The CW’s Batwoman looked in trouble when lead Ruby Rose left the show in 2020, at the end of season one. Washed up. Done. All before the character had time to really get to work on the mean streets of Gotham.
But where Rose’s character Kate Kane – cousin of Bruce ‘Batman’ Wayne – no longer wears the cloak and cowl, former convict Ryan Wilder – played by 33-year-old Javicia Leslie – now steps into her shoes. It’s an opportunity for The Family Business regular to make her mark on a fandom as devoted as they come. To make Batwoman 2.0 her own.
She doesn’t intend to do this quietly. Here are five things to know before watching Batwoman season two tonight (April 18) when it premieres on E4.
Javicia Leslie’s Batwoman is different to Ruby Rose’s
“Both myself and Ryan have had to go on a journey,” she says. “We’ve both had to learn to become a superhero. I remember my first day on set thinking, ‘How does a superhero hold their hands?’ I didn’t know. I had to work it out! Therefore, Ryan is having to work it out. There’s a really dope scene in the first episode where Ryan actually has to do that, has to work out what to do with her hands. It makes for something very authentic. Ryan is figuring out how to be Batwoman. But so am I…”
Javicia goes on to talk about the challenges of being a new lead – and being a Black woman – in an already established show.
“It’s scary to step on screen with a big afro,” she says. “There’s a natural hair journey that all Black women go through. When you straighten your hair, you kind of fit in. But the moment we start wearing our hair natural, we stand out. That’s a scary thing. I was scared at first. I asked myself, ‘Am I taking up too much space?’ But there’s also power in having that afro. In saying, ‘This is who I am and these are my roots’, I’m going to save people being exactly who I am.”
This version of Batwoman was inspired by Black Lives Matter
On the subject of Blackness, Javicia is the first person of colour to play Batwoman in any media, ever. Her casting came smack in the middle of 2020, as the Black Lives Matter movement rose up in her native USA, and beyond. How much did BLM inspire her portrayal and did wider events feel significant to playing the role?
“The first time I put the suit on,” she says, “I felt an immense amount of responsibility. That bat symbol represents good. It represents what’s right. It represents selflessness. The first time I went into the Batcave and I looked around I got so emotional. No person of colour had done this before. That’s epic. It’s so needed right now. I’m so happy that we have something light to grab on to just even for a second amongst a lot of darkness.”
For Javicia, her casting is more than just a job. It provides hope that change is coming. She tells a story of meeting a fan who, in lieu of official merchandise being available, showed her his Batwoman figure… which he’d “painted brown”.
“Here’s the thing,” she says. “I always say this. I wake up Black, I go to sleep Black. It’s not a suit I put on. I look forward to our entertainment being used to seeing this type of representation.”
It’s expanding the Batverse beyond the comics
It’s extremely rare for a Batman character to debut in a medium that isn’t a DC comic. Leslie’s character Ryan Wilder is one of these anomalies.
“It feels very creative and fun,” says the shows incoming lead. “Whatever decisions we make is now the history of Ryan. And it feels a little bit more creative. We’re creating her story as we go. There’s a real freedom to being able to do that.”
You know who else made her first appearance in a Batman story outside the comics? Harley Quinn, in 1992’s Batman: The Animated Series. Pressure’s on, puddin’!
It’s a show made by bona fide Batnerds
The Joker is all well and good – despite in reality being neither of those things – but chances are, unless you’re Zack Snyder, you’ve seen enough of him… for a while… Batwoman season one positioned Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend-cum antagonist Hush as the show’s primary foe. Season two brings serial killer Victor Zsasz into the fold.
Both are names barely-featured in live action Batdrama. This really is a show made by fans, for fans. Javicia gets it.
“I’ve always been a fan,” she says. “My favourite live action Batman? Michael Keaton. The Tim Burton Batman movies were actually the first superhero movies I ever saw. But I think your favourite Batman is often decided by the villains they face. Heather Ledger’s Joker brings you Christian Bale’s Batman. The Penguin [played by Danny DeVito in 1992’s Batman Forever] brings you Michael Keaton. I think Batman is about villains more than anything…”
Asked about what villains she’d like her Batwoman to face, Javicia is quick to point to Catwoman. “I love the energy Batwoman and Catwoman have,” she says, “That thing where someone is really, really bad for you, but you can’t help but want to be with them. I’d like my Batwoman to find that.”
This is the toughest Batwoman yet
Reasons for Ruby Rose’s departure from Batwoman have never been clarified. Some sources claim she was unhappy with the show’s long working hours. Others that the physical excursion demanded of the role proved challenging for an actress who’d previously had two herniated discs. Whatever the truth, Javicia – trained in Thai boxing, or Muai Thai – is up for the challenge, no matter how rigorous the realities of filming are.
“Action is my passion when it comes to acting,” she says. “It’s also a genre that’s underrepresented in both the Black community and in the queer community. I look forward to not having to say I’m the first anymore, but I’ve always said I want to be the first Black Lara Croft. It’s rare that you see us in that world. Being a Black female action star is really, really dope, and it’s happening more often…”
‘Batwoman’ season two will premiere on E4 on April 18 at 8pm