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Nice Work…and Donal Logue Can Get It

No matter the role, the essential authenticity of Gotham star Donal Logue shines through. Which may be why this working actor always seems to be working.

Mike Flaherty
  • Donal Logue as Gotham's Det. Harvey Bullock.

  • On the set of Batman prequel Gotham, stars Donal Logue as Det. Harvey Bullock (c.) with Ben McKenzie as Det. James Gordon and Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney (r.).

On a rare day off from shooting Fox’s new Batman prequel, Gotham, Donal Logue, three episodes into production, is still looking to hit just the right note.

“I’m trying to adjust to the theatrical colors of the comic-book world,” he admits. “It is violent. But it’s got to have a little color — and humor.”

Logue plays Detective Harvey Bullock, the older, wiser, crankier partner to Benjamin McKenzie’s Jim Gordon, the rookie gumshoe who’ll go on to become Gotham City’s police commissioner during the reign of the Caped Crusader.

“It’s such a wild world. I love it, and I can’t get enough into it.”

Over the course of a two-decades-plus career, Logue has gotten into more than a little of everything, building an actor’s-actor’s résumé as eclectic as it is prolific.

His gigs include broadcast (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and cable (Copper) series; mainstream (Jerry Maguire) and indie (Steal This Movie) films; comedy (Grounded for Life) and drama (ER); lead (The Tao of Steve), ensemble (Vikings) and guest-starring (House M.D.) roles.

He’s played both good guys (The Knights of Prosperity) and bad (Sons of Anarchy).

The one constant? His deep and essential authenticity — a scuffed-up, rough-and-tumble exterior that can’t begin to suppress an incisive wit, gregariousness and brother-in-arms sensitivity.

It’s the latter that’s most pronounced in Logue’s conversation.

“I meet different people and have conversations about life,” he says of his workaday existence.

“Everywhere you go is an opportunity for a bonding experience with someone, if you’re open to it”

His career choice, he suggests, was motivated by that desire to connect: “I just needed a way to always be in motion and meet new groups of people.”

That peripatetic bent was instilled in childhood. He was born in Ottawa, Canada, to husband-and-wife missionaries who settled in the U.S., only to keep Donal and his three siblings on the move, from east coast to west, northern to southern climes.

He attended high school in El Centro, California, where he “did all those nerdy things” like joining the debate team and eventually winning the state’s impromptu speaking championship. 

From there he went to Harvard and majored in intellectual history, planning a career in diplomacy or the foreign service — until he appeared in a school play.

“Whoa! I got the hit of crack,” he recalls.

“Doing a read-through and mounting a production," he shares, "I never got that sense of camaraderie in the other things I was engaged in, of building something from scratch."

He's been building ever since, perhaps most memorably in FX's Terriers, the 2010 dramedy that was as underrecognized by viewers as it was swooned over by critics.

A one-season wonder, the series posited Logue and Michael Raymond-James as private detectives battling the criminal underworld of a So Cal seaside town. Those unlikely environs and — crucially — Logue and James's hilarious yet sophisticated chemistry managed to put a new spin on the buddy-cop genre, no mean feat.

"We took all the air out [of the genre] and just made it human," Logue says. "We felt like, 'Please watch this because it's very intense and very real.'" But for whatever reason (such as the show's obtuse title), it was not to be.

Gotham looks likely to meet a happier fate: Fox has heavily marketed the series, which the Television Critics Association named the most promising new show of the fall.

In any event, Logue is sure to keep on keeping on. "If I have had any super-mediocre kind of success, it's only because I was willing to do all of the hundred steps below it well."

He concludes with a tag that might be the motto of his actorly life: "Work is honorable."