Javicia Leslie Discusses Batwoman Role on DC FanDome Panel

Batwoman Panel at DC FanDome

The Batwoman panel at DC FanDome was fun, heart-warming, and chockful of tidbits about the upcoming season.

Executive producers Caroline Dries and Sarah Schechter were joined by cast members Rachel Skarsten (Alice), Meagan Tandy (Sophie Moore), Camrus Johnson (Luke Fox), and Nicole Kang (Mary Hamilton), and the new Batwoman herself, Javicia Leslie, who plays a new character created for the show, Ryan Wilder.

The panel began with a look back at season one and how much the cast and crew enjoyed being a part of it. The feedback from fans has been positive—I loved the show—and being able to explore the Batman-universe felt rewarding for all involved. However, I did find it a bit strange that the highlights reel from season one failed to show Batwoman at all. I understand that Ruby Rose has left the show and that Kate Kane isn’t part of the universe anymore, but erasing her completely felt weird.

Having said that, I’m very excited to see Leslie as Batwoman—we need more women of colour in the superhero world, especially as superheroes!

But I will miss the twin dynamic that Kate and Alice brought us in season one. As half of a twin myself, there were moments in season one that resonated with me strongly, and they pulled me into the world of Batwoman, as did Kate’s queerness and the fact that she was Gotham’s superhero.

Speaking of twins, families became a very important part of the opening season of Batwoman—unsurprising, since familial bonds run the Bat-verse. Alongside the Hamilton-Kane family—including Jacob, Catherine, Kate, Mary, and Alice in her own way—one could also call The Crows a family. Certainly, Sophie took on the mantle of the “good daughter” for Jacob in their shared workplace. How he’s going to deal with yet another daughter being gay, I do not know.

I loved Kang’s astute observation about how someone who looks like her—a woman of Asian origin—doesn’t usually get to be part of the family dynamic of superhero shows. That was one of the many aspects of the show that I loved, as well. She also mentioned how the Hamilton-Kane family is a blended and mixed-race family, which is true to the way the world exists now.

One of the funnier moments from the panel was Skarsten talking about her “evil laugh” as Alice. Fans love it and often ask her to do it—the only problem is that it’s her natural laugh. It just comes across as evil because of the character! Is she going to change her own laugh now? I think it’s too late for that.

Speaking of Alice, Johnson noted that a lot of fans wanted Alice to win because of all the bad things that had happened to her. I agree, in parts. I loved Kate, but I couldn’t help but root for Alice because her ordeal was a nightmare and she deserves good things.

Which is also something I want for Sophie. Tandy did face angry fans who felt Sophie took the easy way out as opposed to Kate. Both faced expulsion from the military because of their relationship and were asked to renounce their queerness if they wanted to stay. Kate didn’t and was expelled, but Sophie signed the deal, remaining in the closet for years but managing to have a career.

Considering the recent discussions in the publishing world about who should and shouldn’t out themselves and how it impacts their careers, Sophie’s choice on Batwoman makes complete sense. She could never have been part of the military or have risen to second in command in The Crows had she not been in the closet.

There aren’t many ships in Batwoman yet but apparently HamilFox—a ship name apparently coined by Johnson for Mary and Luke—is huge. Most of the cast love the idea but no confirmations yet from the showrunners!

In this panel, Javicia Leslie was officially introduced as Batwoman, even though the news has been out for a while. This makes me wonder about the format of DC FanDome—it’s great to get this content, but the big reveal in the panel was a non sequitur.

It was interesting to hear Leslie speak about her journey to the role and how she had assumed her manager was calling her to tell her that she hadn’t got the role. Fortunately, it was good news instead.

Leslie spoke often about she already feels connected to Ryan Wilder—especially her goofiness and badassness but also that Ryan doesn’t like being told what to do. A “hot mess,” in other words. Leslie had always wanted to take on an action role and play a superhero, so she’s glad to see her dream come true. She already has the training for it—she’s been into muay thai and kickboxing for a while—her show reel of athleticism helped her seal the deal! We got to see a few clips from it and it certainly is impressive—she’s shoving a huge truck tire around. I’d say Leslie’s got the physical part of this role handled.

