Vogue Archives - Javicia Leslie Archives


Emma Sells of Vogue Paris writes…

In Javicia Leslie’s Family Secrets, the new star of Batwoman introduces us to her high-kicking mum and brother, as they all train and explain how the art of muay thai became part of their family dynamic.

“They wanted to shoot Batwoman doing her own stunts,” Javicia Leslie reveals of the Hollywood courting process she underwent before being cast as DC Comics’ new Batwoman in the hit TV show.

The show’s creators couldn’t have chosen a better candidate, since Leslie has been in training for an action role since childhood. It all began with her older brother Donnie’s love of combat exercise, influenced by their mother Jacqueline’s career in the army (both of whom star in Leslie’s Family Secrets with Vogue). From a young age, Leslie was quietly collecting hand-me-down tips and tricks in the art of Thai boxing, also known as muay thai.

Nowadays, you only need to take a cursory glance at Leslie’s Instagram to see how those roots have developed into a love of high-adrenaline stunt work in her industry. While filming Batwoman, Leslie was mechanically propelled into the sky for one scene: “I get to fly, basically. Last Friday, I went up 50ft and I could see all of Vancouver and it was just so freaking epic.”

Leslie is the new star of the TV show for season two (picking up the cape from Ruby Rose) and has spent the past few months filming in Vancouver, Canada. Embarking on a day job that involves suiting up to keep the mean streets of Gotham City clean means she’s only had to up her fighting skills. Luckily for her, her brother is a bona fide muay thai coach who she now consults on all things action: “He’ll watch videos that I put on Instagram and he’ll say, ‘That was good, but you’ve got to make sure you turn your foot, or you’ve got to make sure you do this.’” With a four-month stint as a superhero under her belt, Leslie is now an expert, too. “Going into the second season, there will be a lot of stunts done by yours truly,” she reveals.

While Leslie and her brother may be close, bygones are not always bygones between siblings. “Ever since she was a kid, she’s been acting, she was one of those kids that would start crying on demand and, as soon as you get into trouble for doing something, she stops crying,” teases her brother. “Are you serious? This is messed up!” retorts an indignant Leslie — while their mother laughs heartily in the background at the pair, suddenly children again.

Proudly sporting a Batwoman necklace throughout sharing her Family Secrets with Vogue, let the actor introduce her family members to you before her brother’s muay thai class begins, putting the family through their paces. Expect them to throw kicks and punches, work up a sweat and have plenty of laughs in the process.

Javicia Leslie, the new star of Batwoman, talks through her experiences filming the new series in Vancouver, including performing her own stunts 50ft in the air and childhood tales of play-fighting with her brother Donnie in Vogue Paris’s Family Secrets. The actor’s brother puts her and her mother through their paces in his muay thai-inspired remote workout. Leslie also reveals how close she is to her family and how she’s gearing up for her role by testing out her newly acquired superhero moves on unsuspecting crew members…

Von Maria Hunstig of Vogue Germany sat down with Javicia to interview her about her role in Batwoman. They were kind enough to post the interview in both German and English at their website. Check out their English translation below.

You lived in Germany at the very beginning of your life. Do you have any memories from back then?
It’s funny because I was pretty young, but I remember little bits and pieces. I remember what our living room looked like. I remember my grandmother from Florida came to stay with us, so she was around a lot in my childhood. I remember we had a black dog, a black chow that did not like me. Because it kept trying to bite me, my mom had to get rid of the dog and I remember my brother came home one day and realized his dog was gone and he was so heartbroken. And lastly, I remember my mom taking me to her job. She was in the Army so she would take me on base and I got to meet her coworkers.

At what point of time did you decide you really wanted to be an actress?
I’ve always wanted to but I made the decision in 2011. I went to California just to check it out and when I did check it out I was obsessed. I have some friends out there and I saw them creating their own projects and everyone was going to different shows and events and it was the entire network that I really needed to be around. So when I flew back to DC, my job was coming to an end and I used that as an opportunity to go ahead and relocate. So two months later I moved to California.

Were you scared?
I wasn’t scared because I knew that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to do when I was supposed to do it as everything just kind of fell into the place it should. I think it also helped that my mom used to live in LA so we still have a few family members here that reminded me of what home felt like.

