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The first Batgirl feature film is breaking new ground on the DCEU diversity front with a key piece of casting. Deadline reports that actress Ivory Aquino has joined the film as Barbara Gordon's best friend and Gotham City bartender Alysia Yeoh, marking the arrival of the first trans character in a live-action film based on DC Comics.
Aquino, perhaps best known for her portrayal of trans activist Cecilia Chung in the ABC miniseries When We Rise, has also recently appeared in films like Lingua Franca and Lapsis and TV series including Blue Bloods, New Amsterdam, and When They See Us. Now, she's joining the DCEU via its first HBO Max feature film.
Created by writer Gail Simone and artist Ardian Syaf, Alysia first appeared in The New 52 relaunch of Batgirl, and became Barbara Gordon's roommate as the Gotham vigilante looked for a new place outside of her father's home. A bartender and aspiring chef, Alysia bonds with Barbara, and eventually shares that she's trans with her, even as Barbara is careful not to disclose her own identity as Batgirl. Though they didn't remain roommates for long, the two stayed close, and Babs was eventually the maid of honor at Alysia's wedding.
It's not clear at the moment exactly how much screentime the live-action version of Alysia will get, as Batgirl already sports an impressive and growing ensemble cast. Led by Leslie Grace (In the Heights) in the title role, the film also features J.K. Simmons reprising his role as Commissioner Jim Gordon, the return of Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Brendan Fraser taking on another DC Comics role as the villain Firefly, and more still undisclosed roles.
No matter how she fits into the overall narrative, though, Aquino's casting, and the debut of Alysia Yeoh as a live-action character, marks a big step forward for representation in superhero cinema. On the small screen, the Arrowverse has already debuted a prominent trans character thanks to Supergirl star Nicole Maines' portrayal of Dreamer, and while Marvel's Kevin Feige has noted a trans character will soon debut in the MCU, we haven't seen it yet.
Directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah from a script by Christina Hodson, Batgirl is expected to launch on HBO Max later this year.