New Batwoman star Javicia Leslie previews Ryan's 'huge battle' in season 2
On Saturday, Leslie joined Dries, executive producer Sarah Schechter, and her new castmates — Rachel Skarsten, Nicole Kang, Camrus Johnson, and Meagan Tandy — for the CW super-drama's panel at "DC FanDome: Explore the Multiverse." During the lengthy conversation, Leslie revealed she felt an immediate connection with her character Ryan Wilder, who picks up the Scarlet Knight's mantle in season 2 following Kate Kane's disappearance and Ruby Rose's exit.
"When I read the character description, it was definitely me," said Leslie of Ryan, who is described as being the complete opposite of Kate. "I loved the idea that it’s like goofy meets badass meets a person who doesn’t like to be told what to do, a person who does not like to follow the rules. It’s really hard for me sometimes when it comes to like, 'Well, okay, you have to do it this way as Javicia versus what you had to do when you’re an actor and you’re trying to present yourself.' … I loved the fact that Ryan is just who I am — just a hot mess."
She continued: "I’m really into action. This has literally been my dream. It’s so funny because in May I did an interview and I said, 'One of my future goals and one of biggest dreams is to become a superhero.' I wanted to be a Black superhero. You don’t get to see that that often. Then a month later, I become the first Black Batwoman."
Casting Leslie was a no-brainer for both Dries and Schechter, who was familiar with the star's work because she was an EP on God Friended Me. "When Javicia auditioned, it was obvious to everyone watching the tape within like five seconds," said Dries about Leslie's Zoom audition. "I texted somebody on the computer in the [Zoom] chat like, 'Oh, she gets it.' It was just so clear that Javicia was meant for this role." As if her audition didn't blow them away enough, Leslie also submitted a reel showing off her physical prowess. "She just brings everything: intellect, emotion, heart, athleticism, everything you want in your hero," said Dries.
While landing the role of Ryan appears to have been relatively obstacle-free, the same can't be said of Ryan's journey as Batwoman. Whereas Kate was Batman's cousin and wealthy, Ryan is a former drug runner who lives on the streets and is thus intimately familiar with Gotham City's failings.
"She was a girl who was a statistic of injustice the moment she was born and the system was not built for this person, and she will constantly battle against the system all throughout," said Dries. "She’s battled through it her whole life and she will continue to do battle against it as Batwoman."
Leslie added: "[Becoming Batwoman is] going to be a struggle because when you’re part of a community that has been neglected by the system, that’s the initial community that you feel responsible for helping. And that’s what you’re going to see. You’re going to see that community of Gotham that got overlooked. It’s funny because a lot of Mary’s patients can be examples of that community — that community that gets overlooked by the hospital, by the Crows. It’s a very personal thing, but that will be a huge battle. When Caroline and I were talking about it — just the battle of, they’re not the only ones that need help, but those are the ones that Ryan is attached to that she really wants to be able to help."
Ryan's relationship to Batwoman's mission isn't the only thing that will change over the course of the season. Her costume will, too. "It’s going to be a little bit of an evolution as we’re going to see the suit evolve early on in the season. Ryan is like, 'For me to feel empowered in this thing, it needs to feel like I’m representing something I am fighting for,'" said Dries.
In addition to introducing Ryan, season 2 will also be concerned with a mystery: Where is Kate Kane? "All of our characters are going to have different perspectives on that, different conspiracy theories, different points of view, and it will create a lot of drama, tension, mystery, and intrigue," noted Dries.
Given how close everyone was to Kate, how will the rest of the characters react to Ryan picking up where she left off? Well, Skarsten suspects Alice will be "peeved" because this ruins the very intricate plan involving fake Bruce Wayne that she orchestrated just for her twin sister; Kang shares Leslie's belief that there's a connection between Mary and Ryan; and Johnson thinks Luke will struggle to trust Ryan, but that won't stop him from working with her to protect the city.
In terms of the Kane clan, "Ryan will, ironically, ultimately unite the Kane family," said Dries. "Whether or not they realize it, there are all of these strands of connection that she brings to them that allows them to continue interacting and having changing dynamics."
Production on Batwoman season 2 is underway in Vancouver. The drama will return in 2021 on the CW.