Misha Collins Previews Gotham Knights' Harvey Dent

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Misha Collins Previews Gotham Knights’ Harvey Dent

Another year means another new DC TV show for The CW as we are returning to Gotham City, but a very different one this time around. This week, Gotham Knights finally premiere on The CW, which follows the story of Turner Hayes and a group of teenagers who get framed for Batman’s murder. As they have to clear their name, a key player will also emerge in the form of Harvey Dent, played by Supernatural star, Misha Collins, who is trading in his angelic wings for a powerful business suit as the District Attorney. 

The Flash Podcast and Multiverse of Color’s Andy Behbakht recently had the honor of chatting with Collins about his entry into the DC Universe. Throughout the interview, the Supernatural and Gotham Knights lead reflects on getting the gig and the lengths the show takes this Harvey before becoming the infamous Batman villain, Two-Face. Collins also opens up about meeting fan expectations before the show has even premiered and how Gotham Knights stand out from The CW’s many DC TV shows.

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TFP/MoC: You’re familiar with big fandoms, but what were your ties to the comic book lore of it all like? Were you a big DC fan growing up?

Misha Collins: I think I was a fan to the extent that I don’t think you can escape of being an American boy and not be a fan of Batman and Superman. At some point along the way, I dressed up as Batman for Halloween at one point. I saw all the movies. But I was never a comic book fan per se. The closest I got was a read all of the Tintin, I guess. Those are kinds of graphic novels. I was never personally really a comic book fan. But I knew who the character was. Obviously, I had seen a couple of Batman movies that featured Two-Face/Harvey Dent. So, just to be folded into that universe is a thrill. My kids are into it as well, my son in particular; he’s 12 now. He watched all of the shows, Arrow, Legends, The Flash, and those DC-CW shows, so he’s excited.

TFP/MoC: Has he been able to watch your show yet in advance?

Misha Collins: I might preview it for them before Tuesday, but they haven’t watched it yet.

TFP/MoC: How did this project come to you? Was this something that you had to audition for or did they come to you?

Misha Collins: I think it was somewhere in between those two; I didn’t actually audition for it. But I met on a Zoom with the producers and writers. We had a lengthy conversation about the role. I think I think that I tricked them into casting me partly by about how I had harbored political ambitions before I was an actor, I interned at the White House and I worked at National Public Radio in Washington, DC. I thought that’s what I was going to go into with my life Harvey Dent is the district attorney, which is an elected office, but he also has aspirations for the mayor’s office. And I think that they thought, ‘Oh, we’re maybe getting something that’s a little bit along the lines of the real deal here!’ Of course, they were woefully disappointed when they discovered that, in fact, I was just phoning it in. But that was the process, and I was thrilled by the prospect of playing this role in this universe in the manner in which the story is being told, as they explained it to me in that first conversation that we had on Zoom. 

This is a version of Harvey Dent that we haven’t seen before. We’re getting to see because it’s not just taking place in a two hour segment on screen, but it’s actually evolving over the course of 13 episodes. We’re getting to see Harvey Dent as the District Attorney, the unflinching champion of justice for the city of Gotham. He’s very upstanding. He has a strong moral compass. He also is really taking Turner Hayes, who’s Batman’s adopted son, under his wing soon as Batman dies, which is really the opening of the series. I was Bruce Wayne’s best friend. I knew Turner Hayes, his adopted son from childhood. So I really take him under my wing and I’m like a surrogate uncle, but I’m stepping into the role of surrogate father for him. You see that paternal affection you root for him to be helping Turner as Turner’s life gets more and more complicated. He’s very quickly accused of murdering his own father falsely accused of murdering his own father. But the evolution of the character is such that he starts with, being unambiguously good and a real protector and advocate for the other characters in the show.

