Lithe leap into Catwoman role

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Camren Bicondova as Selina Kyle in "Gotham."

One character on Gotham is making quite a statement without saying much of anything.

That would be Selina Kyle, the leather-clad street urchin who witnessed, silently from a fire escape, the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents. And she was perched above the gates of stately Wayne Manor when Gotham policeman Jim Gordon made his pact with the distraught orphan, forging the bond that is at the heart of the series.

"I'm stalking Bruce Wayne!" cries Camren Bicondova, the young actress who plays Selina, with an energetic and infectious laugh.

Even this week, in an episode named for her ("Selina Kyle"), the wide-eyed waif wasn't very garrulous. But she did manage to quietly escape the clutches of a vicious child abduction ring. Twice.

Gotham (8 p.m. Monday on Fox29) is populated by the prototypes who will one day grow up to be Batman's nemeses. The lithe and acrobatic Selina, for instance, will over time develop the sharp claws of Catwoman.

It's a perfect role for Bicondova, who has an accomplished dance background and is a devoted felinophile. The interview is constantly interrupted by the three house cats prowling around Fat Jack's Comicrypt on Sansom Street, where the ingenue is making a personal appearance.

The cats are languorously competing for time in Bicondova's lap and for her soothing blandishments.

Bicondova is 15, young enough that she still divides her age into fractions of years (as in "when I'm 151/2"). She started taking acting lessons only two years ago, then got an agent and began going out on readings. "Ninety-four auditions later," she says chipperly, "and here I am!"

She's been on an accelerated course since she was born a Navy brat in San Diego. The unusual spelling came about because her mom wanted to name her after actress Cameron Diaz, but at the last minute, read that Cameron meant "crooked nose" in Gaelic, so she had it taken in.

The family moved to Hawaii when her father was reassigned (although Bicondova is not permitted to reveal his posting).

Because she was a painfully shy child with vision problems (she's legally blind in her right eye) and no interest in sports, her parents signed her up for dance lessons when she was 5, hoping it would get her out of herself.

It worked. Eventually. "I just sat on the side on a little mat and watched for the first six months," she says. Bicondova eventually became a hip-hop dance prodigy, a charter member of the troupe 8 Flavahz, which finished second on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew. She also appeared in the Disney series Shake It Up and in a Ciara video.

Bicondova (it's an Ellis Island bastardization of the Basque surname Viconda) is thrilled with her Gotham experience. The series is being shot at a studio in Brooklyn, and she and her mom have rented an apartment in Manhattan.

"I love New York," she says. "I can walk half a block and I'm at the grocery store. I don't have to drive anywhere."

You get the impression this young lady would be happy just about anywhere. As long as you feed her. She will put a serious dent in two cheesesteaks at Jim's on South Street during her visit to Philadelphia.

"I am a meat girl. I love me some meat," she says. "Mexican, Mediterranean, Italian, sushi, I love it all. Put it on a plate and as long as I know what it is, I will eat it."

Bicondova doesn't project too far into the future, but one thing is set in stone. "My mom says I either have to go to college or go into the military," she says. (Her mother also served in the Navy.)

Which would be her preference? "I really don't care," she says with the nonchalance of a hyperactive 15-year-old who would as soon be shot at as sit in a classroom.

No matter what happens, it's a good bet she will land on her feet.

 


TELEVISION

Gotham

8 p.m. Monday

on Fox29


dhiltbrand@phillynews.com

215-854-4875 @daveondemand_tv