When Michelle Veintimilla showed up to Gotham for the role of Bridgit Pike, she had no idea she'd be the show's first full-fledged supervillain. Suiting up as Firefly during last week's episode, tonight she'll really come into her own, taking the villain into a new level - and enjoying it.
Indeed, that little smile on her face, the enjoyment of the character's villainy, was a difficult thing for Veintimilla to find. The actress, in an extensive phone conversation, told ComicBook.com about developing Bridgit and Firefly, finding out she was playing a supervillain, and having to learn how to use her real-life, working flamethrower.
Gotham S2E6, "By Fire" airs tonight on Fox at 8pm.
Well, Michelle, when we met briefly on set, you had pretty much just started. I think it was your first week of shooting, if not like your first couple days there.
Michelle Veintimilla: Yeah. It was.
Obviously, now, you've gotten to suit up and put on that glorious costume. What was it like the first time that you suited up and put on the fireproof suit?
MV: It was really wild for me because I didn't know that I would be playing a villain.
MV: It all happened very quickly. I got the role and then the next morning I had a fitting and when I walked in, the costume designers were like, "Okay, here's your villain costume." I was like, "I think you have the wrong actor. I'm playing Bridgit Pike." "Honey, you turn into a super villain." I guess that was cool. Like, right off the bat, I got to try on this really awesome firefly suit, which is gorgeous and it was awesome. The only scary thing about it was that I had to wear these goggles and I couldn't really see anything out of them.
Yeah. They don't look like they're made for walking around in very much.
MV: Yeah. It's awesome on the outside. (laughs)
Does it give you a different feeling, once you put that on, as far as helping you transform into this different character?
MV: Definitely. Definitely. Especially since I have a huge flamethrower on my back, which was an actual flamethrower that I had to learn to use that actually threw flames.
MV: It was heavy and it was the whole shebang. It definitely helped. I was like, "All right, I am not Michelle."
When you're in the back of the van and saying "Oh, this flame thrower is scary," and they say "Yeah, it's supposed to be." That was coming from a real personal truth, there, huh?
MV: Oh, yeah, definitely. Bridgit and Michelle were both terrified.
Now, obviously Bridgit has her issues. But one thing I thought was really interesting was the downright gleeful way that Bridgit got when she started to make the costume. When she started to play with the fireproof clothing and everything. What is it in her past that most plays into her being gleeful at that point in time for you.
MV: I think when she starts building the costume is when she really starts to build her own story. Because up until then, she's a slave to her brothers and she doesn't have a voice and she doesn't do what she wants. She doesn't realize her own strength, or any of those things. When she decides to build this costume, it's in the future. She's writing a new story. She's taking the pen and writing her own story.
Even then, it's still hard to see a big motivating factor for Bridgit to actually go bad. For her to go villain. I know she doesn't particularly like her family, so vengeance isn't a big thing for her. It's not like she has to get back at the people who killed her brother. She even says she doesn't really like fire. What is changing her? What do you think is changing her and sending her down this villainous path?
MV: I think she's a young woman who's seen a lot in her life. She's seen her brothers do all of these crazy things, but what she hasn't realized in the past is that her brothers are actually the enemy. I like to think ... Not that I like to think, but what I take from the script is that she's a little bit delusional at first and suffers from a sort of Stockholm syndrome because she's afraid of her brothers but she's sort of grown complacent with the whole thing and hasn't really had the courage to break out and live her life. She's just been a slave to them.
It's not until Camren – Selina - comes into the picture that she realizes that her brothers are actually bullies and she realizes that there are people out there like her who are suffering injustices. I think that's what fuels her. I guess we'll have to see when she comes back as a full-fledged villain how much of her heart she's taking with her. I think Bridgit has a lot of heart. She's really trying to do good, you know?