As time goes on, we see that he’s fighting his own inner demons. He’s struggling against his own genetic, mental illness. He’s fighting the demons that came from a very traumatic childhood. He’s trying to hold it together. He’s trying to be a good and upstanding person, but it’s really hard. So that becomes a tragic story arc as the dark side, the Two-Face side of Harvey Dent emerges. As it was described to me, in that initial meeting, I was like, ‘Well, that sounds awesome to play. Sign me up.’ My only compunction about it was that my kids are in Southern California, and the show was to shoot on the East Coast. And I was like, ‘Oh, how am I gonna make that work?’ Then I told my kids, ‘I don’t know how to make this work. I really want to do this. But you guys are here and I’d be across the country.’ They were like, ‘Dad, do it, do it!’ I think that they thought erroneously it would make me cool if I did it. So it was with their blessing that I eagerly took the job.

TFP/MoC: When I was watching the screeners, as I’m a huge DC/Batman fan myself, it really made me realize that, yeah, Harvey is perfect for serialized television. Because two hours for some villains that works. But with someone like Harvey who is so complex because he’s not born evil. He’s a good man that goes on this trajectory. When you got into this, did you go look at some of the backstory of Harvey like in the comics?

Misha Collins: I did, and like many things in both DC and Marvel, it’s actually kind of a hodgepodge. There’s all of these different versions of Harvey Dent in the comic books, like there’s all these different iterations. It’s not all just one consistent through line. What precipitated the disfiguration, there are different versions of that. What the exact story about his childhood, [there] was different versions of that. It was a cool opportunity to cherry pick and take the best elements from different versions of Harvey Dent from the comics over the years. I definitely feel like the Dark Knight did a pretty good job of having that tragic element. We knew Harvey Dent as an upstanding ally and then he snaps because the worst thing imaginable happens to him both personally and his relationship that he loses but also physically disfigured. We did something different with this. We showed the fragility of Harvey Dent going up to leading up to a tragic event. And I want to reveal more than I’m allowed to. Ultimately, though, I think that there’s something problematic in the storytelling of somebody has a disfiguring accident and it makes them evil. That’s actually not how it works and it’s also saying something bad about physical disabilities and disfigurement. So I really love what we did, which is this person was already on a knife’s edge. This person was already fragile. He was already barely keeping it together when this precipitating incident happens.

TFP/MoC: Not to spoil our viewers too much, but one of the episodes, we see Harvey at a therapists office talking about his fear, and I wasn’t prepared for how much they were gonna go into his complex relationship with his father. How much more do we get to see of that for the rest of the season? Because we get to a point where Harvey becomes someone you root for, and it’s almost like I don’t want to see him become Two-Face, even though we know that is his destiny.

Misha Collins: We see a fair amount more there – I think episode 10 is very juicy and there’s a lot of talk about childhood there. But I think that even when Harvey becomes Two-Face in our show – because we’ve gotten to know him so well – we’ve seen all of the tragic elements that led up to that, there’s still a part of the audience that keeps rooting for him. There’s still a part of you that has developed such a deep empathy for the character that you can’t help but kind of root for even the Two-Face version of Harvey. Anyway, we’ll see I don’t know if that plays out. That’s how I certainly felt about the character playing him. I was like ‘Yeah, I get it dude, this makes sense.’ Not probably what I would do in that situation. But when he comes to this, we have so thoroughly been on the journey with him at that point that I don’t even think when Harvey becomes Two-Face, that we stopped rooting for him altogether.

TFP/MoC: I know you probably can’t say what episode that happens, but I know you shared something on Instagram where you were like testing on some make-up for Two-Face. Whenever that episode airs, can you at least talk about what the experience was like to bringing that to life?

Misha Collins: I felt like a child! It’s like the mask that we have, the appliance and the makeup – our special effects makeup artists is an award winner and amazing. The side of my face that is mutilated is so realistic looking and so gruesome that I wouldn’t show my children photos of it. I’m not sure how I’m going to navigate that because I know they’re going to want to watch the show. But it was just so cool that that can be done. I was just so amazed that you can actually have a practical application like that. It’s not CGI. It’s a real makeup appliance that I was just walking around showing everybody, taking videos and showing my best friends. I was gleeful even though it took four hours to put it on and 45 minutes off. I was still like, ‘This is super fun. This is super cool.’ This is the dress up, make believe part of the job [laughs] that’s actually – I hate to say it – but brings out the kid in me. it was pretty fun. I could imagine if I do it for another few years and every day I’m doing it – it takes hours and hours – I am sure I will start grumbling about it. But so far I found it fun like a kid with the coolest Halloween costume in school.

