Last season Ruby Rose portrayed Kate Kane in The CW’s series Batwoman. After the end of production, she decided to leave the role, which left an enormous void to be filled. This season, it has been fulfilled by Javicia Leslie, playing a new character, Ryan Wilder.
Season Two begins as word of Kate Kane’s disappearance permeates Gotham. Ryan Wilder, a sassy lesbian with a problematic past, discovers the Batsuit. She sees the suit as a chance to change her life. But is Ryan up to the task of facing Gotham’s iconic villains and becoming her own Batwoman?
Javicia Leslie spoke with members of the TV Critics Association about the challenges of taking over the lead in Batwoman which premieres on January 17, 2020 on The CW.
Batwoman 201 - Javicia Leslie
Batwoman 201 “What Happened to Kate Kane?” – Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder © 2020 The CW Network

Audition

What was the audition process like for this?

We were actually in the middle of quarantine when I received this audition. I had time to really dive into the world [and] develop my Ryan, because Ryan can exist anywhere. I knew that was important and that’s where it would be grounded and most believable.

After the booking, I went back into the world of Gotham, the world of Batwoman. [I just wanted to] be reminded of the essence and energy.

Ryan is so different (than Kate Kane). She’s a nobody, and it needed to show that she was a nobody. So I couldn’t allow her to be too influenced by what has already played on television or movies.

Really dope

Kate Kane was a millionaire and never had to worry about money – Ryan is basically homeless and on the street. Can you talk about that?

Batwoman 201 - Javicia Leslie
Batwoman 201 “What Happened to Kate Kane?” – Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder © 2021 The CW Network

With Ryan it gives you that firsthand story to really know what it’s like to have to live through that.

I know for me personally when I was growing up and we’d get off the freeway, there would be panhandlers on the side. My mom and I were used to it. We’d see them all the time and we’d give them money. I always wondered what was their story?

I think what’s really dope about what we are doing this season is you get to see Ryan’s story and how she ends up where she is. A lot of it is being lost in the system and not having support.

Screen adaptations

How familiar were you with comic books before this role came along, especially the Batwoman character?

I grew up watching movies based on comic books. My brother was a huge comic book collector, so I dabbled in his comic books. But for me it really was the screen adaptations. When you’re talking about anything ‘Bat’ related, Batman, Batwoman, Batgirl, I was a huge fan.

Surreal

How did you feel when you put the suit on for the first time?

Batwoman 201 - Javicia Leslie
Batwoman 201 “What Happened to Kate Kane?” – Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder/Batwoman © 2020 The CW Network

When I first put the suit on and I saw that bat across my chest it felt surreal; like your childhood dreams come true. So it doesn’t feel real, it almost feels like make believe.

When you actually start playing it, you realize this is your reality and will be for a while.

Legacy

Is the suit confining?

Batwoman 201 - Javicia Leslie
Batwoman 201 “What Happened to Kate Kane?” – Javicia Leslie sifted up as Batwoman © 2021 The CW Network

I know as a fan of Batman the suit had always represented a legacy, which is why you follow the story. So it’s the idea that it is the suit. But the person also has to be worthy to carry that legacy. And that’s the journey that Ryan goes on. When she first gets the suit, like me when I first got the job, you question whether or not you’re worthy of what this really represents. What this legacy means.

There are technically two suits. There is one that I wear when I’m doing regular things, if Batwoman is ever doing regular things. Then there’s my stunt suit and that’s probably my favorite. I always try to wear it regardless. It gives me a little bit more space, not only to be flexible but to snack.

Fights

Your martial arts skills are convincing. Did you do a lot of training?

I started practicing Muay Tha two years ago. That’s my main martial arts that I’ve learned. It had nothing to do with acting. It was more like a release for me.

As far as the show goes, I’m not the best martial artist there is. But it does allow (me) to understand the language that our stunt coordinators speak when we’re trying to choreograph the fights.

Bat gadgets

How much fun are you having with the gadgets and the Batmobile?

Batwoman 201 - Batmobile and Warren Christie
Batwoman 201 “What Happened to Kate Kane?” – The Batmobile with Warren Christie as Bruce Wayne/Tommy Elliot behind © 2020 The CW Network

I have my grapple gun and I have her batarang, so I get to play with all these different good gadgets. I know some of them definitely played last season and we’re adding more this season.

And we do have the Batmobile for this season. It gets introduced in the premiere episode, so that would be Ryan’s mode of transportation through the season, hopefully.

Do you get to drive it youself?

I’m definitely not doing the stunt scenes with the vehicle. The most I’ll do is if they need me to pull into the scene. But I’m terrified. That’s a very expensive car and I don’t have the money if something happens!

Batwoman 202 - Javicia Leslie
Batwoman 202 “Prior Criminal History” – Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder © 2020 The CW Network

Batbyte

Javicia was asked how it feels about Batwoman being the only queer woman of color on TV, and what that responsibility means to her? Click here to listen to her reply.

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Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.