Gotham star Cory Michael Smith comes out
Gotham star Cory Michael Smith has spoken about his sexuality publicly for the first time – as he stars in a drama set during the AIDS crisis.
Smith is best known for playing Edward Nygma, AKA supervillain The Riddler, on Fox’s popular Batman prequel TV series.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, Smith revealed that he identifies as queer.
He had been discussing his new film ‘1985’, which debuted at SXSW this month and tackles the AIDS crisis head-on.
The actor revealed that the film’s plot – which features a man travelling back to his family home after the death of his same-sex partner from AIDS-related illness – had a special poignance in his mind.
He said: “There’s something special about telling a story that feels closer to home. I’m not exactly like The Riddler in real life.
“I’m from Middle America… I’m from Ohio. I’ve been living here [in New York] for a while, and there are stretches when I don’t see my family often.
“Going home and that whole charade is very familiar. The first family dinner after a while. Coming out to a family, the fear of that.”
The actor added that his own family responded with “a lot of love” when he came out, though it took “a lot of time”, relating himself to the character he plays.
He continued: “This story, a story about AIDS and stripping away politics, stripping away activism, stripping away the medical drama of it, what you’re left with is something so personal about family and connecting with family and keeping secrets with family. It just overwhelmed me.”
Smith’s Gotham co-star Robin Lord Taylor, who plays The Penguin on the series, is also out and proud in real life – and said that growing up gay was partly his inspiration for his take on the character.
He said: “With The Penguin specifically, we’re very fortunate in that we have about 70 years of mythology to draw upon and do research with and that’s what I did when I got the role of The Penguin.
“That’s when I learned he was bullied as a child, he was always treated as an outsider. That was my human link to the character. I learned that and I was like, ‘This is something I want to show and root him down to reality.’
“Growing up overweight and gay in small-town Iowa in the ’80s and ’90s—it was much different than it is now—and I know exactly what that feels like.”
He said: “Penguin was raised by penguins, and that was apparently fine, and you know Jack Nicholson, the Joker killing Batman’s parents.
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“I haven’t really seen a lot of people s***ting their pants about that.
“But, you know, when we introduce a queer storyline, [and they say]… ‘we love you and we love the show, but this really bothers me because you’re really messing with the character’s origins’.
“And I’m like: ‘You’re homophobic, that’s homophobic. That’s it, right there.’”
He said re-interpreting the character’s sexuality was “brave”, especially as the Penguin’s story has “been around for a very long time”.
The actor added: “That’s what I love because it reassures me that what we’re doing, even though we get a lot of people coming at us about it, this canon s**t, this is to be reinterpreted and reimagined.
“How stale would it be if we were just telling, you know, The Dark Knight Rises in another two years, every five years?”