TFP/MoC: I was afraid of that it was going to leak somehow because you know how things can get sometimes with set photos, whatever. But thankfully, it has been all under wrap so that I’m excited for whenever we get to see it. So what do you do throughout those four hours, listen to podcasts or what?

Misha Collins: There’s too much stuff going on around my face, and my face has to be turned in different directions by the artists. It takes a couple of people working on it to put it on. I can’t really watch anything, but you can listen to podcasts. So the three of us all listen to podcasts that we then can discuss as we’re listening. So it was actually fairly entertaining – we pass the time quite nicely. But I’ve heard stories about actors like who are consistently going into the chair for their makeup appliances on Marvel films where it’s nine hours in the chair to get the makeup done. And I’ve heard stories about actors who actually sleep during the process. [laughs] Who knows, that could happen at some point in the future for me.

TFP/MoC: Can you talk about working with this cast of young actors because for them, this is their big first genre show and you are already a pro at that. So how was it working with them?

Misha Collins: It was great. Everybody, all of the regular cast on the show – and frankly, even the guest cast that we had along the way – everyone just showed up to work, really psyched to be there. And having done their homework and thought a lot about what we were filming that day. The level of professionalism that these young actors brought to the table was in stark contrast [laughs] to myself, Jared and Jensen when we were on Supernatural in season 15. We were just basically having a food fight on set every day. So it was really cool to work with this cast and I’m saying this without hyperbole, there really wasn’t a weak link in the group. Everyone delivered a great performance and it was good to be in that mix.

TFP/MoC: Was there any attempt to try and get them to show up for an episode to get the gang back together somehow?

Misha Collins: Ah, yes. Yes, there was. I don’t know if I’m supposed to reveal this, but we tried to work it out to have Jensen play Batman on the show. It was all kind of teed up, but unfortunately, Jensen was on another show at the time [laughs], and coordinating between two series is challenging. So it didn’t ultimately end up working out, but we tried. Jensen was pretty psyched about the prospect at one point because he does the voice of Batman for the animated movies. It would have been a great tie-in, and I thought it would be super fun too. But unfortunately, that didn’t work out, and I thought it would be super fun too. But unfortunately, that didn’t work out.

TFP/MoC: Well, if season 2 happens…Misha, it’s a comic book show; you never know! Deaths can be faked; there could be clones…

Misha Collins: Yes, exactly; good point, thank you!

TFP/MoC: Because I would die to see Jensen play Batman – I am trying to imagine where Jared would fit into the DC Universe, so that would have been a fun prospect if that happened in season 2.

Misha Collins: Yeah, who is a tall villain in the [DC Universe?] Maybe if we have The Penguin on stilts or something like that, Jared could play that.

TFP/MoC: Ironically…not to make it punny, but I could have seen him as a Talon.

Misha Collins: Oh, yeah, good point!

TFP/MoC: You have a very passionate fandom, and when I told them I was going to talk to you, I got to see their passion for you. One of the things that many of them brought up – given the state of CW right now – is if there would not be a season two, does it at least end on a cliffhanger or open-ended maybe?

Misha Collins: Season one really wraps up nicely; everything ties up for the first season nicely. So it’s a satisfying season finale, but it also tees up the series so you don’t feel like you’re left hanging when the show goes on hiatus, but you are left feeling you want more at the end of the season. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, given the nature of the current situation with our network. Just the fact there are not a lot of slots available for shows for next year, I wonder if it would have been better if it was like ‘Jeez, that’s not really going to work. You can’t end it that way.’ But for better or for worse, this season wraps up nicely with a bow. I really hope though it does at the end of the season feels like we’ve just opened it up, It’s aired a bit and now it’s time to drink the wine.

