Batwoman continues to break barriers. When it premiered in season 1 with Ruby Rose starring as lesbian superhero Kate Kane, it was the first TV show headlined by an out superhero. Now in season 2, Javicia Leslie — who joins the show as Gotham City's new Crimson Knight — becomes the first Black woman to play Batwoman in a live-action property. However, casting Leslie as the CW superhero drama's new lead character Ryan Wilder also means something else: The Bat team — which also consists of tech genius Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) and doctor-in-training Mary Hamilton (Nicole Kang) — is made up entirely of people of color, which is a first in live-action adaptations of the Batman mythology. And the significance of this isn't lost on the show's stars.
"The Bat team being all people of color is something that we talk about nearly every time we're on set together because it's legendary," says Camrus Johnson in the introductory (and spoiler-free) installment of EW's new On Set video series, which will dive into Batwoman all season-long. "This is like a very big, first-time ever type of thing. Like this is a huge deal."
Johnson continues: "So the fact that Luke Fox has Mary Hamilton working with him now — who we've adapted from the comics to be an Asian-American, [to] now having a Black Batwoman, it's crazy to see these people of color saving the city together, without any help. That's crazy."
While TV shows and movies like Black Lightning, Luke Cage, Black Panther, and the forthcoming Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings spotlight minority superheroes, having people of color as the main stewards of the Batman mythology is remarkable because the Dark Knight is one of our biggest cultural icons. In fact, DC Comics is very much aware of how valuable the Caped Crusader can be for this type of progress. When the publisher was looking to diversify the DC Universe and introduce a gay character, it made the new Batwoman debuting in 2005's 52 a lesbian because being part of her the Bat-family would insure her longevity. "I felt very strongly that the character had to either wear a Bat shield or an S shield in order to really matter and show that we strongly believe in this character and who she is," former DC co-publisher Dan Didio told EW in 2018.
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In Batwoman season 2, Leslie's Ryan is homeless and living out of her van when she discovers the Batsuit after Kate Kane goes missing. A martial arts expert, she eventually decides to embrace the Crimson Knight's mantle and joins Luke and Mary on the Bat team full time. While this new version of the Bat team encounters some growing pains because they don't know each other that well, Leslie immediately felt at home when she arrived on set in Vancouver for the first time.
"The cast, the crew, everyone here has been very welcoming," says Leslie in the video above. "I actually feel like this is the most welcomed I've ever felt, and this is the furthest from home I've ever been. So it's just really interesting. But it feels like even just from the beginning, we were already a family. A few of the cast members I knew outside of the show, but I didn't really get a chance to spend this much time with them so it was really cool to be able to come here and create our dynamics on this show."
When news broke that Leslie was joining the show, a mutual friend connected Kang with Leslie via FaceTime and the two women hit it off immediately. Their effortless chemistry is reflected in Leslie and Kang's scenes together.
"I'm so blessed to have so many scenes with Javicia, just at this on set. Mary's really the one welcoming her on the team, the only person who is a friendly face." says Kang, who loves how they both try to break each other in scenes (We'll hear a bit more about one particularly hilarious instance in the coming weeks). "I think that's the gift of her, that she lets me push her and I'm always trying to surprise her, and she's always trying to surprise me. And I think that you'll really feel that spark there, that chemistry there. And even though they come from such different socioeconomic backgrounds, such different racial backgrounds, such different everything you can name, Mary has this incredible gift of seeing people and she does it off the top with Ryan. It's sort of my proudest moment of Mary's character development."
Watch the entire video above to hear showrunner Caroline Dries on introducing a new character and Leslie on Ryan's silliness.
Batwoman premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. on The CW. Be sure to subscribe to EW's YouTube channel so you won't miss new On Set episodes, dropping every Monday morning after the latest Batwoman episode.