.
In Gotham Knights, Collins plays Harvey Dent, Gotham’s charismatic, hard-charging District Attorney. With a rigid sense of right and wrong, Harvey’s idealism and single-minded quest for justice will ironically and tragically transform him into one of Gotham’s most feared supervillains, Two-Face.
The series picks up in the aftermath of Bruce Wayne’s murder, with his rebellious adopted son forging an unlikely alliance with the children of Batman’s enemies when they are all framed for killing the Caped Crusader. In the season premiere, Dent is still the straight-laced DA, who is desperately trying to solve Wayne’s murder and take care of his son.
“You can count on him to do the right thing, and he is uncompromised and he is really taking Batman’s adopted son now, who is a second-time orphan, under his wing. He’s trying to actually ferret out who killed that man, and you trust him and you like him,” Collins told Deadline.
Eventually, the tides will change for Dent as he evolves into Two-Face. “It’s a very complicated version of this villain, and because we explore the mechanisms by which he has his psychotic break, it also feels real,” Collins said.
The actor spoke with Deadline about taking on the role of one of DC’s most iconic supervillains, how this version of Harvey Dent/Two-Face differs from others that audiences may have seen, and whether fans might expect to see him appear in The CW’s Supernatural prequel The Winchesters.
DEADLINE: The CW brought you such a large and passionate fanbase with Supernatural. How did you feel about returning to the network, this time in a different yet very iconic role?
MISHA COLLINS: It’s funny because when I got that job, I went to an event where there were all of these executives from The CW, and folks that I had worked with for a decade or more, and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s so nice.’ It’s actually both The CW and Warner Brothers [Television], this production, so there are folks under both shingles that were involved in the project [that were also involved in Supernatural], but then there’s been a change in leadership at the CW since we started filming. The network was purchased by Nexstar. So we have said goodbye to some old faces that were a part of The CW for a long time, and now I’m getting to meet a new cast of characters there. This feels very familiar though, all in all, to be a part of the same network and the same studio. It’s cool to have that kind of lineage and legacy. It’s a little bit different because toward the end of our run on Supernatural, we were kind of guaranteed that we would have another season if we wanted it. And at the moment, because of all of the changes that are happening at The CW and frankly in television industry wide, we’re not finishing out the first season [of Gotham Knights] with the same kind of guarantees that we had on Supernatural. But we were spoiled by that. Let’s be honest, that kind of job security is very rare in this business.
DEADLINE: You’re playing Harvey Dent, and from what I understand the show will follow his journey as he becomes Two-Face. That’s a very well known character arc. Were there any nerves about being the latest to take it on?
COLLINS: Maybe foolishly, I wasn’t nervous about that. I was excited. And I guess they say nervousness and excitement are close kin in your emotional body. So, who knows? One of the things that really got me excited about this show at the outset was that in the very first meeting that I had with the producers and writers, they described the arc that they were envisioning for Harvey Dent in his evolution, or devolution, into becoming Two-Face. I was like, ‘Well, that sounds like something that any actor would be an idiot to pass up.’ It sounded like a once in a lifetime opportunity because what they wanted to do and what we ultimately ended up doing is starting with a character who really has it all together. He is basically the cornerstone of morality and righteousness at the outset of the show. You can count on him to do the right thing, and he is uncompromised, and he is really taking Batman’s adopted son now, who is a second-time orphan, under his wing. He’s trying to actually ferret out who killed that man, and you trust him and you like him. Then over time, you see that he’s fighting his own inner demons. He had a traumatic childhood. He has a family history of mental illness, and he’s starting to see cracks in his own psyche emerge. He’s starting to unravel, and he’s trying his hardest to hold it together. But you know, he’s good. You’re rooting for him, and yet you see this fracture happening, and it’s tragic. Ultimately, when he becomes Two-Face, because the audience has gotten to know him, you can’t help but still kind of root for him. So it’s a very complicated version of this villain, and because we explore the mechanisms by which he has his psychotic break, it also feels real. In the past, on screen, the versions that we’ve seen of Harvey Dent becoming Two-Face, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. Would somebody make that 180-degree switch on a dime because of one traumatic incident? That doesn’t quite make sense.’ But here, it totally makes sense. And ultimately, you see Harvey painted into such a corner that you can’t imagine any other way out.
DEADLINE: We’re also seeing Gotham through the eyes of some of these characters’ children. How does it feel to be crafting this story with Bruce Wayne’s son and The Joker’s daughter at the forefront, rather than those characters themselves?
COLLINS: I think it’s cool, because there’s the opportunity to draw on this canon of lore. I mean, it’s a part of our collective consciousness, the Batman universe, the city of Gotham, we all kind of understand that vocabulary. We know what it’s about. But what we’re doing here is making it about the next generation. So we’re able to explore that world without rehashing the same characters that we’ve all seen on screen so many times. There are exceptions to that in our show, but the most notable exception is my character. I think we solved that problem by doing such a deep, dark dive with the character and getting to know him so well in a manner that we’ve never seen on screen before. That it ends up feeling like ‘Oh, well, this is the definitive Harvey Dent story.’ If we brought The Joker on or if we spent a lot of time with Batman, then there’s a lot of comparing and contrasting that goes on and it gets complicated. I think that Harvey Dent ends up helping to anchor it to the lineage of the Batman universe. It really ties everything in without hamstringing us into a certain version of narratives. All the other characters are free to explore the universe in a new way, which is from a narrative standpoint very freeing.
DEADLINE: In the first episode, Harvey says that Turner is like family to him. How is it going to impact him to see his pseudo-uncle turn into a villain?
COLLINS: For reasons that I can’t quite explain, the real emotional weight of Harvey’s transition to Two-Face falls on characters other than Turner. That’s a teaser, but it’s true.
DEADLINE: You’ve spoken a lot about how Harvey’s arc is going to unfold. What else can we expect from Season 1 of Gotham Knights?
COLLINS: Over the course of the season, what we’re ultimately seeing is that the enemy is a well organized, quasi-governmental network of bad operatives — the Court of Owls. The Court of Owls is this secret nefarious group that is thirsty for power. As the season evolves, we learn [they’re searching] for powers in the more superhero sense of the term, and that makes it an interesting nemesis for us because there are all of these different emissaries of the Court of Owls that we end up fighting. But the whole season, we’re actually not quite getting our hand on who’s running the Court of Owls. It’s this mysterious nefarious evil that feels impossible to penetrate. Ultimately, I can’t tell you what happens, but it’s satisfying.
DEADLINE: You previously expressed some interest in making a return to Castiel by appearing in The Winchesters. Were there any serious conversations about it, and is it something we might expect in a potential Season 2?
COLLINS: We did have conversations about Castiel rejoining the Supernatural universe for the end of this first season of The Winchesters but for various reasons, it didn’t work out. But Jensen [Ackles] and I are certainly open to it. We’ve had several conversations about it and would love to explore how to best do that in subsequent seasons of The Winchesters.