TFP/MoC: Maybe you guys can move over to HBO Max, and we could have a cursing Two-Face.

Misha Collins: Who knows! Yeah, we’ll see. So your podcast is tied to The Flash or?

TFP/MoC: Yeah, I run a whole DC TV podcasting network, so this is on a network of other DC TV Podcasts, and I’m covering Gotham Knights for the season. We’ve all been wondering where all of this is going because the Arrowverse is essentially almost over, and Gotham Knights are very much its own thing.

Misha Collins: I think this is very different from the Arrowverse shows that lived on The CW. I can tell you – those shows felt a little bit more fantasy than our show. Gotham Knights feels pretty grounded, but it takes even a few episodes for you to get into anything that you would know to fall in the realm of the supernatural-y. It doesn’t feel science fiction-y at all. For the most part, it’s very grounded. It’s real, it’s psychological and I think the look and feel are also different from most of the shows that have been on The CW.

TFP/MoC: I love your Gotham City; by the way, I love that you guys went to Atlanta for this.

Misha Collins: It’s on a scale that feels a little bit different. I feel like it could live on The CW, and I feel like it could live on any streamer, and I certainly hope it has that chance because I’m actually quite proud of the show. I have a friend who watched the pilot with me, a friend who’s very critical, and after watching it – I did not ask because I was like ‘You know what, I don’t want some negative feedback here. I’m just gonna let it lie.’ My friend, about an hour later, was like, ‘Well, that was awesome. I can’t wait to watch the rest!’ This is an adult, by the way, [laughs] a 40-year-old, going ‘I can’t wait to watch the rest of it. I was expecting to think it was lame.’ But that was super cool. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the show. That’s sort of how I feel about it and I also feel like it gets better over the season, which is cool. It’s good and bad, but I feel like it starts out good, and then by the time you get to the end, it’s epic. So I’m excited to see people’s reaction. I know that DC fans are a totally different fandom from the Supernatural fandom and I’m excited to win them over because the one thing about hardcore comic book fans, is that they tend to have very well-formed opinions prior to anything even being released. I’ve seen like people commenting like ‘This new show Gotham Knights sucks!’

TFP/MoC: When they have only seen two minutes of it! [laughs]

Misha Collins: It hasn’t aired yet! I challenge those DC fans to watch it.

TFP/MoC: As you should! Misha, thank you so much for speaking to me today. Hopefully, maybe we will try late in the season once your transformation has happened!

Misha Collins: Thank you, it’s nice to meet you too!

“Pilot” — (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET) (TV-14, DLSV) (HDTV)

SERIES PREMIERE — Batman is dead, and a powder keg has ignited Gotham City without the Dark Knight to protect it. In the wake of Bruce Wayne’s murder, his adopted son Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan) is framed for killing the Caped Crusader, along with the children of some of Batman’s enemies: Duela Doe (Olivia Rose Keegan), aka The Joker’s Daughter, an unpredictable fighter and skilled thief who was born in Arkham Asylum and abandoned by her father, Harper Row (Fallon Smythe), a streetwise and acerbic engineer who can fix anything, and her brother Cullen Row (Tyler DiChiara), a clever transgender teen who is tired of being polite and agreeable. With the charismatic and hard-charging District Attorney Harvey Dent (Misha Collins) and the GCPD hot on their trail, Turner will rely on allies including his best friend and formidable coder Stephanie Brown (Anna Lore), and unlikely Batman sidekick Carrie Kelley (Navia Robinson).  But our Knights will soon learn there is a larger, more nefarious force at work within Gotham City. This team of mismatched fugitives must band together to become its next generation of saviors known as the “Gotham Knights.” Also starring Rahart Adams as Brody March. Danny Cannon directed the episode written by Natalie Abrams, Chad Fiveash & James Stoteraux (#101). Original airdate 3/14/2023. Every episode of GOTHAM KNIGHTS will be available to stream on The CW App and CWTV.com the day after broadcast for free and without a subscription, log-in or authentication required.”

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