Gotham’s Supervising Location Manager Keith Adams and writer Shaun O’ Banion give us a closer look behind the scenes of the past four seasons of Fox’s popular noir series. For the complete story please see the Fall 2018 Compass magazine.
All photos courtesy of Warner Bros. Television
Not unlike a costume designer selecting an unusual fabric, design or color to define a character’s look, the members of the Location Department on Gotham have shown a willingness to get their hands dirty, often literally, in order to find those grimy, grungy locations that will help define the city as a character. The Gotham Location Department’s specialty over the years has been scouting off the beaten path in order to deliver visually stunning locations rarely used by other shows.
Many of Gotham’s most extraordinary locations are scheduled for redevelopment in the near future, their legacy living on only through the show, such as the Old Bronx Courthouse, first opened in 1934. The Beaux-arts style stone and granite building had been hiding in plain sight for nearly twenty years before it was rediscovered by the Gotham LocationDepartment. Since then, it has been featured extensively on the show for both exteriors and interiors. “From the street, it’s impressive,” Novotny says. “The marble lobby, even more so.”
The show turned another iconic location into something of a tourist destination. The Bayley Seton Hospital in Staten Island, founded in 1831 to serve retired sailors, has served as a variety of settings over each of the previous four seasons. Slated to eventually become a Community Center and green campus if its new owner, the Salvation Army ever manages to cut through the red tape, the hospital appeared in the series as fan-favorite Arkham Asylum, where Gotham’s most famous “criminally insane” baddies are housed and the production has left its “Arkham Gate” set piece standing on the site for multiple seasons.
By far the location that is mentioned the mostand revered by the crew is the landmark Dime Bank in downtown Brooklyn, an imposing Classic Revival with a striking rotunda. Adams gives all the credit to scouts Susan Silas and Scott Tankel for the discovery. “To find something unique, you have to pay attention to what’s happening in the real estate development world, keep feelers out, and track things that may be available in the future,” says Adams. The Dime Bank had been closed down for two or three years and owned by a number of different entities before finally being sold off to a developer. Silas heard about it and got in to take a look.” Once inside, there was no question the location was exceptional – even for a department with an impressive track record of unique finds. “It was built in the early 1900s and it has these gilded Mercury-head dimes, huge red marble columns, and the most incredible vault – the largest I’ve ever seen – with all of these safety deposit boxes that jut out, creating this unique visual chaos and texture” says Adams. “It just screamed old New York and, subsequently, old Gotham.” They ended up shooting a scene in season four with Penguin’s unscrupulous accountant, Mr. Penn, in the vault and have returned to the bank for other scenes many times since.
Thankfully, there’s at least one Gotham location that isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon—the anchorage of the Manhattan Bridge on the Brooklyn side. “In season two, we were scouting DUMBO, looking for the exterior of Gotham PD. I remember the director looked up at this big stone structure and… he just had an inspiration about it,” says Line Producer Thomas Whelan. ”It’s stuff like that that really makes you proud.”