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Batwoman’s Javicia Leslie And The Cast Discuss Ryan Wilder And Season 2

It’s hard to think of a TV shows that had to change so radically from Season 1 to Season 2 as The CW’s Batwoman, which lost star Ruby Rose a few months back. Though the split was publicly amicable, it led to several big changes, all leading up to the casting a new Batwoman, and a new character different from Rose’s Kate Kane: Ryan Wilder, to be played by God Friended Me alum Javicia Leslie. And though we got a tease of Leslie in the first round of DC FanDome back in August, today’s panel at DC FanDome: Explore The Multiverse was the official unveiling of Leslie as the first Black Batwoman, along with her cast.

“When I read the character description, it was definitely me,” Leslie said as part of the virtual panel. “It’s like goofy meets badass meets a person that doesn’t like to be told what to do, a person who does not like to follow the rules… I love the fact that Ryan is just who I am: it’s a hot mess.”

That character description breaks down Ryan like so: “likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed. Ryan spent years as a drug-runner, dodging the GCPD and masking her pain with bad habits. Today, she lives in her van with her plant. A girl who would steal milk for an alley cat and could also kill you with her bare hands, Ryan is the most dangerous type of fighter: highly skilled and wildly undisciplined. An out lesbian. Athletic. Raw. Passionate. Fallible. And very much not your stereotypical all-American hero.”

While it’s arguable whether that describes Leslie perfectly, it’s clear from her own admission that she is definitely close — and definitely athletic. Though showrunner Caroline Dries knew almost instantly that Leslie was right for the role (“It was obvious to everyone watching the tape within, like, five seconds, it was over Zoom and I texted someone on the computer over the chat, ‘oh she gets it,’” Dries recalled), and EP Sarah Schechter knew even sooner (““I will say I had the fastest yes to Javicia, which was before I saw the audition, and I just saw her name, because I knew her work from God Friended Me, so I was like, oh yeah, Javicia, no, no, no, we’re done,” Schechter said, laughing) it wasn’t until she was already cast they realized how much Leslie was a superhero IRL.

“She had sent this athleticism reel, a montage of all of her stuff,” Dries said. “One of the things she was pushing these giant tires as somersaults, and I was like oh my gosh. I told her, ‘you had me at tire flip.’ She brings everything, intellect, emotion, heart, athleticism, everything you want in your hero. She had to do a really hard thing, which was take a role for a script that didn’t exist yet, and she was willing to trust us with it.”

Just because Leslie was, in the staff’s mind, perfect for the new role of Ryan Wilder, and the cast welcomed her with open arms, doesn’t mean the character of Ryan will have an easy time of it.

“We have two major stories this season as we come into Season 2,” Dries teased. “The first one is: where’s Kate? What happened to Kate? Is she alive, is she dead, is she missing, is she on the run, is she held captive, is she lost? These are all huge mysteries that push us deep into the season. And all of our characters are going to have different perspectives on that, different conspiracy theories, different points of view, and it will create a lot of drama, tension, mystery, intrigue.

“And then we have… A new hero rising into Gotham, and Ryan… She’s a new character to the world of DC and she has a lot going against her. She was a girl who was a statistic of injustice from the moment she was born. And the system was not built for this person. And she will constantly battle against the system, she has battled against it her whole life, and she will continue to battle against it as Batwoman.”

Leslie agreed with Dries’ assessment, adding that since she was raised on the streets, that’s the side of Gotham City she’ll most identify with. She’s not part of a Gotham legacy, like Bruce Wayne or Kate Kane, she’s not rich, or as co-star Camrus Johnson, who plays tech nerd Luke Fox on the show noted, an army brat with training and skills. That may bring her into conflict with Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott), Kate’s father who isn’t fond of vigilantes anyway. But it also, surprisingly, might bring her closer to Kate’s step-sister, Mary (Nicole Kang), who manages a free, underground clinic for the impoverished part of Gotham, in her spare time away from being a social influencer.

“I’m especially excited to see this relationship happen in the wake of this mysterious disappearance,” Kang said. “[Mary’s] a person who’s always looking for families, is always looking for communities to see her, which I think is a huge source why the clinic exists for her. There are much deeper reasons for that. And I think her and Ryan, Mary and Ryan sort of have that in common perhaps? Which is why I think Ryan looks to Mary in this way.”

Mary isn’t the only character Ryan will be bonding with. Another interesting pairing? Kate’s ex-girlfriend, and leader of security force The Crows, Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy). “She’s going to really understand the importance of why Batwoman has to stay secretive, and she’s going to appreciate that,” Tandy said. “With the new Batwoman coming into Gotham, Sophie’s going to have no clue. She’s going to want Batwoman to stay masked.”

Still, Dries teased that it won’t be all easy going with Ryan and Sophie initially — though ultimately, it may be a good thing for Kate’s ex. “Ryan helps pull Sophie out of her shell, and maybe, we edge [her] up a little bit this season,” Dries said. “Sophie who plays by the book, and between the lines as we got to know [her]. And now, maybe… Branches out a little bit.”

Oh, and there’s one last character who might have some issues with Ryan Wilder: Alice (Rachel Skarsten), Kate’s insane, villainous twin sister, who has been plotting and planning to kill Kate. Only now, with Kate gone, not only are all her plans gone to waste, but she’s going to have to kill a new Batwoman. That is, if she isn’t busy dealing with a threat of her own: villain Safiyah (Shivani Ghai), who has some deep ties to Alice’s past.

“I think Alice is just gonna be like peeved,” Skarsten said. “Here she has this beautiful, intricate plan, the demise of her sister, and that will have been foiled. But she’s also going to have a lot to worry about because we’re introducing a new character, Safiyah, who Alice had talked about last season. The introduction of Safiyah will be intriguing because this is a backstory for Alice that we haven’t had the opportunity to see before.”

Ultimately, though, this is a new start for the show — and a new start for Batwoman the character, down to a costume that Dries promised would evolve along with Ryan; something that she and Leslie have been discussing quite a bit.

“If we have a Black Batwoman, it’s important she becomes a sistah when she becomes Batwoman,” Leslie said, “So the silhouette of her should still look like that. So a natural textured hair, and things like that. I think we’re still putting things together, I just keep sending her fanart.”

“Keep the fanart coming,” added Schechter, laughing.

Batwoman returns to The CW in January, 2021.

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