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SYFY WIRE Batwoman

Batwoman's Javicia Leslie is 'honored and excited' to play a Black, lesbian superhero

By Nivea Serrao
Javicia Leslie

Earlier this summer it was announced that Javicia Leslie's Ryan Wilder would be picking up the mantle of Batwoman, after series star Ruby Rose chose to step away from the series. Not much was known about the character beyond the fact that she's an out lesbian and "nothing like [predecessor] Kate Kane." 

However, today's Batwoman panel at DC FanDome shed some light on what fans can expect in terms of Gotham City's latest hero, and how her stepping into this role will impact the rest of the characters as the show heads into its second season. 

Present for the panel were executive producers Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries) and Sarah Schechter (Black Lightning), as well as cast members Rachel Skarsten (Beth Kane), Meagan Tandy (Sophie Moore), Camrus Johnson (Luke Fox), and Nicole Kang (Mary Hamilton), along with Leslie, the show's latest addition.

For Leslie, not only was getting cast as Wilder a dream come true, as it helped realize her dream of playing a superhero, but it was one that also allowed her to represent two aspects of her identity in terms of being both bisexual and a Black woman.

"It felt like what I've always wanted to be, which is a role model. I feel honored and excited," said Leslie of her experience of scrolling on Instagram and seeing the announcement of her casting be welcomed by a lot of LGBTQ fans. "I feel like there are so many little Javicias, little Black girls who didn't have voices, 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." 

She went on to add, "To play a character that represents my community in the same way. That's not a common thing as an actress at all ... It feels really powerful. With everything that's going on right now, this is what we need. We need to see representation."

Javicia Leslie

Both these aspects of Wilder's character will be represented in her costume and her character arc next season, according to series creator (and EP) Caroline Dries, who notes that the Wilder's batsuit is still in the process of being designed.

"One thing that I loved about Season 1 was how Kate had already come out of the closet, but now she wanted Batwoman to come out of the closet, and that was this huge story arc that we applied to Season 1 because it felt so stifling that this girl who was out is hiding her identity," explained the executive producer. "We want to tell the same story with Ryan. How can we make sure [she] isn't hiding what makes her awesome with a suit? It's going to be a bit of an evolution, as we're going to see the suit evolve early next season."

But the addition of a new hero isn't the only thing the team are going to be dealing with next season, as they'll also be reeling from the disappearance of Kate Kane, which Dries says will be one of the big storylines next season.

"We have two new major stories this season," said Dries. "The first one is: Where is Kate? What happened to her? Is she alive [or] dead? Is she missing [or] on the run? Is she being held captive [or] is she lost? These are all huge mysteries that push us deep into the season. All of our characters are going to have different perspectives on that, different conspiracy theories and different points of view. It will create a lot of drama, tension, mystery, intrigue, and it will be shocking and awesome and amazing."

The other major storyline, of course, is Wilder's arrival and how her own backstory will influence her work as a hero. 

"She has a lot going up against her," noted Dries. "She was a statistic of injustice, and the system is not built for this person. She has constantly battled through the system, through her whole life and now as Batwoman."

Leslie went on to add, “When you are part of a community that has been neglected by the system, that’s the initial community that you feel responsible for helping. That’s what you’re going to see ... You’re going to see that community in Gotham that got overlooked.”

But how will Wilder fare with the rest of the team? Well, according to the rest of the cast, it will be a bit of a mixed bag, with not everyone trusting her right away. But right away, one of the biggest differences between her and her predecessor will be the fact that, unlike Kate Kane, who was pretty much trained for this role, on top of having the wealth and resources, Wilder very much hasn't been — though Dries said that will add to the narrative tension between her and the others.

And even though the Kane family might not like Wilder right away — especially with Kate and Beth's father Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) hating vigilantes — Dries says, this is something they'll be working through. "Whether they realize it or not, Ryan will unite them."

At a separate FanDome Q&A, Leslie was asked about Wilder's relationship to the rest of The CW heroes, like Melissa Benoist's Supergirl. 

"Already, Batwoman stands out because she doesn’t technically have a superpower," she remarked. "Everything that she uses to fight bad guys is more of her intelligence and in Luke [Fox, played by Camrus Johnson] and her physical strength. I do look forward to that from a writing perspective, this street kid’s perspective, from a person that saw these superheroes growing up. Because that was also really important for Ryan to see Batwoman be an out lesbian and to have a superhero role model to look up to. And now, all a sudden, I’m filling those shoes. So to not only fill those shoes, but to play amongst the ones that have already been doing it, I think that that’s gonna be a lot for her. I’m sure it’s gonna be a culture shock for her, but I also think it’s gonna be really cool."

Additional reporting by Josh Weiss

Click here for more of SYFY WIRE's coverage of DC FanDome.