Watch Out CASTLE, Penny Johnson Jerald aka “Iron Gates” Is The New Sheriff In Town (Exclusive Interview)

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

No one knows but I think we might get a hint when the unstoppable force that it is Castle-Beckett meets the immovable Captain Victoria Gates aka “Iron Gates” played by 24 alumni Penny Johnson Jerald.

As the newest member of the Castle family, Penny took some time to chat with Daemon’s TV about her mysterious and intimidating character, her thoughts on joining such a popular show and what Richard Castle is in for. Read below for more details and don’t forget to tune in to the upcoming episode of Castle which airs tonight Monday, September 26 (10:01-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.
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You being on ‘Castle’ is very exciting. When did you know you got the part?

Penny Johnson Jerald: When I was at the doctors, getting ready to get off the table from an exam.

[laughs]That’s very specific. What drew you to the character?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I think the character just kind of found me. I say to my closest friends that this was the hardest job not to get and then to get. I had met with the producers for a while and then just left it alone and thought, ‘Let me just see what God is going to do with that one,’ and then I’m on the table for an exam and it was like, ‘Oh, by the way, you start work in an hour.’ I was like, ‘On what?’ ‘”Castle.”‘ ‘Oh, I’m doing that show. Yea.’

I was so excited because when I did read the script I really loved the character. I loved the first line that came out of her mouth. ‘Don’t call me ma’am. You can call me sir or captain.‘ I thought, ‘Okay, she’s a smart one. I like her.’ So, I hadn’t watched the show before. I went and watched the final two episodes. I said, ‘Ooh, I like this. This is what the doctor ordered here.’ It’s a nice fine line between a ‘Moonlighting‘ and an ‘NYPD Blue.’ I like that. I need to be between these two worlds right now. Coming off of ’24’ I needed something that had a little lightness to it instead of finding heads in duffle bags and things. Here you find a potential love affair.

The premiere was so interesting, and I think the question is now who is “Iron Gates”?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I love that name. I think not only is she the new sheriff in town, she’s the voice of reason. ‘This is what we’re doing. This how we’re doing it and we’re doing it that way not because I said so, but because it says so in this book of law that we’re now going to follow because we want to be the best precinct.’ So, she’s challenging everyone to up their game and doing it in the right way. That doesn’t sit so well with everyone in the precinct since they’ve been used to just doing what they want to do and when they want to do it and how they want to do it.

The first episode is sort of a trust deficit between Gates and her team. How will that gap get bridged in the upcoming episodes?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Well, slowly. She will have to contend with the fact that Castle has to be there because her superior told her that’s just the way it’s going to be. Of course she’s going to follow what the mayor has said, but in no way does that mean she has to give in to every whim that Castle brings her way. So, you’ll see how she fits in the relationships between the other people because she’s something that’s different in the mix. They’ll have to always contend with, like, ‘Oh, but there’s Gates and I know she’s watching.’ I think that’ll be very interesting this year.

I’m assuming your character has to be in the dark because there’s some things she doesn’t know even though you as an actor probably know that information. How does that affect your approach the character?

Penny Johnson Jerald: The first thing that I do is find out what I do know. It’s always nice to know that so that you’re always playing from a place of truth. I do know that Kate was shot. I do know about her mother. I do know certain things because I come from Internal Affairs. So there’s certain information that I was privy to before coming in, the character was privy to. I do not know about the Beckett and Castle relationship, but I get to learn that during the course of the series.

Last week was the beginning of, ‘Hmm, there could be something there.’ So, it’s fun to learn it like the audience is learning it. I’m kind of like the window for the audience, too. That’s actually fun because I’m a spectator. Being able to watch is very nice, too, when playing a character because then you don’t know everything about your character. So, she’s not finished yet and I don’t want her to be finished developing. Not knowing then helps in the development of character, so that she’s not boring.

It must be a daunting task to join such a popular show with such an established fanbase. How do you deal with all of that?

Penny Johnson Jerald: I learned long ago that you don’t read what the fans expect until you have something under your belly. Now, I’m a newcomer when it comes to ‘Castle.’ So, I have to fit in with the rhythm of the show. I have to know that this is the style of the show, but I do have to be smart enough to know that they wrote a different character. So, they want something a little different. I have to be careful in how I introduce that into my body of work because you don’t want to throw those people who have been watching.

I have to tell you, a lot of the time fans know more than you. When I was doing ‘Star Trek’ I never knew that I had a baby and all this stuff. I would be giving a lecture or something and a fan would raise his or her hand and tell me, ‘Oh, no, but your character…,’ and I’d go, ‘Oh, okay. I stand corrected. I’ll just throw that into the mix.’ It’s kind of like a great acting game. You are thrown into a room and your baby just died and someone says something else to you and you go, ‘Okay, I’ll do that one, too.’ So, then it becomes fun and never boring for you as an actor when you go to work because you don’t know what to expect.

If you could guest star on any other TV show, which one would it be?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Dexter.’

Didn’t even hesitate there.

Penny Johnson Jerald: No. I love that show.

Do you want to be a villain or a good guy?

Penny Johnson Jerald: Oh, my gosh, I don’t know. That’s a hard one.

As a villain it doesn’t always end up well for you –

Penny Johnson Jerald: You know what, I would let others decide how they’d like to see me, if they’d like to see me be a victim or maybe he needs a therapist. I don’t know.

That’s a great idea, Dexter with a therapist.

Penny Johnson Jerald: Yeah, I’d love to be his therapist, but have demented feelings, too, being a little unbalanced, a therapist who probably has her own therapist. Something like that. That might be interesting.

(Photo: ABC/KAREN NEAL)