I loved the section where the cast got to do a Q&A with Leslie to get to know her, and let fans get to know her, as well. We learned that her favourite colour is blue, that she’s obsessed with Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, Kerry Washington, and Reese Witherspoon because they use their platforms for activism.

Leslie tap dances—could we get a musical crossover with The Flash, please—and she loves plants so much, she’s named all her houseplants. Had Leslie not become Batwoman, she would have been perfect for Poison Ivy! Apparently, she will be in good company because Skarsten is also a “plant mom.”

And before she was an actor, Leslie worked for the army; she was also a “military brat,” as her mother was in the army, too. Leslie used to oversee the payment of soldiers who were stop-lossed in Afghanistan—she paid them for the time between their contracts ending and when they got home. The cast and crew were suitably impressed.

I love that Dries and Schechter knew almost immediately that Leslie would be perfect for the role. Not only did she have a great audition, but she felt and portrayed a strong connection to Ryan even though there was no script for her to work off of.

Leslie clearly has very little to work with right now. Because of lockdowns, she hasn’t had a suit fitting yet, but she did confirm that Wilder’s Batwoman suit would be different from the season one suit. As Leslie passionately said, a Black Batwoman needs to look like a “sister” and have the natural, textured hair of a Black woman. So, the suit is going to change and Leslie’s already been sending the fan art she’s finding to Dries for inspiration.

Dries is definitely on board with the idea of a new suit—and the modifications will happen early in the season. She spoke about the importance of Batwoman coming out as lesbian to the citizens of Gotham and how, for Ryan, being seen as a Black woman fighting for Gotham will be just as important.

Speaking of the suit, during the extended version of the “Legacy of the Bat” panel, artist and former DC Comics Publisher Jim Lee shared artwork featuring DC’s characters, and it includes his concept for Leslie’s Batwoman, in a slightly redesigned suit.

Also, in the same panel, Lee spoke about the possibility that Ryan Wilder will be featured in DC comics in the future. Numerous characters have found life in the comics universe after appearing in other properties and it would be great for Wilder to follow the same route.

Until then, Leslie will be cementing her place in Gotham in the Arrowverse. Interestingly, she doesn’t feel like Ryan will fit into the Hamilton-Kane family at all—for one, the family will be dealing with Kate’s disappearance. Plus, while Kate came from a certain amount of wealth and security, Ryan will be coming from nothing, so she won’t have much in common with the family.

According to Dries, Ryan will reunite the Hamilton-Kane family eventually, and Kang believes that Mary and Wilder will find common ground as they’re both fighting for oppressed communities in Gotham. This is a relief, as I wouldn’t want Ryan to be an outsider of the primary family on the show.

We don’t know how Alice is going to react to Ryan’s Batwoman. She’d always wanted revenge on her sister for abandoning her, but that plan is going to go out of the window. And she’s got a new villain to deal with in Gotham, Safiyah Sohail, set to be played by Shivaani Ghai (a British-Indian actor, so yay for more rep!).

I’m interested in the Ryan-Sophie dynamic. Not only was Kate Sophie’s ex, but Sophie also fell in love with Batwoman. How she’ll deal with a new person in the suit is something I am desperate to see. According to Tandy, initially, the two characters will not get along—boo! But eventually, Ryan will help Sophie come out of her shell a bit and maybe even start bending the rules. No talk of a romance though, but I’m holding out hope.

It looks like there’s going to be a lot of antagonism around Ryan initially. Even Johnson’s Luke Fox will struggle to accept the new Batwoman, before eventually warming to her.

Interestingly, Julia Pennyworth wasn’t mentioned once. I expect the character to have a larger role to play next season, but I’m not sure. The casting choice was very problematic—I wrote about it for WWAC—so I’m uncertain whether the showrunners took the backlash into consideration and are phasing her out. Don’t get your hopes up.

As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Batwoman season one, I was sad to hear about Ruby Rose’s exit. But Leslie is bringing so much enthusiasm to the role already and I cannot wait to see her in action and interacting with this cast. This panel was fun to watch and there’s a camaraderie between the cast and crew that has come through on screen already. Bring on season two, I say!

Louis Skye

Louis Skye

A writer at heart with a fondness for well-told stories, Louis Skye is always looking for a way to escape the planet, whether through comic books, films, television, books or video games. She always has an eye out for the subversive and champions diversity in media.

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