SPOILERS for tonight's episode of Gotham, "Time Bomb!"
Erin Richards loves it when Barbara Kean gets to cut loose. Strutting into Penguin's meeting, brandishing a gun, or bashing, stabbing, and shooting her way through a situation is when the actress, who has had to play essentially three completely different versions of the character in three seasons of Gotham, has the most fun.
"It's just really letting loose, and that’s obviously the most kind of fun thing to do," Richards told ComicBook.com in a phone interview. "Because obviously I’ve had kind of quite emotional scenes through the years as Barbara and those take a lot of introspection and maybe a bit more quiet time before you shoot them to prepare. Whereas these kind of scenes you just, you know you could approach them with real sort of joy and excitement. You get this sense of anything could happen, because in these mad situations with Barbara she usually is and it’s just really fun."
Letting the id take control doesn't mean Barbara isn't still playing the game she's been mastering since being "set free" at the end of season one, when she was manipulated into killing her parents and, frankly, lost it a bit. Richards says she's constantly driven by "self preservation" as she gets herself into each situation.
"She has been a real survivor and a sort of a chameleon in that sense, in that she can adapt to whatever is thrown her way. Whereas this season it’s like she starts in The Sirens with Tabitha, and they’ve obviously set themselves up now with a bit more of a plan in mind or at least an idea that the underworld is somewhere that they could thrive," she said of Babs.
While Tabs and Babs have their club, the central hub of the underworld of Gotham City, they realize that Penguin still lords over them.
"She realizes that she is still king of on the outskirts, and she knows because of how dangerous Gotham is, that you have to really assert your powere, otherwise you'll be killed."
Now that she's "hatched this plan" and the girls are ready to take over the Gotham underworld, they're choosing instead to simply help a war between Penguin and Nygma start, and pick up the pieces. That's partly why she doesn't kill Nygma the moment she walks in on his little torture chamber for Butch and Tabitha, despite that being her first instinct.
"She could just shoot Nygma straight away at that point to save Tabitha and not have to deal with any potential danger. She doesn’t because she reads people so well, that when she walks into that room she sees that Nygma is going through something. She has the intelligence and the foresight to just hold off wait for him, see what he does because she is in the position of power she has the gun. Then when he doesn’t attack and he is sort of it seems in his own world and leaves, she is able to gain the information about Isabella from Tabitha and Butch. Then use that to sort of move up the ranks and start this war."
So what does Richards think Babs wants out of all this manipulation, this war, and her own alliances?
"Her intuition, her intellect, her abilitiy to read people, her foresight, and her kind of a brain that is always thinking about, 'What is the best way that I can play this to get what I want" all have to come together to make her this Queen of Gotham kind of character," she said. So, not too lofty of aspirations.
The war between Penguin and Nygma that Barbara and Tabitha are starting after tonight's episode is a big part of the rest of the season of Gotham, not just this first half or so of episodes.
"A lot of it is going to progress into the second half [of the season]," the actress revealed - they're already into episodes 13 and 14 in filming, the last two episodes that will air in January before an extended hiatus ahead of the final eight episodes of season three. "It's a lot about this war between her and Nygma and Peguin, so that takes us quite far into the second half of the season."
Gotham airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.