When The CW's Batwoman kicks off its second season, it won't waste time putting Gotham's new Dark Knight Defender Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) through her paces. With a huge over-arching mystery (What did happen to Ruby Rose's Kate Kane?) looming over it all, Wilder will be taking on the cowl just in time to face a killer line up of "big bads" that includes Alice (Rachel Skarsten), Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai), hitman Victor Zsasz (Alex Morf), and Black Mask and the False Face Society. And then there's the matter of Wilder getting to know Kate's extended family of Alice (making things really awkward), Jacob (Dougray Scott), Sophie (Meagan Tandy), Luke (Camrus Johnson), and Mary (Nicole Kang)- and let's just see they're feeling a little "cautious" around Gotham's newest hero. Welcome to the second season of Batwoman, one that according to showrunner Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries, Smallville) will carry with it many of the important themes from the first season while allowing someone new to define the hero on her terms. Bleeding Cool had the opportunity to speak with Dries about what viewers can expect, what makes Ryan Wilder so unique, the importance of telling diverse stories, and more.
Bleeding Cool: You started on 'Smallville' and 'The Vampire Diaries'- what is it about superpowers or supernatural properties that attract you to projects like these?
Caroline Dries: [on Smallville] I grew into the genre and realized that when you have genre slapped onto family drama or teen drama, or whatever, it really helps heighten the world and gives you these really helpful story engines to propel the season so you can turn out more episodes. So writing on Melrose Place was actually really difficult to think of plots because everything was so grounded in real-life drama. But on "Smallville," you have the freak of the weeks who come in with their meteor rock poisoning and now the world is, like, wide open to you for what the drama can be. It adds this layer of heightened realism that makes it super fun. Same thing for "Vampire Diaries," you are working with witchcraft and magic, you know vampire lore. All that history just built out the world and makes it so fascinating and much easier to write much longer, denser stories.
BC: How did you cast Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder? Were you looking for an actor of color for the role, or did she blow you away, and the character was adapted for Leslie?
CD: It was open-casting. I didn't really have a clear vision of who I wanted, I kind of knew what vibe I was looking for. And, there needed to be some edge, some street-savvy and, you know, emotional depth, and just somebody who you can look into their eyes and you feel like they've lived a life just by looking at them. And we met with a lot of actors and Javicia just stood out light years ahead of anyone else… once you kind of hone in on "Ok this is who the actor is," then you start sort of shaping-reshaping the character so it just all aligns perfectly."
BC: Is there a challenge or different approach/responsibility to writing for a superhero of color?
CD: Yes I think there's a huge responsibility and opportunity, and privilege frankly. The stories I got to tell season one were really interesting and I love seeing the world through a gay superhero. We got to tell some stories that involved the challenges of being gay and the irony of being gay, an out lesbian, and then wearing a suit that hides who you are from people. I found that all very interesting and a privilege to write as well. Now getting to write a black female lead, her perspective, first of all, is so different than mine. The challenges she faces on a daily basis, big and small, are just so different than mine.
Personally, I've had the opportunity to learn and grow and have conversations that I've never had before and feel uncomfortable in moments and hopefully learn and kind of see the world through a different perspective. Even though I could never really walk in those shoes I feel like we're able to tell the story of a person walking those shoes and hopefully, that shows up on the screen. And it just creates drama that we didn't get to tell season one. Everything from Ryan's past is innately connected to a moment where she was accused of a crime she didn't commit. And a lot of that has racial overtones. And that, you know, probably wouldn't have happened if to a character like Kate Kane.
BC: Will Ryan Wilder's sexuality be a plot or story point in the upcoming season?
CD: Yeah. It was really important to us. Obviously the reason, I mean one of the big reasons I wanted to do the show was because it was a gay superhero. There is really, like, a few [gay superheroes]. I can't think of anywhere the lead of the show is a lesbian. So I didn't want to lose that in creating Ryan. So that was really something that … is a big part of this character. In the first few episodes, we just make reverence to it, because I'm really trying to make the audience peel back the layers slowly and really allow the audience to sink in with Ryan because I know it's a bit of a shock to try to digest a new character that's the lead. So by episode four, we will start to see more of Ryan's love life and all the complications that are involved with that.
