TV & Movies

Javicia Leslie Says It Feels 'Powerful' to Be the First Black Batwoman

New Batwoman Javicia Leslie knew immediately she had to play Ryan Wilder, the new character who takes over the mantle from Ruby Rose‘s Kate Kane as Gotham’s protector in the show’s upcoming second season.

“When I read the character description, it was definitely me. I love the idea that it’s goofy meets badass meets a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do. A person who does not like to follow the rules. I loved the fact that Ryan was just who I am, just a hot mess!” Leslie joked during Saturday’s Batwoman panel at DC FanDome.

The timing of Leslie’s casting in July couldn’t have come at a better time. The God Friended Me alum shared during the panel that, in an interview just weeks prior, she mentioned that one of her biggest career goals was “to become a superhero.” (Leslie is the first Black actress to play Batwoman in a live-action TV series or film.)

“I wanted to be a Black superhero. You don’t get to see that that often. And then a month later, I become the first Black Batwoman, so I think that that’s [fate],” she marveled. “It really hits the nail on the head when it’s like, speak your dreams, speak your affirmations and truly just know that whatever you truly want to do, and you go towards it, it can happen.”

Leslie reflected on the initial response to her casting, saying that “it feels like an honor” to play a Black Batwoman who is bisexual. 

“I was scrolling through all the followers and I saw all the rainbows in the bios,” she said. “I felt like exactly what I wanted to be, which was a role model. I feel honored. I feel excited. I feel like there are so many little Javicias that don’t have voices; little Black girls that didn’t have a voice; little bisexual, bicurious, lesbian, gay, everything that just didn’t have voices. And I feel honored to be able to be a voice for my community — and the entirety of my community.” 

“To play a character that represents my community in the same way, that’s not a common thing as an actress — to also be a part of a community and play a character of a community. It feels really powerful,” Leslie continued. “With everything that’s going on right now, this is what we need. We need to see representation.”

When season 2 of Batwoman kicks off next year, there will be two major mysteries woven into the fabric of the show. One will involve Kate’s disappearance and the other will revolve around Ryan’s ascension to Batwoman. Destiny will be also be a major theme explored in the new season.

“The first one is: Where’s Kate? What happened to Kate? Is she alive? Is she dead? Is she missing? Is she on the run? Is she held captive? Is she lost? These are all huge mysteries that push us deep into the season,” showrunner Caroline Dries teased. “All of our characters are going to have different perspectives on that, different conspiracy theories, different points of view and it will create a lot of drama, tension, mystery, intrigue. And it will be shocking and awesome and amazing.”

“And then we have a new hero rising into Gotham,” Dries said, referring to Ryan. “She has a lot going against her. Growing up, she was a statistic of injustice when she was born. The system was not built for this person. She will constantly battle against the system. She’s battled it her whole life and she’ll continue to battle against it as Batwoman.”

As Leslie tells it, Ryan’s introduction into the life of a crusader will be rocky at first.

“I know going into it, I know it’s going to be a struggle, because when you’re a part of a community that has been neglected by the system, that’s the initial community that you feel responsible for helping. And that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see that community of Gotham that got overlooked… When Caroline and I were talking about it, [it was] just the battle of like, ‘They’re not the only ones that need help, but those are the ones that Ryan is attached to that she really wants to be able to help.'” 

“Just the idea that the same person that will go kick some bad guy’s a** will make sure she goes to feed the cat in the alley, you know? Or gets the orphan girl a place to stay,” she continued. “Just to have that kind of crusader, I think that’s really important and that’s what we’re going to dive into this season.”

With no clear ties between Ryan and the Kane family, Leslie and Dries previewed how their stories may intertwine.

“I see the Kane family really liking Ryan,” Leslie said with a laugh. “Commander Kane, he’s not about the whole vigilante, street kid life but also because I’m sure they’re grieving — not maybe a loss because I don’t know if it could be considered a loss, the way it’s presented in the show. Just this woman who came out of nowhere and had such a rough background; the difference between Kate Kane and Ryan is Kate Kane was groomed and she comes from wealth and she comes from status, while Ryan didn’t have anything growing up. I don’t really see them having a connection at all. I see that having a huge tension between Ryan and the Kane family.”
 
“Ryan will ironically, ultimately unite the Kane family, whether they realize it,” Dries hinted. “There are all of these strands of connections that she brings to them that allows them to keep interacting and having changing dynamics.”

Leslie revealed during the panel that she had yet to try on the Batwoman suit, but will do so “very soon.”

“Caroline and I were also talking about how important it is that, if we’re going to have a Black Batwoman, that she needs to become a ‘sistah’ when she becomes Batwoman. It’s important for her to feel the silhouette, for her to still look like that — more of a natural textured hair and things like that,” Leslie said. “We’re still putting things together. I can’t wait. I actually have no idea [what it’s going to look like]. I just keep sending her fan art, like, ‘Oh my gosh look at this, this is really dope!'”

Batwoman season 2 premieres in 2021 on The CW.

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