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Batwoman's Nicole Kang on the power of sidekicks and what’s next for Mary
A hero is only as good as their team, and for The CW's Batwoman, that team is slowly expanding as the show races to the conclusion of its first season.
Luke Fox has been on board since the beginning as Kate's tech genius and guy in the chair, and a few weeks ago, her stepsister Mary finally figured out her secret, though she's been keeping it to herself ever since.
Warning: The interview below contains spoilers for this week's episode of Batwoman.
As Batwoman makes its return to the network for an episode about secrets and revelations, Mary finally came clean, admitting to Kate that she knows about her superhero alter ego and using that and their relationship to help her sister get over her fear and get back in the suit.
Ahead of the episode, SYFY FANGRRLS spoke to Nicole Kang, who plays Mary, about the big reveal, how it changes her relationship with Kate, and what she's most looking forward to exploring down the line.
This week was the culmination of the last few episodes with Mary finding out that Kate is Batwoman and then telling her that she knows and now being on the team. Their relationship has been very one-sided so far, Mary is a little more invested while Kate has been a bit distracted. How does this revelation change that relationship?
If you have any siblings — I actually don’t, I have this relationship with my cousins — you can distinctly remember when you redefine yourself to your family, especially your siblings. Even in quarantine, I’ve found you fall back into old roles, all of a sudden your older sister is acting like a brat and we’re back in high school. In this moment with Mary and Kate — we’re blessed with certain moments in our lives where we are able to reintroduce ourselves to those that we’re closest to.
The look in Kate’s eye that she gave me when she was really hearing me and having that download — this is a huge step for Mary. She’s always wanted to be useful, to be heard, to be loved, to be seen. I think in anyone’s life, it’s so relatable because I want you to see me for me. I want you to see how I can support you, how I can hold you up, and how you can trust me. I really admire Mary’s humility through this whole process and not sort of outing her sister in another way. That’s not her way. She is the ultimate ally and actions speak louder than words and I think here Mary proved it. I think it’s such a triumph in that moment.
Speaking of reintroducing yourself to your family, this is kind of the second time that Mary’s done that. In the first episode, we meet this character who is one thing and turns out to be not just an Instagram influencer but also a secret underground doctor. There are so many sides to this character. What do you enjoy doing the most?
I love how witty she is. Her wit I think reveals so much. You sort of think, "There’s something more. What is she doing with the rest of her time?" That’s so much fun for me. I love when she and Alice fight and get down and dirty in the clinic, but I also love when they have a sort of battle of the tongue. I love how rich her language is.
Of course, her calling in the clinic is such a huge part of her. She’s an entrepreneur and a social justice warrior in her own way, which I love. It’s so hard to pick one! She cracks me up, and that’s what I have the most fun with. I think she brings a little levity to Gotham and in that way, I have full charge. They usually let me go ham and come up with whatever I have up my sleeve. I’m breaking props all the time and trying new things, always trying to make myself laugh, more importantly, the crew laugh, my castmates laugh, and keeping that freshness alive, which is a huge gift that I’m given.
In this episode, specifically, Mary is sort of the Jiminy Cricket, the conscience in Kate’s head getting her to put the suit back on. I really like sidekick characters because they get to be the ones who speak truth to the heroes. How do you feel about those kinds of characters?
I love them. There’s always so much more to their story. Maybe it’s not their shear strength or this or that, but I feel like we’re the ultimate relatable characters. We use all of our resources, our environment, our tools, everything we have within us, that I think everyone contains, and they’re so important in more silent ways. But yeah, being able to speak truth and see things as they are, that’s a superpower. Being able to read someone? Man, have I given it to Sophie, to Alice. She’s just the call-out queen and sometimes the truth hurts. That is a sort of stinging power that I find really powerful in Mary. Maybe I’m a little biased but I really do love this particular role on the team.
Were you surprised that Mary got to find out [Kate's] secret identity so early?
Yeah, it’s so funny. Some people hold the opinion that I found out really fast. Some hold the opinion that I didn’t find out fast enough. We didn’t want to fall into it right away. This episode really proves that it’s a really tricky thing for Mary to grasp, first of all, and then how do I bring it up? How do I become one of the people that she trusts in her inner circle? Especially when she finds out that Alice does know. That’s always an ever-present rivalry between Mary and Alice, that I think is a little underrated.
I love the way that she finds out, how she puts it together herself. Nobody has to tell her. And also, in answer to the people that think it took a long time, as much as Mary does see Kate better than Kate sees herself, I think the people closest to us are blinded to the things that are most obvious to our audience. We really are most concerned with seeing our siblings as the image we have in our heads that, for Mary, it blew her mind that that was her sister’s identity. But in this speech here, she’s able to have that downloaded and sunk in with Mary for a few weeks. She didn’t just come up with this beautiful way of contextualizing Batwoman in Kate’s life in a way that Kate has never done before. She does it because she thinks about it in relation to her own life and how it’s not that huge logical leap that Kate can be a hero to the people of Gotham.
How familiar were you with comic books in general and with the Batwoman comics before you signed on?
You know, to be honest, I wasn’t that well-read. I think I was a little confused between Batgirl and Batwoman and then I read the Greg Rucka comics and DC was so nice in giving us all of the lore and I was just eating it up. I love how dark it was, I love Kate — that antihero — I love the Batwoman world and the more I live in it, the more I love it. And the people our writers keep dreaming up to bring into it — like the character of Mouse, and Mouse and Alice’s relationship — is so interesting to me. And there’s so much more to come. There’s all this foreshadowing of people we want to include and then we have these amazing villains of the week in our villain procedural episodes. It just brings so much to the show and as we go and fill out Gotham as it stands in our world, I find it to be the ultimate playground — as an actor, as a fan, everything.
The reason I was asking is that Mary plays kind of a dual role if you’re familiar with the comics. She’s filling the Bette Kane role, who becomes Flamebird, and also the Leslie Thompkins role from the Batman comics, who also runs an underground emergency room, essentially. On those two sides of that character, which are you more interested in exploring?
They are both within Mary. They are equally important. I’m interested in where she fails to balance the two. I’m really interested in the moment when it does become too much for her. I see people asking “how does Mary manage her time?” And I joke and say, “well, she gets up on the first alarm.” But I am interested to see the places in which Mary comes up short in what she does, and where she struggles. That the need becomes so great or the situation becomes so dire that there’s a transformation in her. I’m really interested in that.
You can steal on thing from the Batcave, what do you take?
I’m stealing her suit! 100%. That suit is so fierce. Or I’m stealing the Bat Bike. That thing shoots grappling hooks. It’s like this remodeled Harley, it’s so sick. Maybe I’m like flying out of there on the Bat Bike, for sure.