Interview with Horror Icon Doug Bradley: Joe Chill in CW’s Gotham Knight

by Joseph Overaitis

030623C-1024x536 Interview with Horror Icon Doug Bradley: Joe Chill in CW's Gotham KnightBatman Villain Joe Chill has been around since 1939.    What many fans do not realize is that the character has rarely been fleshed out in movies or live-action television shows.  Even in Batman (1989), the character was retconned into Jack Napier, aka the Joker.  Less important characters in Batman’s mythology have had more screen time than Joe Chill.  That all changed in the CW’s Gotham Knights when it was announced that iconic horror actor Doug Bradley (Hellraiser’s “Pinhead”) was cast as Joe Chill.

I was at Astronomicon two days after Variety broke the story of the character’s casting.  Fans lined up out the door to see this legendary horror actor and soon-to-be Batman villain.  Doug Bradley was nice enough to sit down with me for a one-on-one interview during one of the few breaks he had during the convention.  Here is what the actor revealed on how his involvement with Gotham Knights came together and what fans can expect from his portrayal of the Batman villain.

In his own words, Doug Bradley on…

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His knowledge of the Batman mythology…

“I’m a Batman fan. I’ve always liked Batman. I grew up on the Adam West-Burt Ward series and DC Comics. When I was approached about playing the character and I got the script, I’ll happily admit the name (Joe Chill) meant nothing to me. I trotted off to google to have a look. He (Joe Chill) is heavily embedded in the mythology as the guy who was accused of murdering Bruce Wayne’s parents.”

How he was approached for the role of Joe Chill…

“…it all happened in a bit of a rush because I was back in London.  I’d been over in the U.K. for my daughter’s wedding. It’s Tuesday morning; I’m packing my suitcase. The car is on its way to take me back to Heathrow and I just glanced to see an email from my agent. SCRIPT, PLEASE READ ASAP, LET ME KNOW. My initial reaction was…not now, I can’t do that now and then I thought, well, it sounds urgent so I’d better have a quick look.”

What drew him to the role…

“So I skimmed read my scenes.  It was so well written and the character was so intriguing. The setup was so intriguing that I just immediately emailed back and said ‘yes what’s next?'”

How fast it was from the initial email to filming…

“What was next was that the following Monday after I’d got back to the states, the following Monday I’m on a plane down to Atlanta, and on Wednesday I’m filming. It happened that fast.”

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The premise of the series…

“Batman is dead. This group of kids has created a vigilante group calling themselves the Gotham Knights to carry Batman’s work forward.”

When fans can see Joe Chill in the series…

“I am in episode six, “A Chill over Gotham”.

Joe Chill’s significance in the series…

“Joe Chilton, aka Joe Chill, has been on death row for 50 years. He has always claimed his innocence and he claims he was a patsy; he did not fire the weapon.  The Court of Owls is in the picture. After 50 years on death row, the Court of Owls is agitating to have Joe Chill executed, which Joe is aware of, and wonders why the person accused of killing Batman is (Plot Detail). As Joe Chill’s last request, he calls Harvey Dent to his prison cell and says ‘I have a last request; I want to talk to (Plot Detail) who killed Batman. He has reasons for wanting to talk to (Plot Detail)…..It’s a clever wraparound story.”

Interviewer note… I will not provide all plot details to spoil the story, but the concept was an interesting one never really explored in the Batman mythology that had me hanging on Doug’s every word. The actor framed this through his description as a very interesting machiavellian-themed mystery as it relates to Joe Chill.  His enthusiasm for the writing of the character was very evident.  The potential for the evolution of the story was very intriguing.

Doug used that word a lot during the interview and it was justified.  Based upon the actor’s description, this CW show is a very complex take on Batman’s world and how the most formidable villains are ones that may not appear so on paper. 

His biggest concern as it relates to portraying the character…

“One of my principal concerns was trying to be able to hold down an American accent without a dialect coach (and) without a voice coach.”

How he sees Joe Chill…

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“…Is he a good guy? No, he’s a criminal. He was a criminal. He claims he’s not a murderer. Was he, was he not? We don’t know and we don’t find that out. He’s always claimed he was a patsy so immediately, to me, he’s multifaceted.”

How this Joe Chill will appear to viewers in the series…

“We will see in his prison cell that he is very widely read and spent a lot of time reading in fifty years. He spent a lot of time keeping press cuttings on the life of Bruce Wayne, who would have witnessed his parents being murdered. He’s multifaceted. He’s smart. He talks intelligently. He’s very interesting in the way he goes about saying what he’s saying. He’s not (portrayed through) dumb gangster talk… That is not how he speaks. He speaks in complex, well-rounded sentences and that was one of the things that jumped out at me straight away. (He’s) not quite what you might be expecting. He’s not evil.”

How he approaches his roles…

“I’m not Pinhead (“Hellraiser” franchise) and I’m not Joe Chill.  I’m just Doug Bradley, actor. I approached Pinhead using what I read in the screenplay and by talking to Clive (Barker), who had literally dreamed up the character. You approach every part the same way. You just try and approach the character as you find them on the page.”

Interviewer note… Doug mentioned that he believes filming for the first season has only recently concluded on Gotham Knights.  

 Interviewer’s Thoughts after the interview

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Mr. Bradley was really interested in this character. He wanted to do him justice after finding out that this is really the first time Joe Chill was something more than a mere minor character in a story.  The creative staff that recruited him for the role wanted a character with “gravitas,” and the iconic actor brings that in every one of his performances.

Doug was excited about the role but was very careful because he did not want to spoil the story for viewers. Fans can only hope that he can bring the character of Joe Chill to life with more than one episode appearance.

Doug Bradley’s conversation made this interviewer think of a historical event in our nation’s history. What was interesting was that his description of the story made one think of conspiracy theories involving the Kennedy assassination. Everyone has always assumed Joe Chill killed Martha and Thomas Wayne, but what if that was not the correct version? What if Chill was innocent of the Wayne murders? This could be an interesting take on the Batman mythology that would elevate the Court of Owls to potentially an even greater nemesis than the Joker could ever dare dream.

Final thoughts

I want to thank Doug Bradley and his wife for providing me with the opportunity to conduct this interview.  Doug and his wife not only were very welcoming to this interviewer, but also to every fan that waited to meet this great actor. Each fan walked away feeling special after meeting this legend.

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Doug Bradley is big on the written word and has a Youtube channel dedicated to him reading some of his favorite literary works.  It was interesting to listen to him read these stories after hearing the voice he used for Joe Chill. Viewers should check out his channel after watching his portrayal of Joe Chill.  People will then realize that Doug Bradley truly is one talented actor.

I would also like to thank the hosts and workers of Astronomicon.  The access the whole team provided to the media was first-rate.  The best thing was that this type of experience was extended to the paid attendees as well. The interaction between celebs and guests was something that this veteran pop culture con reporter saw as very unique.  In fact, some of the convention’s innovations and this journalist’s experiences will be covered in a future article because they were very noteworthy.

00080221C_Green-Footer Interview with Horror Icon Doug Bradley: Joe Chill in CW's Gotham Knight*Any perceived investment advice is that of the freelance blogger and does not represent advice on behalf of GoCollect.

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