'Batwoman' star Javicia Leslie is 'very honored' to be playing the iconic hero, especially after US Capitol riots
- Javicia Leslie spoke with Insider about joining "Batwoman" as the lead star on its second season.
- Leslie plays an original character, Ryan Wilder, who takes over the Bat mantle from former Batwoman Kate Kane (Ruby Rose).
- The actress grew up loving Batman with Val Kilmer being her favorite person to don the cape and cowl.
- She describes Batwoman's new suit as "epic," which was worked on for months.
- Leslie said she feels honored to step into the role during a pivotal time in America's history.
- "It's very important that we continue to have representation on the screen so that we can continue to build a future of people that feel empowered to fight their fight and speak their piece," Leslie told Insider.
"For three days, I could barely eat. I could barely sleep," Leslie told Insider, saying her partner encouraged her to relax. "I was just like, 'I can't! I need to know!' It's life changing."Leslie finally received the good news from her manager.
When the show returns for its second season on The CW this Sunday, Leslie will be the first Black actress to play Batwoman.She's not taking over the role of Batman's cousin Kate Kane, previously played by Ruby Rose, who stepped down last May. Instead, Leslie will play Wilder, an original character who doesn't appear in the comics, but is scrappy, self-motivated, and has a score to settle with some familiar foes in Gotham.
A big Batman fan herself, Leslie spoke with Insider about stepping into the new role, the new, "epic," Batsuit made for her, her current Batman movie binge (along with her favorite Caped Crusader), and the importance of taking over the Bat mantle during a turbulent time in our nation's history.
Developing Ryan Wilder's character was a collaborative process.Insider: Ryan Wilder isn't based on any iteration of Batwoman. She's an original character. What conversations did you have with showrunner Caroline Dries and executive producer Greg Berlanti in discovering who Ryan is and her backstory? Did you help at all in shaping the character?
Javicia Leslie: Well, of course Caroline and the writer's room created Ryan even before I came into the picture. But, as far as the development, I think it's been very collaborative. The thing about the process that we're going through is that the writers give me the ingredients such as the script, but then I'm the one who sits and creates the world through my imagination.
That's what really helps to bring it alive as well along with the director, the crew, and the cast. It's definitely a very collaborative effort in bringing Ryan's story to life. I love that this is an original character. The thing about anything that's new, it's going to take a lot for anyone to get adjusted to it, but then you're going to look back years later and you'll be a favorite character.On the season two premiere, after the title sequence, your name is the first thing people see. What was your reaction when you saw your name is the first one to pop up on screen right after the "Batwoman" logo?
Freaking cool, man. When I saw it for the first time, I was just like, "Wow." You know? Wow. This is... I'm speechless and this is life changing.
Val Kilmer is Leslie's favorite Batman, but Christian Bale's take on the detective is up there, too.
You grew up with Batman. Which Batman - or Batmen - did you grow up with?So when I originally started doing press, they would ask me my favorite Batman. And I'd say, "OK, well, you know, Christian Bale." My last time I'd seen Batman it was Christian Bale or it might've been Ben Affleck - but we don't talk about that.
I just got through Michael Keaton's and now I started Val Kilmer's Batman. Right now, I think he's the winner, so far. I have to finish his version of it one more time and then I can really make my decision. But yeah, right now, it's Val.Read more: Every actor who's played Batman, ranked from worst to best
I thought you were going to go old school for a second and say Kevin Conroy, who got me into Batman with the animated series back in the '90s.What makes you fall in love with the Batman actually isn't the actor. It's the villains. It's always about who your favorite villains are.
And so the reason why I used to pick Christian Bale was, because to be honest with you, Heath Ledger, was a huge part of that decision.
But then when I started going back, there were so many other epic villains. People forget that Danny DeVito killed it as the penguin [in "Batman Returns]."Read more: What we know about the upcoming 'Batman' movie, starring Robert Pattinson
Leslie didn't speak with former 'Batwoman' star Ruby Rose after getting cast.
After getting the role, did you speak with Ruby Rose at all on taking over the mantle?
No.Did you want to speak [with her] or did you want to make the role your own?
It was 'surreal' putting on the Batsuit for the first time, Leslie recalled.
We see you put the suit on for the first time on the season two premiere. What was it like for you the first time you put it on?
I recorded myself the first time I put the cowl on. I didn't look at myself at first and when I looked, I was just like, "Oh my goodness."I put the cowl on without a wig and...without the wig, it's pretty much the same thing that Batman wore.It's just a really surreal feeling because I grew up watching this superhero and to know that I now am taking the reins of this franchise, as far as the television generation goes, it's epic.
What changes, if any, did they have to make to the suit for you? Did you have any input on any updates?
There's two suits. I start off in Kate Kane's. They had to make a version for my body type.
When it came to Ryan's version of Batwoman, we worked on it for months. We all collaborated. It was me, our lead costumer, Maya Mani, and our show creator, Caroline Dries, along with all the other executive producers, really just kind of taking our time and figuring out what the look of this Batwoman was going to be.
I love what we came up with. It's an epic, epic suit. And I think that fro sitting on top, it's just like the perfect icing on top of everything.
Leslie revealed she did a lot of her own stunts.I noticed - I hope I'm saying this right - you've trained in Muay Thai?
I was going ask if you're doing your own stunts.Yes, I am doing my own stunts on the show. I do have a stunt double, of course, which is necessary and she's amazing. She's able to do a lot more than what I'm able to do, but I do most of my own stunts as well.
Leslie feels 'very honored' to be playing Batwoman right now after the US Capitol building riots.
You were announced as Batwoman during a turbulent time in America. What does this mean to you, especially after a heartbreaking and tumultuous week in America to be playing this character?
I'm very, very sad and disappointed with everything that is going on right now and what has been going on. A lot of what we thought had changed has been proven not to have changed.
What message do you hope "Batwoman" sends to little boys and little girls who may be tuning in?
I just hope everyone can see themselves in Ryan. I think the great part about Ryan's story is that it shows that anyone could be a hero. It's within all of us. And she really shows that journey.I'm going on that journey with her because I didn't know how to be a superhero. I kind of had to grow like Ryan had to grow.
The second season of "Batwoman" premieres on The CW on Sunday at 9 p.m. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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