Javicia Leslie on Taking Over Batwoman as a 'Completely Different Character' (Exclusive)

The actress opens up to ET about starring in The CW superhero series, replacing Ruby Rose, who left after season 1.

“We worked really hard to come back from what I think people thought would break us,” Javicia Leslie tells ET’s Leanne Aguilera about taking over as the titular hero in the hit CW series Batwoman following Ruby Rose’s unexpected departure after season 1. 

She adds, “I'm really proud of our team for making magic. 'Cause to me, I've watched the first two episodes and I really love them.”

Leslie joins as a new character, Ryan Wilder, who finds the missing Kate Kane’s Batsuit and eventually assumes the mantle of Batwoman. Season 2, which premieres Sunday, follows her as she goes from a victim of circumstances to a confident caped crusader who embodies what it means to be a hero.  

“Ryan is a completely different character,” Leslie says of not having to put her own spin on the hero in order to make Wilder stand out from Kane. “They're so different that it naturally happens without me having to feel the need to lean more towards any kind of direction. We've done the work. Caroline Dries, our amazing showrunner, has created her and the writers' room have done such an amazing job creating this story that we can get lost in.”

And one of those major differences that makes Wilder feel so distinct is the comedy she brings to the story. “When Caroline and I talked about Ryan, one of the things that she really wanted to bring in Ryan's character is the comedy. And so I come from a comedy background, so I think it kind of comes naturally,” Leslie shares.

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In keeping with Dries’ original intent for the series, Wilder is a queer woman and Leslie is openly bisexual in real life. While Rose, who identifies as a lesbian, made history by portraying TV’s first openly lesbian Batwoman, Leslie becomes the first Black woman to play the superhero.    

“It's an honor that me walking in my truth, me walking in my skin, me walking in my shoes opens doors for other people to be able to do that in the biggest capacity ever,” Leslie says.

Prior to taking over the titular role in the CW series, Leslie starred in the CBS sitcom God Friended Me and the BET drama The Family Business. While those shows took advantage of her comedic background, neither of those roles prepared her for playing a superhero. But for Leslie, that's all part of the journey.   

“When I put that suit on for the first time I looked in the mirror and I realized, 'Oh shoot, I don't know how I'm supposed to hold my hands,'” Leslie admits. “And then I read the script and it says that that's almost like what I'm not supposed to do, so now I'm super confused. So as Ryan goes on this journey to figure out how to be a superhero, to figure out how to be Batwoman, I am going on this journey to figure out how to be a superhero and to figure out how to be Batwoman. And really those two worlds collide and, like, I think that it's very authentic.”

While it took some adjusting to feel comfortable in that Batsuit, the show wastes no time in making it look natural on Leslie and that it is tailored to her character and not Rose's. The actress reveals that she, Dries and the costume designer Maya Mani would send each other fan art, which ultimately served as inspiration “of where we were gonna go with the suit,” she says. 

“But more than anything, a lot of the fan art incorporated the hair because my announcement picture I had, like, a big curly fro,” Leslie continues, explaining how they decided to eventually ditch Kane’s red hair for Wilder’s natural hair. “Caroline and I looked at each other like, 'This is it. We gotta do this. We gotta do this.' And so that was one thing we knew for sure was that our Batwoman was gonna have: a big curly fro.”

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In addition to taking over the Batsuit, Wilder gets behind the wheel of the Batmobile, which finally makes its debut on the series. “It is as cool in person as it appears on the screen,” Leslie says before revealing that she is still trying to get the hang of getting in and out of it. 

“I am not smooth whatsoever and getting out of that car always reveals how clumsy I am,” the actress shares. “Because, first of all, the doors are heavy. So I'm trying to open the door and then finally when I get out, I have to use support to get up so I can stand. I close the door and my jacket is stuck and I'm like, 'C'mon!' And then it's like, the camera is there, so I'm supposed to walk into, like, this epic scene but I can't even get out of the car. But it's the Batmobile so we make it work.”

Batwoman season 2 premieres Sunday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.