You're right. It is a little weird. But, I think it comes from the fact that she's realizing now that there's a really, really big problem out there. There are some bad people out there and she's trying to get rid of them. But, in turn, she ends up becoming bad because she starts to kind of lose it. I guess with the adrenaline of the fire and because she's never experienced something like that. It's sort of like a drug. You just want to keep doing it, you know?
Right. That makes sense. The other aspect of this is kind of a recurring theme on Gotham. A lot of characters on the show have been manipulated and then eventually break free and kind of become manipulators themselves. There's a lot of talk of freedom in this first episode. What you were just saying, too, with her going from being a slave to them to being on her own. Do you see Bridgit as the kind of person that could eventually kind of turn this on it's head and be manipulating others herself? Or, what does she need to do to find her freedom, internally, even after she breaks away from them, externally?
MV: What does she need to do internally? Hm.
Obviously, there's the actual physical getting away from her brothers, which is important. But, just that isn't enough to change her personality entirely. Is there something that you find you need to think about when you're taking the more independent steps with the character?
MV: I think when she escapes from her brothers at the end of this first episode, she's gotten a taste of freedom. But, I don't want to spoil it, but she ends up sort of retreating and finds herself back with her brothers. I think that's what makes her turn. Because she's been teased and she knows now. I think before, she just doesn't know what's on the outside world. She doesn't know any better. She doesn't know her strength. When she finally tests it and she realizes that she does have something to say and she does have something to prove. She finds herself back with her brothers, I think that's what fuels her. She just can not stand for it and she has to do something about it.
Okay. That's a good tease. You're being taught very well on the comic book TV show tease. In that vein, Firefly really is the first villain to get almost the full costume on the show. Is that something you're aware of or that puts any pressure on you? Of course, are you hoping to add the jet pack eventually?
MV: Of course. The costume designers on this show, as you know, are incredible. They did an awesome job with this costume, this first costume. The cool thing about it is that Bridgit makes it from scratch. She finds all these materials in the Pike's brothers headquarters and she steals it and she makes this suit from scratch. You know, I actually haven't seen the episode yet. But, I imagine you don't get to see the detail that went into it. It really does look like a costume. I mean, it was. I remember when they showed me the fabric. They were like, "These are the fabrics that we're going to use." They really did just stitch it together. I really liked that about it. But, yeah, I think this costume, this first costume is awesome and I'm so excited to see what her real, full fledged villain costume is going to look like.
It's really easy to hear how excited you are about this. I know when we met on set, it was a large group of people all of a sudden are all bombarding you at once. I'm sure that was little bit on the intimidating side. But now, I hear this real excitement and joy in your voice. Has the experience been what you expected? Are there parts of it that have really been surprises to you?
MV: You know, in a lot of ways, Bridgit's story parallels my story. This was sort of like my first big job out of school. I was really fortunate to get to do a Broadway show and that's a completely different world. This is the first time that I got a character who gets to, you know, I get to tell her story from the very beginning and I get to make choices about it. But, it was a very daunting task. As you can probably tell, I was really nervous on set. There's just so much going on. There's so many people on set and I never really experienced that before. I think that's what Bridgit experienced when she was going on ... What's the word? When she was going out and like torching all these things.
She was really scared. I was really scared. Now, being on this side of it, I'm really excited because I feel like I've grown a lot and I've found my strength as a woman and as an artist. Bridgit really finds her strength as a woman, too. I love that about it. I really connect with her on that level, I guess.
Very cool. It's good that you're able to bring your own experience in that way, then. Well, to wrap up, obviously Firefly, like you said, she's going to come back and she's going to be full on villain mode. Once she is a full on villain and she's established herself, there are a lot of great villains already on Gotham and a lot of great villains in the Batman pantheon, is there a particular villain that you'd really like to see Firefly get to team up with?
MV: Honestly, they're all so cool. It would be an honor to work with any of them. I got to meet Robin Lord Taylor on set and at lunch and stuff and he was super, super kind and generous with me. I think it would be cool to work with Penguin.
Because he's awesome.