The CW’s version of Gotham may not have had Bruce Wayne around for the last few years, but it has always had the protection of a Bat. And since Ryan Wilder put on the cowl in Batwoman’s second season, the city has a superhero that knows every nook and cranny like the back of her hand. Having experienced what it’s like to be a victim of the system, but also understanding how a loving family can change someone’s life, Ryan displays as much compassion on the job as she does prowess – which is exactly what Gotham needs at times.
The warmth that resides in Ryan is perfectly echoed in her actress, Javicia Leslie, who previously starred in Greg Berlanti’s God Friended Me before becoming a caped crusader. A talented performer onscreen and a philanthropic spirit offscreen, she leads the series by shining example in more ways than one. Given all of the curveballs that the third season has thrown Ryan’s way, she will need to muster all the physical and emotional strength she can to come out on top.
Leslie spoke to Screen Rant about her recent appearance in The Flash’s “Armageddon” crossover, as well as how Ryan is handling Mary’s recent turn to the dark side and her troubles with her biological family when the show returns on January 12.
This season, we’ve really been diving into Ryan’s family. What has it been like for you to open that door?
It’s been beautiful. One of the best parts of it is being able to play it with Robin Givens and Nick Creegan. As actors, they’re phenomenal. But also, just as humans, they are so open and so giving of themselves. When we’re working together, it’s easy. It almost feels, honestly, like that is my mom and that is my brother, you know? It’s been a lot of fun.
We also have gotten beautiful development for Wildmoore, which many fans were clamoring for last season. It’s getting closer to reality this season, and it was a reality in our alternate 2031 timeline. Can you talk about your reaction to Sophie (Meagan Tandy) and Ryan not only being married but also looking to start a family?
Javicia Leslie: Well, it hasn’t become a reality. It’s an alternate universe, and I think that’s why we played with it. We could because it was an alternate universe.
Eric [Wallace], the showrunner for The Flash, called me in wanting to work on some things for the character. He asked me how I feel about that, like, “Do we want to play with that?” And I said, “Sure, why not? The fans would love it.” Because as actors, we see the scripts maybe one episode before we shoot them, so I have no idea where Sophie and Ryan are gonna go. But it was fun to be able to give that to the fans, for them to be able to have their Wildmoore moment. If it doesn’t happen on Batwoman, at least it got to happen in general.
And then I specifically was super excited to work with the storyline of them trying to figure out how to have a baby, because that is just honestly a very real thing in lesbian relationships. Who should carry, and should either of us carry? I have friends who use one’s egg, but the other one carries. There’s all these beautiful ways to bring in life with same-sex relationships, and it was really cool to be a part of that story. And then for it to end with her realizing that, at least for their first child, they were going to adopt the same way Ryan was adopted? I think that was really a fun journey to go on, because of all of those layers.
Another thing we got for just about the first time was a friendship for Iris, and two amazing Black women on screen together supporting each other. What was it like to work with Candice Patton and really flesh out this dynamic?
Javicia Leslie: I call her my sister queen. And it was amazing because she’s just so talented; so authentically talented. And she’s been in this for eight seasons – this is my second season – and she really quickly, as soon as I got here, came over to me and said, “I got you.” We have some shared experiences as far as being a first of things. And we’ve been able to be each other’s – more her being mine – support through this process.
To be able to come together felt like a reward, like a dessert at the end of a meal. It felt like, “Oh, look at this. I never would have thought this would happen.” Thankfully Eric really felt like it was important to bring Ryan’s Batwoman to The Flash.
And, honestly, it’s just so cool to see this character that we created really have grounding. I so appreciate and so respect Kate Kane. She’s Ryan’s predecessor, and I respect the symbol prior to Ryan, but I’m so appreciative that the community – the comic book community and the Batman-Batwoman community – are giving this new school version of the Bat a chance. They’re giving our generation a chance to add to the history.
Yeah, we can make new superheroes, and that’s super cool and amazing. But what happens when you’re in love with a symbol that already exists, and you just want to see yourself represented in that symbol? I think that’s what this version of Batwoman is doing.
There was a line you said to Iris that spawned tons of articles. Who is the Lady in Red? I’m assuming you’re not gonna tell me who it is, but can you tell me if you know who it is and if that person will appear anytime soon?
Javicia Leslie: I don’t know. We’re about to film an episode that I haven’t read the script for. We only really get our episodes right before we film them, so I don’t know.
I also love how Batwoman has rooted Ryan further as a character, not only with new relationships and dynamics but also by integrating her fully into the existing world. But things are a little shaky with Mary and Ryan right now. Can you talk about how Ryan feels after the midseason finale, having potentially lost Mary for good?
Javicia Leslie: I think she feels defeated. Mary is the moral compass of the Bat Team, and she’s really the emotional heartbeat of our show. Nicole [Kang] has done such an amazing, beautiful job with the character. You just feel Mary; you feel her. And I think Mary was fed up with feeling like she wasn’t respected the way that she really deserved to be respected, as far as her opinion and as far as what’s right or what’s wrong. I think this is what happens when a person feels like they haven’t been seen; they haven’t been heard by the people that they love.
