'The Dark Knight Rises' Interview: Nestor Carbonell, on Raising the Stakes as Gotham's Mayor

'The Dark Knight Rises' Interview: Nestor Carbonell, on Raising the Stakes as Gotham's Mayor

Jul 10, 2012

One possibly surprising character to return from the chaos of The Dark Knight in the final Christopher Nolan Batman film The Dark Knight Rises is Gotham City mayor Anthony Garcia, played by actor Nestor Carbonell. Garcia, an uncharacteristically pure and just politician in the face of Gotham’s crime and corruption, was a key figure in The Dark Knight, as he was a power player in a city that did what both Commissioner Jim Gordon and Batman both did: put their unwavering faith in District Attorney Harvey Dent to save Gotham from the stranglehold of organized crime. When Dent fell, though, Garcia was one of the millions of Gothamites affected by Gordon and Batman’s plan of preserving the image of Dent as the “White Knight” that saved Gotham from the mob, instead of knowing the cold reality of Dent's transformation into the twisted and vengeful murderer he became.

Eight years later, Mayor Anthony Garcia is still in office, enjoying relative peace and attending a football game for the home team: the Gotham City Rogues. Little does Garcia know that his day is about to get a whole lot worse due to the arrival of Bane and his siege on the city.

On the set of The Dark Knight Rises last summer, actor Nestor Carbonell (mainly known for recurring roles on TV programs like Ringer and Lost) talked with Movies.com about returning to the mayor’s office just in time for all hell to break loose on his city in the “Epic Conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend.” Carbonell walked confidently into the press room wearing a “Gotham Rogues” jacket, having just come from the set on Heinz Field.

Nestor Carbonell: I don’t mess around, man. I support my team.

Q: So I guess you’re working today.

NC:  I think so, I think I am working.

Q: So, how did you win reelection when the Joker messed up the town like that [in the last film]?

NC: Well listen, it was not an easy reelection. I campaigned hard, had some good financing, my peeps showed up, and raised some good money and here we are.

[laughter]

Q: Can you talk about what your character thinks of Batman in light of him basically taking the rap for these deaths and everything? Do you now have a much more aggressive stance on Batman?

NC: Obviously there’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the script with good reason, but I’ve been used to working this way now for a number of years. Not only with Dark Knight but also with Lost, but no I do know something to that effect. I’ve worked a little bit in London addressing that very issue, and I think that the Mayor definitely feels that he’s not for a vigilante, coming in here, and you know, solving crime in this way. It’s just not the way he envisions things, and I think there’s an ego element obviously to him. This is a man who wants to restore law and order ...

I will say one thing: This is a man who is very much for putting out legislation where he has the freedom to really go after criminals, to really pursue them in a hard way. I’m not saying that he’s going to violate civil liberties, but this is a man who is very much tough on crime, and takes it upon himself to take on criminals headfirst, and no, he does not appreciate someone like a Batman, or the Batman as he calls him, to come in here and solve problems.

Q: Is he still a fan of Commissioner Gordon?

NC: You know, it’s a really good question. Again, I haven’t read the script, but working when I did in London, at least what I assume is he’s definitely working hand-in-hand with Gordon, but, you know, Gordon has an allegiance to Batman, and even though what went down in Dark Knight, there’s obviously some questions about Batman as a villain or hero. You know, that was the big cliffhanger that was left at the end of the film, so I don’t know [Gordon’s] relationship with Batman per se and how that’s been clarified. But I know that Gordon is still very much within our ranks and working alongside me, but I definitely have a strong opinion against this kind of vigilante working [in Gotham]. I don’t know exactly where he stands.

Q: What’s your involvement in today’s scene involving the football game? Are you just there as the mayor to watch the game, or are you actually throwing out a ball or doing anything like that?

NC: Um, I don’t think I’ll be throwing out a ball, but I’ll be there observing and rooting for my team, yeah. And you know, obviously there’s been a huge insurgence of crime lately particularly with this new character that’s sort of emerged. I think there’s a lot of fear, and I think I’m out there putting on a brave face, and letting people know that, “look, everything’s going to be fine, we’ve got it covered, and I have it covered.”

Q: One of the things that we got to learn about the mayor in the last movie is that it seems like he’s above a lot of the rampant corruption that’s present in Gotham City. Is that true? So you know, with what you understand, is he is above that, or is he being more questionable in this film?

