FAULT Magazine Digital Cover Story with Cameron Monaghan
As an actor, Cameron Monaghan tells us that he wants to be a “chameleon” and really take the roles that challenge him as an actor, from his portfolio of works, it’s plain to see that the actor is currently succeeding on his mission. While it was the character of Ian Gallagher on the hit TV show ‘Shameless’ where many viewers first saw Cameron on screen, he has since bloomed as an actor captivating the audience of FOX’s Gotham with his portrayal of twin brothers Jerome and Jeremiah Valeska respectively. With much to discuss we sat with Cameron to discuss his acting methods, upcoming projects and just what it takes to play such a captivating precursor to one of DC’s most iconic of characters.
You’ve played both Jermon and his twin brother Jeremiah in Gotham and they both have very different mindsets, how did you prepare for such differing roles?
I was tasked with creating the character of Jerome first and played him for four seasons and then moved onto his brother Jeremiah so it was a completely separate process. The creation of Jeremiah was definitely more of a counterpoint to the first and I found ways to be complimentary Jerome as the character of Jeremiah. Much of creating characters comes from just doing the mechanics and reading the source material a lot, speaking the lines aloud and feeling the character within me. At that point, I found inspiration from paintings, movies and from listening to music whose tone and their aggression I could channel into Jeremiah. What you’re hoping to do is take enough inspiration from different sources and meld them with my own to form a coherent character.
While Gotham is based on the DC universe, it’s interesting to see how actors like yourself take on original characters within the universe, how does it feel to play a character who hasn’t appeared in any source material?
I think it’s good to go off canon and create your own story sometimes and I feel like that sometimes makes some fans angry, ultimately it’s nice to add some surprises in there. Some viewers think they know how a story is going to go from previous projects but when we go a different direction it’s a surprise and something they wouldn’t be expecting. Especially with a prequel where you think you know exactly where the story is going, I think to have something that goes off script and is a little different can sometimes be a very positive thing.
While you’re not playing the Joker character as we’ve seen before, was it still daunting for you to take on such an iconic theme?
Whenever you take on well-known material there’s always going to be a level of intimidation and respect when you approach the project. I don’t think that’s specific to previously portrayed comic book characters either – ultimately I think there’s always a level of intimidation and what you want to do if you can, is always find roles that intimidate you as an actor. That way there’s always something that you’re reaching to overcome and maybe you succeed and maybe you fail but that’s the magic of the job – you have to slay the giants.
It’s funny because the character looks like he’s having fun, people often assume I’m having a just as much fun filming the scenes but actually when I’m on set there’s so much to deal with and technical stress that I’m mostly just hoping I’m creating something special. So with the fun of getting to do any of my scenes, there’s also a lot of stress to make them look so enjoyable! A lot of the fun is seeing the scene on screen and seeing how they have turned out.
That being said, there is a carnival scene after Jerome kidnaps Bruce Wayne and they have this big epic showdown in a hall of mirrors and that whole sequence was so amazing to film. They got this huge warehouse in Brooklyn and filled it with carnival rides and it took about 20 hours of filming and despite being under such time restraints I think the end product just worked really well. There’s something about being under so much stress that really adds to the energy of the scene.
Looking at your progression as an actor, what are you looking for in a role that really catches your eye?
It’s a mixture of a lot of things, no character exists within a vacuum and a lot of those decisions are based on the tone of the films and I really appreciate actors who are versatile and do different things and I want to have a dynamic and interesting career. I often look for roles which challenge me in a sense that I haven’t done anything like it before.
I always look for roles as characters who change over the course of the project, and roles that are slightly uncommon as much as they can. A lot of the times I’m not decided on a role until I speak to the filmmakers because you read a character one way but when you speak to the filmmakers and they surprise you with a different take or someone who is up for collaborating on the role then it really helps decide on a project.
If you could play any roles, even if they’ve been done before, who would you play?
I wish I could have the career of Gary Oldman, the work he’s done is just so inspirational. He is such a chameleon and an actor I really admire. It would be such a blast to have a career like his.
We’ve finished up Gotham and then I’m working on Shameless coming back for season 10. I have this other project which I’ve been working on which is really fun but you’ll have to wait a few more months to hear about it.
As much as you want to be a chameleon and play other roles, is it still nice to have played Ian on Shameless for so many years and really grow up with the character?
Yes, it’s interesting, when I’m not portraying Ian, he’s not someone I exactly see in myself so it doesn’t feel like we’ve grown up together so to speak. He is someone who I know very well but because I don’t relate that much to him as much as he feels like home, he doesn’t feel like me. It’s always great to be a character you can play for a long period of time and it’s fascinating to watch actors grow with their characters.
They say your flaws are meant to be your greatest strength and I feel similar to many artists that I’m a very passionate person and I feel very deeply. Not that I’m in love with my own tragedy but I want to invest myself into things and to love deeply and pursue things that I care about. Whether it’s about art or romance, I want to pursue things with all I have. This, of course, makes it crushing when you feel that you failed and I have times when I wish I could shut it off and I just don’t want to feel anymore. That being said, I’m glad I can’t turn it off because my greatest work comes from my greatest FAULT.
And in those times where you feel you’ve failed, what brings you back on track?
When you’re in a dark place it feels like the walls are so high that you can’t see light. But life has a way of surprising you both with the good and the bad and sometimes the positive surprises are what I need to bring me back on track. I’ll say to myself “wow that was such a positive occurrence, I’m so happy I was around to experience it” and I think that ultimately what draws all of us back from the dark places.