How do you find optimism in these troubling times?
Meditation has been super important for me. I feel like everything is going at such a fast pace, so being able to take a second and breathe is crucial. And the second thing is definitely prayer. I am a very spiritual person so taking the time to pray has balanced me a lot.

What do you do when you are having a bad day?
If I am having a bad day, all I need to do is to decompress and my way of decompressing is just having a glass of red wine, chilling on the couch with my dog, finding a good movie to watch and disconnect. That’s my happy place!

What does it mean to you being cast as the next Batwoman?
I think it’s an honour. If you look at the entire universe of TV super heros, there is only so little. Even if there are 20, that means that only 20 people get the chance to play those roles and to be one of those 20 people in the world it is such an honor. And also it’s really cool because my grandchildren will be able to say: “My grandma was a superhero!” Because no matter what other job I’ll get after this, I will always technically be Batwoman. And I think that’s epic.

What fascinates you around that character?
Most superheroes have superpowers and Batman and Batwoman don’t. Their power is their brain and how they think through situations. It’s about coming into a situation without even being seen and always choosing honor over everything. Also, Ryan Wilder doesn’t even come from money like the other Batwoman [Kate Kane]!

How do you prepare yourself for playing a superhero?
When I became Batwoman, the first thing that happened was that I had to go to a photo shoot. And I was like: “I don’t even know how to hold my hand, is there a special way of how to hold your hand as Batwoman?” So I had to go back to the basics and I watched all of the superhero shows, I didn’t limit myself to Batman. To me, Flash was a superhero that kind of resonates with me as a person because he’s very kind and very gentle. Being able to see a TV character who I feel in personality represented Javicia, allowed me to figure out how to bring myself into the superhero. For any role you play but especially for playing a superhero, it is very important to bring in a little bit of yourself.

Do you have a trick of how to transform into Batwoman on set?
I like to listen to certain music, I like aggressive rap music, usually with a female rapper like Cardi B because I know she’s badass and that makes me feel badass, too. And outside of that, I think when I put the suit on, it kind of happens naturally, you start to feel powerful. The suit that I’m wearing was specifically designed for my batwoman Ryan Wilder, so I feel even more powerful because no other batwoman has worn this suit and it’s very unique.

And if you had a superpower, which superpower would you like to have?
I would teleport. Because I’m always out of town and I miss my family.

If you were to fight, what is it that you would fight for?
Equality. I’m so tired of there being this division of people based on something that does not mean anything. If you look at what makes us different in what is considered a characteristic of race, it’s such a small percentage of our DNA, yet it’s the biggest divider in people. I fight for equality, I fight for kids. It sounds very much like Martin Luther King Jr., but I think every kid deserves to grow up in a world where every opportunity is equal and fair. And that’s important to me.

What is something that you recently learned?
Something that has grown on me lately is that our power is limited. Also regarding everything that’s going on in the pandemic. I think we’re so used to controlling what happens next. We can’t plan our future right now, we can’t even plan a travel day, you can’t plan anything. You have to assume that in nine times out of ten, plans are going to be cancelled or rescheduled. It kind of makes you appreciate the very moment. I have always thought like that but I think going through this pandemic, I’ve doubled down on that. It has also become evident in my work, because the only moment that I’m at is the one that’s in front of me with the actors and actresses that I’m working with at that moment.

What do you wish for for 2021?
I love my country but we have to start realizing that change can’t happen until we stop denying that change is needed. I’m a huge James Baldwin fan and he has this quote: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it’s faced”. If we can face that reality and if we can stop acting like problems don’t exist, that’s when we can actually change something.

On a personal note for 2021, it’s really more about making sure I maintain my health and my peace. There is so much going on and it is such a drastic change of how my life was moving even a year ago. I was always a very busy person, and before “Batwoman”, I was filming two TV shows on different coasts at the same time. But this one is just different, because I am basically playing three characters. I’m Ryan Wilder, I’m Batwoman and then I’ll be my own stunt. Each one of those takes different discipline, a different amount of time and energy, so it’s really important that I maintain my peace and my health in 2021.

If we gave you a banner on Times Square and you could put one sentence on it – what would it be?
My motto that I live by: Follow your passion and you’ll find your purpose.