Since Selina Kyle and her alter ego Catwoman were first introduced by DC Comics in 1940, her character has been portrayed onscreen by Eartha Kitt, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway. As a teenage Selina on FOX’s Gotham, though, Camren Bicondova brings something new to the role, and it isn’t just her age: She understands her.
“I think a lot of people see her as this very closed-off, very selfish person,” Bicondova tells BUST. “I don’t think she’s selfish. I think her self-awareness makes her think of herself before she’ll think of others, but because she cares so much about herself, she can give so much to the people she loves.”
In one of Selina’s most iconic moments of the show’s second season, she advises Bridgit Pike to leave town. Bridgit had just killed her brothers, and tells Selina of her plan to take down others, too—even though it would likely get herself killed in the process. Selina quips back, “Look after number one. That’s you.” Bridgit responds that it’s nice to have someone who cares about her, and then Selina, in typical Selina fashion, insists that she doesn’t care and walks away. The camera focuses in on Bridgit for several beats before Selina runs back and throws her arms around her.
It’s scenes like these, Bicondova says, that show the heart of her character. “She says to look after number one, that’s you. I feel like that’s easier to say than to actually do, but I’ve learned to understand from her that you can’t really love anybody else if you don’t love yourself.”
When Bicondova got the role, she was a freshman in high school and had just finished her first semester. In so many shows now, teenagers are played by adults in their twenties and thirties, but Bicondova had the unique experience of growing up right along with her character. “She taught me if you want something, you have to go get it, and you have to want to go get it,” she says. “A lot of my morals and values now, as eighteen-year-old Camren, I’ve learned from Selina.”
The show is currently on the second leg of its fourth season. “Within the second half of the season I’ve really related to her. I think the main thing that’s similar is our drive to understand people,” Bicondova tells BUST. “Even if Selina doesn’t like somebody, she still tries to understand their point of view.”
Gotham is full of hyper-dramatized crime, scheming, and murder, but as Bicondova says, “in every episode, there’s always some aspect of realism.” We first meet Selina in the show’s pilot, a rough-around-the-edges street thief who witnesses the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. From that point on, through many missteps and changes, Selina and Bruce remain somewhat connected, and both typically outsmart the older authority figures on the show, including protagonist Jim Gordon.
“Half of Gordon respects Selina. He knows she’s intelligent, she just doesn’t normally use [her intelligence] in the right way,” explains Bicondova. “But then the other half of Gordon is like, ‘you’re a street thief, you’re a felon, you’re not a proper member of society.’ I think if we listen to the kids, and listen to the teenagers, our world would be a better place. We wouldn’t be having the problems that we have now.”
“There’s this natural feeling of superiority where it’s like, ‘you are a child. You don’t know anything. You don’t have the right to vote, so your opinions on policies and procedures don’t matter,’” she says. These systems are even at play between Selina and Bruce: though both are underestimated, Selina deals with much more discrimination and a different set of expectations. “When Selina and Bruce are in a room together, I don’t think it’s just that Selina’s a teenage girl and Bruce is a teenage boy. I think it’s also that people will listen to the educated, rich boy before they will listen to the undereducated, poor girl.”
It’s unsurprising, then, that Bicondova is so excited about the student-led movement pushing for stricter gun control regulations. Just last weekend, she attended the March For Our Lives with some of her Gotham castmates. “I remember just a year ago, I was being told to shut up, that my opinions don’t matter,” she says. “And now, the door is slowly starting to open up to where kids are saying, ‘no, we do matter. Because we’re the next people in charge.’”
Gotham airs on FOX every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST.
Top photo via FOX / Gotham
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Lydia Wang is a writer, pug enthusiast, and hopeless romantic. She lives in New York, writes for BUST, and overshares on Twitter: @lydiaetc.