NC: Yeah, I think he is above that. I think this is a man…I mean, look, politics is always give and take, but I think with a man like this, from his point-of-view he’s absolutely against corruption. And if he’s done anything within his tenure here as mayor, it’s to fight the mob head-on. Now, you have these lunatics running around [in this film] doing their own thing, they’re essentially terrorists, and that’s a different thing altogether. But in terms of handling organized crime, this is a man who’s dead-set against it existing, and he makes it part of his campaign.

Q: The great thing about Nolan’s Batman films is that they’re grounded in reality, so as the mayor you want to play a complete three-dimensional character that has a lot of great attributes. He’s incorruptible, but he must have some flaws. Did you base it on any kind of political figure?

NC: That’s a really good question. I didn’t base it on any one person, but I wanted him to be his own person, and like you said, I wanted him to have a different flavor, a different color. Yeah, he can’t be a complete do-gooder, I think it’s pretty hard to find that in any politician. You have to make deals in some groups, and concessions. But I wanted him to definitely have an edge, and obviously I worked with Chris on what his idea of the mayor would be like. But I remember in The Dark Knight I came in with him a little bit softer, and [Nolan] wanted me to play him a little bit harder, and now I see why.

It’s always interesting for me to find something human about the character, and not make him sort of a standard, stock politician. Maybe someone with a slight sense of humor, I definitely had some fun in London, with what I did. (laughs) That’s about as cryptic as I can get. But I think it’s always interesting for a dramatic role to find humor in it, and vice versa. And this is what I love about The Dark Knight, and just about everything Chris Nolan has done, is that he takes on the psychological thriller genre, and he grounds it. And this is a cartoon, a comic book, and it feels like this is as real as it can get. Obviously, all of the villains portrayed so amazingly, with Heath Ledger, and now with Tom Hardy. And every role, you look at Gary Oldman, and what he does with his character, and obviously Christian Bale. Everyone is really grounded, and it allows you to suspend disbelief that much more.

Q: When did you find out that your character would be back in the third film and how happy were  you?

NC: I was thrilled! You know, I didn’t know if I was going to be reelected. It was up to the people! (laughs) The people spoke, and thankfully I got the gig again. It was interesting, my agents made a call because I was going up for, being approached for pilots this year, for TV. And I didn’t want that to get in the way of potentially being reelected, (everyone laughs) and we kind of found out after I got a pilot that [Nolan] was interested in me coming back, so thankfully the show that I’m on -- I’m working on a show called Ringer -- were very cool and are very cool to let me out and make those dates work.

Q: You’ve mentioned a little bit about your character’s relationship with Gordon. Do you think your character regrets this snap promotion of this guy in the last film at all?

NC: Oh, me promoting him to Commissioner.

Q: Yeah. Because he really jumped a few ranks there pretty quick.

NC: He really did, I know, but I saw something in him. I really saw something in the guy. Not that the death of the previous Commissioner has something to do with it.  You definitely feel the weight of the position. Not just on me, but on everyone around me, including Gordon. And nobody can portray that better than Gary Oldman, he’s just amazing. But yeah, absolutely, you’d have to ask Gary. I don’t know how much regret he has over taking that position, for being tapped to be Commissioner. But yeah, the stakes have been raised, absolutely.

You’re going to see the stakes are raised. I mean, as big as Dark Knight was, this is monumental, this is a monster what Chris Nolan is doing.  He’s just upped the stakes even more, and who knew they could be upped any more than they were already.

Q: You’ve worked with two of the most secretive teams in the business: the Nolans and Bad Robot. With the public’s immediate fascination with these properties, do they miss the larger picture, that Nolan’s trying to keep it as fresh and surprising for people as possible? And even as a filmgoer, do you appreciate that maybe you’ll go see it and there’ll be stuff that you didn’t necessarily know would happen?

NC: I love it! It was interesting for me, I’d never worked this way before, before Lost or Dark Knight, in a way where I’m on a need-to-know basis. I remember working on Lost, I learned very quickly the way that I had to approach the material, or even ask the director questions, it was always prefaced with, “Would it be wrong for me to assume?” Because I didn’t know where my character on Lost was going. It got to the point on Dark Knight, though, where I did request to read the script because I just didn’t know what I was saying at some point. So I was given a room to read it in, and a couple of hours. But yeah, it certainly informs your choices, but I completely appreciate the secrecy, and a lot of these projects that Bad Robot and obviously Chris Nolan does a lot of it is about thrill elements, and mystery elements, and you don’t want to let that out.

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