Then to add to it, she’s lost most of her family. Her mother died in season 1, her dad was taken in season 2, and then Kate left. We are her family now, and to feel like she’s not being heard or seen, is probably very devastating. So, going into this midseason finale and actually just watching it for myself, I think Ryan just feels defeated and disappointed in herself.
She also gained the weight of Wayne Enterprises only to then give it up for Mary in the span of just a few short episodes. What is next for Batwoman without access to the Batcave?
Javicia Leslie: I still don’t know. We’re still filming, and I haven’t been in the Batcave in a while.
It’s kind of cool because we film a lot in the Batcave. It’s cool to have these other versions and places to set up and get our job done. But I don’t know what Ryan is without the Batcave, so we’ll see.
You also get more of a team out in the field, ever since Luke became Batwing. Did you get to pass along some tips to Camrus Johnson? How does it work with two heroes?
Javicia Leslie: First off, he’s a star. He doesn’t need any tips from me.
But I think it’s funny because there are things that I used to say. I’d say, first of all, the suit is uncomfortable. They do their best. Maya [Mani], our show costumer, is amazing. As women, our weight fluctuates, and she pretty much has a suit for every size that I get. I remember she told me once, “You be the healthiest version of yourself, and I’ll make sure the suit fits you at your healthiest version, no matter what. Don’t feel like you need to be any specific size. You be what’s healthy for you.”
She does her best but, at the end of the day, it’s still a super suit. After filming hours and hours and hours, you’re like, “Ugh…” and that’s one of the first things Camrus and I had a conversation about. The way that the suit regulates temperature is insane because the material of it does not protect us necessarily from how cold it gets at all. Maybe the suit makes me colder because of the material. And then it doesn’t keep me from being overly hot – maybe it makes me hotter. So, Camrus and I are always looking at each other, and he gives me that look of, “Okay, I get it. Now I get exactly what you’re talking about.”
I think one of the hardest things sometimes with the suit is that, once the cowl is on, I can’t really hear anyone else. I can hear, but I can’t hear hear. And I feel like I can hear my voice louder than I can hear other people’s voices, so it really feels like I’m talking to myself. I feel like I’m overacting because I’m trying to compensate for the fact that I’m talking to myself, and it’s a lot. That’s something else where Camrus and I were like, “Okay, I get it now.”
With Marquis becoming Batwoman’s version of the Joker, what is it like for Ryan to have met her brother only to find herself on the opposite side of him?
Javicia Leslie: It’s complicated. First of all, as much as she loves having her family, her family is the Bat Team. Her loyalty will always be with them, which is a huge storyline throughout the series, as well as her having to at times pick between the Bat Team and her biological family.
I think it’s complicated for her to figure out what do you do. What do you do when you finally find your family and your brother’s the Joker when you’re Batwoman? That’s the journey. That’s the whole second half of the season.
You talked about fellow actors like Candice being a support system that helped you grow into your position as a Black woman in comic book fandom. Can you talk about what you have learned from this experience and what you hope to pass on as more doors open for women of color – specifically Black women – in the industry?
Javicia Leslie: What I would completely pass on is: 1) turn off social media, especially if you’re just starting, as far as your character goes. Just turn it off and focus all of your energy on creating a dynamic character that, regardless of how any of the fans feel, you know that you did your best with. That’s something that can’t be taken from you, and that’s one of the most important things at the end of the day.
I would love for everyone to love my characters, but that’s not my job. My job isn’t for you to love my character; my job is to play the heck out of my character and give my character a full life in every possible way through me. If you love them, that’s just icing on the cake. That’s why certain actors love playing villains because they don’t have to care about being loved. They get to just be crazy, and it doesn’t matter how other people feel. If you take a break from the news, from the Google Alerts, from the social media? You’ll be able to just focus all your attention on the work, and you’ll be proud regardless.
But the second thing I would tell them, which seems like the opposite of what I just said, is to love and appreciate your fans – the ones you do have – because they are a beautiful support system. These fans that are just absolutely hardcore, badass supporters? They bring me so much joy, and they’re also real with me.
I don’t ever want to scare someone going into this position into thinking that they’re by themselves in this. There’s a fan base for what you bring to the table because you are a representation of a people regardless – whatever makes you special, there is a group of people that have been waiting for this. That’s probably what I would tell a superhero.
Finally, I am very much looking forward to more Sophie and Ryan scenes if they get over this Renee-sized hurdle. Can you talk about this love triangle that has emerged in like the last two episodes?
Javicia Leslie: First of all, Victoria [Cartagena] is my girl. I love her. She came on this show, she saw, she conquered. Her talent is amazing, and just her grittiness and her Northeastern Jersey or New York-ness that she carries was just so needed. It was so authentic.
As far as love triangle goes, it’s not even a love triangle. Sophie did her thing, but I am more betrayed because we are friends. And if we are friends, why would you sleep with someone that was blackmailing me?
Let me tell you, they’re gonna be very proud of me because I didn’t drop any spoilers. I can’t wait to see what everyone says about this interview.