Javicia Leslie will replace former star Ruby Rose in the title role when season 2 kicks off next year, The CW and Warner Bros. Television announced Wednesday. Rose exited the series after one season in May.
Leslie, who most recently starred in CBS' God Friended Me, is the first Black actress to play Batwoman in a live-action TV or film production. Kimberly Brooks voiced Batwoman in a 2003 DC animated film, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
Leslie will play a new character, Ryan Wilder, who will step into Batwoman's shoes after Rose's Kate Kane disappears from Gotham.
According to the character description, Ryan is likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed, and the complete opposite of Kate. With no one in her life to keep her on track, Ryan spent years as a drug runner, dodging the Gotham City Police Department and masking her pain with bad habits. Today, Ryan lives in her van with her plant. A girl who would steal milk for an alley cat and could also kill you with her bare hands, Ryan is the most dangerous type of fighter: highly skilled and wildly undisciplined. An out lesbian. Athletic. Raw. Passionate. Fallible. And very much not your stereotypical all-American hero.
“I am extremely proud to be the first Black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television, and as a bisexual woman, I am honored to join this groundbreaking show which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community," Leslie said in a statement.
Batwoman is expected to again anchor Sunday nights for The CW beginning January 2021.
“I have made the very difficult decision to not return to Batwoman next season. This was not a decision I made lightly as I have the utmost respect for the cast, crew and everyone involved with the show in both Vancouver and in Los Angeles," Rose said in May, announcing her surprising departure. "I am beyond appreciative to [executive producers] Greg Berlanti, Sarah Schechter and Caroline Dries for not only giving me this incredible opportunity, but for welcoming me into the DC universe they have so beautifully created. Thank you Peter Roth and Mark Pedowitz and the teams at Warner Bros. and The CW who put so much into the show and always believed in me. Thank you to everyone who made season one a success -- I am truly grateful.”
Soon after, Dries addressed rumors that Kate Kane would be killed off as a result of Rose's exit.
"As a lesbian who’s been working as a writer for the past 15 years, I’m well aware of the 'Bury Your Gays' trope and I have no interest in participating in it. My comments about recasting Batwoman have launched a storm of rumors and misinformation and I wanted to clarify something," Dries said in June. "Like you, I love Kate Kane -- she’s the reason I wanted to do the show. We’ll never erase her."
"In fact, her disappearance will be one of the mysteries of season 2," she revealed. "I don’t want to give away any of our surprises, but to all our devoted fans, please know that LGBTQ+ justice is at the very core of what Batwoman is and we have no intention of abandoning that."
Batwoman is the first primetime comic book TV drama to feature a lesbian superhero at the helm. The casting of Rose, who is openly gay, was met with huge fanfare in August 2018, though the backlash forced the Australian actress to delete her Twitter account.
Rose made her onscreen debut as Batwoman months later as part of The CW's annual Arrowverse crossover event in December 2018 before transitioning into her own star vehicle with Batwoman. In May, The CW formalized plans for next year's DC crossover event, which would feature Batwoman and a new series, Superman & Lois.
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