Maggie Geha, a tall, lanky, red-haired actress who looks like she just walked out of a ’40s film noir movie, has joined the cast of “Gotham.” She’s taking on the role of Poison Ivy in the FOX series that looks at the days leading up to Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) becoming Batman.
I know what you are thinking. The role of the plant-loving Ivy Pepper, better known as Poison Ivy, was played by Clare Foley in the first two seasons. Producers decided to make a change to be better able to use the way Ivy uses her sexuality to treat people like well-tended plants. The character needed to be older.
The change in actors will take Ivy from a socially awkward 14-year-old to a manipulative 19-year-old. You can expect Ivy will use her special powers on Bruce Wayne because he has lots of money.
That could set up a lot of tension between Ivy and her good friend, Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), who has gotten very close to Bruce Wayne in the first two seasons. Bicondova says Selina will be losing a good friend because Ivy lies to her.
Geha says the transformation happens “after an encounter with a monster from Indian Hill. She wakes up still feeling like a 14-year-old but she is now in a 19-year-old body.”
“Gotham” executive producer John Stephens explains that the transformation of Poison Ivy into a different version of herself is keeping with the basic plan of the series. Every character goes through some type of major change – even the insecure Bruce Wayne, who will one day be Batman.
“Ivy is a character who makes use of her seductive powers to get what she wants in the world,” Stephens says. “So transforming Ivy early in the season allowed us to play to a lot of these canonical abilities that Ivy has while, at the same time, playing the fun of somebody in a body that is not theirs and trying to grow it very quickly.
“So it becomes a coming-of-age story told sort of super fast.”
Executive producer Ken Woodruff adds, “So we took Ivy from a 15-year-old sort of socially odd girl to someone who is a little bit darker, maybe more willing to do things and to harm people that she wouldn’t have before the transformation.”
Geha says her casting is a dream job because “Gotham” features some of the strongest female characters in TV, she will be surrounded by plants (something she loves in real life) and because she’s been a fan of Poison Ivy for years.
“I dressed as Poison Ivy for Halloween when I was younger. I was familiar with the comics, but when I got the role, Amy Chu, who wrote ‘The Cycle of Death’ comic book series about Poison Ivy, reached out to me and then sent me all the new comics and I got caught up,” Geha says. “I have also power watched the first two seasons so I am caught up on the show.”
The plant part of the role makes her particularly happy because she grew up in the country in Vermont. Geha smiles and says that she keeps an eye on all of the plants on the set when she’s working.
This is the biggest prime-time role for Geha. She’s best known for her work on the daytime drama “All My Children” and small roles in the feature films “Ted 2” and “Winter’s Tale.”
Now Geha has become a part of the comic book TV world that comes with a massive amount of fans. Producers have planted the seeds for this Poison Ivy to bloom and grow.
Art and real life
Kyla Kenedy, a 13-year-old actress from South Carolina, is one of the cast members on the new ABC comedy “Speechless.” The series looks at the efforts of a very determined mother (Minnie Driver) to find the right school for her son who has special needs.
The focus on the older child means the siblings, like Kyla’s Dylan, don’t get as much attention.
Kyla says her acting job mirrors real life – she has an older sister who has special needs because of a brain bleed at birth. Her sister, now an adult, leads an independent life.
She’s playing the TV role a little different than her own life.
“ I definitely think that any kid wants a lot of attention from their parent, but I definitely think that we kind of understand in the show also. I mean, I know Dylan personally really looks up to her mother and definitely tries to imitate her in many, many ways,” Kyla says. “When you are kind of raised that way and you kind of know how it is, you do want more attention.
“But I also think that we kind of understand in a way, but it is kind of hard sometimes, I guess, for us. But I definitely think Dylan tries to imitate Maya to kind of be like her and to get really close with her.”
Kyla knew at a young age that she wanted to act. Her mother told her that if she could land a role in a film that she could go after an acting career. She not only landed one role but has already rolled up 20 acting credits including a starring role in the new series.
It’s the time she spent working on “The Walking Dead” that has earned her the most attention. She played Mika Samuels, one of two sisters who end up under the protection of the central players in the AMC series about the fight to survive in a world full of zombies.
“It wasn’t scary on the set. I would sit next to a walker at lunch,” Kyla tells me at the Television Critics Press Tour.
Working on the show wasn’t scary but Kyla was involved in one of the most emotional and controversial episodes in the history of the series. In “The Grove,” Kyla’s character is killed by her sister, Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino). Lizzie commits the crime as a way of turning her sister into a zombie where she can talk with her forever.
When it’s discovered Lizzie has another murderous plan, she is killed in a very haunting sequence.
“That wasn’t me on the ground when they filmed the scene. I talked to the producer about it but I wasn’t there,” Kyla says.