BC: Do you see the character of Batwoman as a superhero, LGBTQ role model, or both?
CD: To me I made a big deal (season one) out of Batwoman's actual coming out. Because Kate came out when she was younger and it wasn't really a hiccup in her life, there wasn't a lot of drama around it. Whereas I wanted to play that coming out story with Kate's character in that you know Kate is a lesbian. Which is all fine and good but she's not necessarily the city's hero. But Batwoman is. So Batwoman coming out was a big deal to Gotham, and to gays and lesbians in Gotham. She continues in season two to be, sort of that representation.
BC: So what can you tell us about Kate's fate and the need for a new Batwoman?
CD: Yeah, well we'll in our first episode, in our premiere. But um, what happens to Kate. Season one centers around the mystery of Kate's sudden disappearance, and the episode of the show is called "What Happened to Kate Kane," so that will be an ongoing mystery which I promise will have a satisfying ending for viewers. Yeah I mean the tease of the episode is that "Just when you think things couldn't get crazier, they get cooler and crazier. And I think Ryan is a very fascinating character to watch because Javicia is such a good actress. So I think that my hope is that she is a seamless addition to the continuing story. So many of our characters are innately connected to her, she was the core of the show season one. Sophie was her soulmate, Jacob was her father, Mary is her (step) sister, Alice is her twin. They all have a vested interest in figuring out what the heck happened to her. And there is definitely a rollercoaster.
BC: Most who assume the Bat-mantle do so coming with some rough, tragic backstories. What can you tell us about Ryan Wilder's origin story?
DC: The main reason Ryan puts on the suit is to get revenge on her mother's killer, and she needs to go through an emotional journey internally to realize, obviously, the suit isn't crafted for vengeance. That's not what the symbol stands for.
A Look at What's Ahead for Batwoman Season 2
In season two of Batwoman, when Ryan Wilder (Javicia Leslie) first discovers Kate Kane's Batsuit, she has no idea how drastically her life is about to change. A sassy, smart lesbian with a difficult past, Ryan sees the suit as her chance to finally be powerful and no longer a victim as she survives in the tough streets of the city.
While Ryan goes rogue in the shadows, Gotham grapples with their missing hero, believing Batwoman has fled the city after a public stand-off with Commander Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) and the Crows. But Kate Kane's disappearance hits hardest at home where Jacob, Sophie (Meagan Tandy), Luke (Camrus Johnson), Mary (Nicole Kang), and even Alice (Rachel Skarsten) each struggle with the devastating news in their own way. Meanwhile, the False Face Society tightens its grip on Gotham, distributing a perilous new drug known as Snakebite, "Bruce Wayne" (Warren Christie) finds his way home to wreak havoc, Safiyah (Shivaani Ghai) surfaces with plans for revenge, and a new set of villains descends on the city.
It's not long before Ryan realizes how much the symbol on the suit means to Gotham, launching her on a personal journey that takes her from fledgling substitute to confident caped crusader, from living in her van with her plant to chasing villains in the Batmobile. Ryan Wilder becomes a very different Batwoman than Kate Kane – her own Batwoman – but with the same understanding of what it means to be a hero.
Based on the characters from DC, Batwoman is from Berlanti Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television with executive producers Greg Berlanti (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl), Caroline Dries (The Vampire Diaries, Smallville), Geoff Johns (Arrow, The Flash, Titans), Chad Fiveash (The Vampire Diaries, Gotham), James Patrick Stoteraux (The Vampire Diaries, Gotham) and Sarah Schechter (Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl). Shivani Ghai (Dominion, The Catch), Leah Gibson (Jessica Jones), Nathan Owens (Devious Maids), and Alex Morf (Gotham) join the second season's cast.