Lauren Piester of E! writes…
Batwoman Javicia Leslie recalls the ups and downs of learning how to be a superhero during her first season of The CW’s Batwoman.
It’s been a wild year for Javicia Leslie.
Just under one year ago, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, she was announced as the new star of The CW’s Batwoman, making history as the first Black woman to play the character on a TV show that was already breaking ground in LGBTQIA+ storytelling. Now, her first season finale as the hero is about to air, and she’s trying not to think about what a big deal the whole thing is. Or at least that’s how she was looking at it when she she was filming the season finale.
“You know, we don’t look at it from that perspective as artists. We come in and do the job,” she told E! News in May. “What effect it makes is amazing, but for me, it’s really about focusing on the work itself. I didn’t go into the show thinking about the history-making part of it, because I don’t know if I would have succeeded.”
And Leslie certainly does feel like she’s succeeded, simply by making it through an entire season.
“What we do is not easy!” she said. “To make it through a complete season in one piece always feels like a success.”
Leslie is particularly proud that the cast and crew made it through a whole pandemic season without “any hiccups.”
“We never got shut down because of COVID or anything like that,” she shared. “We just kind of got to be able to do what we love for nine months.”
The actress was best known for the CBS show God Friended Me when she was cast as the new Batwoman, replacing former star Ruby Rose, who decided to leave after the first season. But Leslie wasn’t playing the new Kate Kane, or anyone from the comics. Her character, a girl named Ryan Wilder who lived with her plant in her car, was completely invented for the show. That meant she got to build her from the ground up, but she also had to win over the comic book fans who had tuned in to see Kate Kane.
But lucky for Leslie, who is trained in martial arts, it was like the part was written for her—stunts and all. It’s just the superhero part that took some adjusting.
“I completely understood Ryan the moment I read her,” she said. “The moment I entered my Ryan life, I was able to truly understand what was needed of me. The part that was foreign to me was the Batwoman part, and it was OK that that was foreign to me, because it was foreign to Ryan. I was learning to become a superhero while Ryan was learning to become a superhero, and so we both had this journey to go on.”
The Batwoman of it all took “a lot of getting used to,” Leslie said. “No one tells you how to stand or talk or anything!”
While the deeper Batwoman voice is partly thanks to a modulator, she recalled getting notes after filming the first couple of episodes about lowering her voice herself. Now, the lower register is automatic as soon as she puts on the cowl.
“There’s no other superhero on my show right now, so to learn how to stand and present myself. I had to figure that out for myself, figure out what a superhero for myself looks like, for Ryan looks like,” she said. “Ryan isn’t your average superhero. She didn’t grow up ever feeling like she ever could have been one, so I think her figuring out how to stand, how to hold her hands and things like that, I completely understood, because that was me trying to figure it out.”
Now, it feels totally natural, and Leslie has figured out how to take some ownership of the iconic character.
“This is Ryan’s Batwoman, and that can never be changed,” she said. “So because of that, it feels completely natural, because being Ryan feels natural.”
Leslie’s journey off screen was parallel to Ryan’s in terms of her intro to the Bat Team, as well. She joined a show in its second season, when the rest of the cast already knew and loved each other. However, where Ryan’s arrival was met with some skepticism, Leslie’s was not.
“It wasn’t difficult at all,” she recalled. “Everyone was very welcoming and warm and it’s been a really beautiful season of being able to work with this amazing cast and crew. I feel like going into next season, it’s just going to flow so smoothly.”
But before we can get to next season, there’s a finale to deal with, and Ryan is at a bit of a crossroads. Kate is back (now played by Wallis Day), and while she’s currently brainwashed and taking on a different persona, it still feels inevitable that Kate could go back to being Kate, and Ryan has to figure out who she goes back to being.
“Technically, she’s the true Batwoman, and she should have her cowl and cape back. That feeling is definitely going to plague Ryan’s journey,” Leslie shared. “The idea that, OK, I was basically just keeping the suit warm and I’m going to give her her city back, but it just so happens that the real Batwoman is not good, so we’ll see.”
Something tells us that Ryan won’t have to fully give up her new role, but we’ll have to wait and see when the finale airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on The CW.