GOTHAM’S DREW POWELL TELLS IT LIKE IT IS
Have you ever gone back and replayed a conversation in your mind, trying to figure out how you could possibly have missed what was actually being said? That’s what we at Scifi Imaginarium are doing right now as we recover from the season 4 finale of Gotham. If you haven’t seen it yet, turn back now. Seriously. You don’t want to be spoiled on this.
It’s an accident of timing that just this past weekend, we talked to Drew Powell, who plays Butch Gilzean and Solomon Grundy on the show. We’d planned to do a nice little story about how he and guitarist Brian Nutter had surprised attendees of Heroes and Villains Con in Nashville with a great Mother’s Day concert in which he’d given a bit of insight into his personality and his life.
In retrospect, we got a whole lot more than that.
The concert wasn’t a huge production number, just Powell and Nutter — two old friends who hadn’t played together in years — on acoustic guitars. Many in the audience weren’t surprised; they’d seen Powell’s “Hotel Bathroom Sessions — Grundy Edition” on Facebook, where he would sing in full Grundy makeup, presumably on a break from filming.
But while Butch Gilzean is a tough city gangster, Powell himself is a small town boy from Lebanon, Indiana (“3 whole exits off I-65”), and his musical choices reflected that. A sweet Mother’s Day song dedicated to his wife and son, who couldn’t be with him, and the mothers in the audience. A beautiful version of Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” that had everyone in the audience (and also Powell himself) teary-eyed. “Small Town”, by John Mellencamp — “it’s state law that when you grow up in Indiana you have to be able to sing all of his songs”. A rousing audience participation version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days”.
In season 4 of Gotham, we saw a freakishly strong, but almost childlike Solomon Grundy, and it was easy to forget that Butch Gilzean was a cold, calculating killer. But ironically, for a show based on a comic book world, this character, who’d been created specifically for the show, was far from one-dimensional. Butch was an anti-hero. He had his own code of honor, and he was capable of not just loyalty, but of love, and of crushable emotions.
And most of that is down to Drew Powell’s not inconsiderable acting talent, but also the real Drew Powell shining through. Watching him with kids who want Grundy’s autograph, you can see him with his own eight-year old son, never rushing, taking the time to give each of them an experience they will always remember, a real person, with a real life, living in Brooklyn and missing that small town that seemed so stifling when he was growing up.
When we talked to him on May 13, Gotham was less than a week from its season finale — and still on the cancellation bubble. He and Robin Lord Taylor, who was at the next table, were encouraging people to tune into the finale. “If you’ve watched Gotham you know that all of the finales are big, and this one is no different,” he told us. “There are surprises, and lots of crazy stuff going down. I will say, it is worth watching. It’s a doozy.”
That, in and of itself, wasn’t really news, of course. He’s right; all of the Gotham finales are doozies.
But it’s something else that he said that has us slapping our foreheads saying, “How did we miss that???”
We knew that even if he’d had news of Gotham’s fate, he couldn’t tell us, and we acknowledged that. But then he said of the cancellation, “I’m at peace with it either way, but I think it would disappoint a lot of people.”
We all agreed that a lot of people would be disappointed if Gotham were cancelled, but we admitted to each other that we were a bit puzzled. Was Drew Powell really that cool that he could be “at peace” with possibly not having a job? In fact, he wasn’t just at peace; he was actually cheerful talking about it! Was he that good of an actor that he could keep up that pretense for days at a time?
Well, of course, now we know: Powell was at peace with Gotham’s cancellation or renewal because Butch Gilzean, having finally been cured and reunited with Tabitha, was summarily killed by Oswald, and whether or not the show came back, he wouldn’t.
But while it’s the end for Butch, hopefully it’s not the end for Drew Powell. A true “working actor”, he’s been cast in an upcoming movie about the Unabomber, and with 71 credits just since 2000, it’s unlikely he’ll have trouble finding work.
Maybe he’ll even achieve that dream of singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” at the Indy 500.
(Originally posted 2018-05-19 00:32:26)