Javicia Leslie “got emotional” on first day as Batwoman: “No person of colour had done this yet”

The star replaced Ruby Rose as the lead on the DC series, which returns to E4 this weekend.

Javicia Leslie stars in Batwoman as Ryan Wilder

Batwoman’s Javicia Leslie has revealed that she was emotional when starting work on the DC Comics drama, feeling an “immense amount” of responsibility as the first Black woman to play the superhero in live-action.

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The series originally starred Orange is the New Black‘s Ruby Rose, but she unexpectedly quit the show in 2020 after work had already started on planning the second season.

This prompted the writers to take Batwoman in a different direction, opting to introduce a brand new character called Ryan Wilder who will inherit the mantle of Gotham City’s resident crimefighter.

Leslie was later announced to have secured the role and makes her debut in the season two premiere, where she discovers the Batsuit among the wreckage of a downed plane.

“The first time I put the suit on, you automatically feel this immense amount of responsibility because the moment you see that Bat symbol across your chest, you know that no matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, a person sees that as a superhero,” she told RadioTimes.com and other press. 

“I remember the first time I went into the Batcave and looked around, I got emotional because I knew no person of colour had done this yet – had been able to wear the Batsuit in the Batcave,” Leslie continued. “You know, that’s epic. That’s a journey that just represents so many people and it’s so needed right now.”

Ryan Wilder begins her superhero career in exactly the same costume as her predecessor, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), but she later designs her very own super-suit that allows her to be more true to herself.

“Immediately, when I put [Kate’s] suit on I felt that responsibility, but it didn’t dawn on me that it also felt like it wasn’t me,” Leslie explained. “And then as the transition happens and Ryan creates her own suit, I felt more powerful because I knew that this hadn’t been done before. I understood what it represented.

“It’s scary to step on screen with a big Afro. As a Black woman, there’s a natural hair journey that we all go through where, when you straighten your hair, you kind of fit in more but the moment we start wearing our hair naturally, we stand out – and to stand out is a very scary thing at first.”

Batwoman season 2 star Javicia Leslie
Channel 4

She added: “So I think that originally I was a little scared when I put Ryan’s suit on, but there’s power when you have that Afro look to say: ‘This is who I am, these are my roots, this is where I come from and I’m going to save people being exactly who I am.’”

In Batwoman season two, Gotham City will find itself targeted by a number of formidable villains, including returning foe Alice (Rachel Skarsten) as well as the mysterious Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai) and crime boss Black Mask (Peter Outerbridge).

Fortunately, Ryan Wilder will have Kate Kane’s former allies to rely on, with Camrus Johnson and Nicole Kang reprising their roles as tech whizz Luke Fox and medical student Mary Hamilton.

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Batwoman season two premieres on E4 on Sunday 18th April. Take a look at the rest of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what’s on tonight.