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Javicia Leslie On Why She's So Connected To Her Batwoman Character - Exclusive

Javicia Leslie arrived to Batwoman in a somewhat unorthodox way, after one season of the show had already been completed with an entirely different star. To replace outgoing Kate Kane actress Ruby Rose, series showrunner Caroline Dries and the rest of the Batwoman writing staff decided not to recast the role, but rather to script an entirely new character to inhabit the costume and the title for the show's second season. That meant whoever was set to play the new Batwoman, Ryan Wilder, had to rise to the occasion. As Leslie tells Looper, that actually wasn't very difficult, because as soon as she saw the first script pages with Ryan Wilder's dialogue, she knew she'd found a kindred spirit. 

"It's funny because when I first saw the sides and I sat with my best friend, she looked at me and said, 'Oh my gosh, this is you,'" Leslie says. "I definitely have a very strong connection with Ryan. I think we're very similar and the ability of, one, playing two different people, but two, being maybe not the smoothest person in the game. You know, she's kind of goofy. I think she's different than what you're used to seeing in Gotham. And that's something that I can completely connect with."

Javicia Leslie relates to the goofiness

When we meet Ryan Wilder in the Batwoman season 2 premiere, she's a homeless ex-convict living in her van, still trying to pick up the pieces from a traumatic past that shook her foundations and left her reeling. She's someone who fell through the cracks of the justice system, who feels left behind in the wake of the death of her foster mother, but who nevertheless retains a drive and determination that will serve her well when she comes across a crashed plane that happens to contain the Batwoman costume. When she finds that emblem of Gotham City heroism, Ryan sees it as an opportunity to exact vengeance for those who robbed her of happiness. All that high drama is balanced with what Leslie refers to as the "goofy" side of Ryan. In the end, she found both elements of the character easy to slip into.

"It's pretty tied with that because like I said, the goofiness of Ryan, I completely understand," Leslie says. "I'm like that. I'm the elephant in the china shop, like a bull in a china shop. It takes me a second to get the movement of things. And then the action is something that I love. I'm obsessed with action. That's why I practiced martial arts before the show, before I even, you know obviously [learned it] for the show. So I wouldn't say either of them was more difficult than the other. I felt like they both kind of played hand in hand, which is what makes this role so much fun to me."

Even with that sense of fun in mind, though, there's a lot of emotional storytelling at play. As Batwoman continues deeper into season 2, Ryan will have to balance what she wants with what Gotham needs, something Leslie relishes as she moves forward with fleshing out the character. 

"It's very understandable why she starts off where she starts and as her journey goes on, it's just about being able to put her own feelings aside for the greater good," Leslie explains. "And there are going to be obstacles that are going to force her to put her own feelings aside because innately she is a hero. Innately, she wants to help people. It's very natural for her. So, because of that, there are going to be times where she'll have her opportunity to get her revenge, but she's going to have to put it aside to help the citizens of Gotham."

Batwoman airs Sunday on The CW.