‘Batwoman’: Javicia Leslie and Robin Givens Tease Their “Adversarial” Familial Relationship
Information about ‘Batwoman’: Javicia Leslie and Robin Givens Tease Their “Adversarial” Familial Relationship
On this week’s Season 3 premiere of The CW’s Batwoman, picking up on the cliffhanger from last season, we get to meet Ryan Wilder’s birth mother. Maybe. Played by iconic actress Robin Givens, Jada Jet is a powerful businesswoman who may or may not have given up her child, who is now the official Batwoman of Gotham City, though Jada doesn’t know that yet.
“When they initially get together, Jada wants to keep her at bay,” Givens told Decider during a joint interview with Leslie. “It almost seems it might be an adversarial relationship in many respects, but I think she doesn’t know how to deal with this.”
Though there’s only a little tease of what to expect from Jada as the episode ends, we do get another surprising set-up in the premiere: Batwoman has been coerced into teaming up with arch-villain Alice (Rachel Skarsten) by Detective Renee Montoya (Victoria Cartagena). Cartagena, of note, previously played the DC Comics character on FOX’s Gotham, though this is a different iteration of the police-woman.
To find out more from Leslie and Givens about what to expect as Ryan and Jada’s world’s collide, as well as how Leslie feels about suiting up for Season 3 after the enormous expectations replacing Ruby Rose’s Kate Kane in Season 2, read on.
Decider: Javicia, the expectations for both you and Ryan as a character are very different in Season 3, versus Season 2. How do you feel you and she are settling into their respective roles?
Javicia Leslie: For me, I’m just having fun. I’m having so much fun every single episode, to be able to bring the script to life with my co-stars, and with our production and the amazing props team, and set designers… That is absolutely so much fun to be a part of. I don’t know if I move through this process and these experiences with the idea of expectations. I think I just try to completely stay as present as I can, because a part of my process out here is not even just my shows. It’s just, I’m in Vancouver. I’m in a different journey in my life. I’m a lead for the first time on my first show. It’s like, “Oh.” There’s a lot of layers outside of it, just being my experience playing this character. I like to stay as present as possible. I try not to move with any expectations.
As for Ryan, I feel Ryan… No, I don’t usually separate myself in my Ryan life, I feel I came from a journey of not feeling I was worthy enough to wear the cape and cowl. Now going into Season 3, I get to have more fun. Oh, we have a lot in common, Ryan and I. I’m going to just be more confident in knowing that, “Okay. The cape and cowl, they’re mine, that’s not changing. What can I do to make a difference with this? What can I do that impacts those that were not to be impacted before? How can I help them?” You know what I mean? That’s a part of my journey in my head, but then all of a sudden, my mom, who I think is dead, comes into the picture and she’s Jada Jet. I mean, if you’ve read the comics, and I’m a huge Batman fan, she’s a huge part of the story in Gotham. Her and Bruce Wayne had an affair. Not on our show, I don’t think we’re going to play it that way, I’m not sure. Something to ask Robin, but it’s just to say that she’s a huge part of Gotham and of this story, and for her to be my mom…
Ryan is an original character. To connect Ryan to a character that completely exists and has roots in the comics, that’s so beautiful, and it’s so much fun to know that this is leaving a legacy. This season is going to be a lot of fun. There’s a lot of dynamics. There’s a lot of layers. I really look forward to seeing how it all unravels, because I only read whatever episode we’re shooting at the time.
Well, Robin, over to you then, and Javicia, good tee up. We find out towards the end of the episode, that probably Jada is Ryan’s birth mother. What can you tell about her? Is she going to be a thorn in Ryan side? Possibly a mentor figure? A little bit of both?
Robin Givens: I would say probably a little bit of both. I think when they initially get together, Jada wants to keep her at bay. It almost seems it might be an adversarial relationship in many respects, but I think she doesn’t know how to deal with this. Javicia said it beautifully. I mean … There she is, right in her face, Ryan. This child that she wasn’t going to have, be a part of her life, and she wasn’t going to be a part of her child’s life, is standing right before her. She’s forced to deal with this. The part that I find interesting and beautiful in some respects is her softness, and the part of her life that she can’t control is really because she’s a mom, and she just loves her children so much. I think underneath all of that butting heads initially is perhaps her wanting to protect her a little bit. We’ll see how they play with that.
Also at the end of the episode, we get the set-up of another team for Ryan. She’s already got Team Batwoman, now she’s teaming up with Renee Montoya and Alice of all people. How is she going to balance all of these different parts of her life?
Leslie: She is not excited about that at all. Renee Montoya is such an amazing character to me as a Batman fan, and as a Batwoman fan, because she is from the original comics, and she was Batwoman’s love interest for a lot of the comics. Us bringing her in, and having Victoria [Cartagena] play her so well, Victoria played her in Gotham the TV show, this is her second time playing this character. Bringing this character in, it’s also a character that has so much, so many layers of representation, if we’re talking about how much this show really does try its hardest to create real representation.
As an Afro-Latin woman, as a gay woman, as all of these different layers that Victoria is as well, it’s just that’s such an honor to be able to combine this on our show. But anyways, the thing about Renee Montoya is… Renee Montoya, you talked about a thorn, Renee Montoya is a thorn in Ryan’s side. She is the bane of Ryan’s existence right now, because she’s forcing, first of all, Ryan to work with Alice, and they hate each other. She does something that really upsets Ryan, then makes Ryan’s life very difficult halfway through the season. Renee is an issue. Okay? Renee is an issue.
Ryan has a lot going on. It’s really surprising me that she is still able to perform as well as she does as Batwoman, and saving people, because it’s a lot. Her whole life is just in shambles.
Robin, I loved the episodes you directed over on Riverdale. Are we, by any chance, going to see you tackling any here on Batwoman?
Givens: I would love to. I would absolutely love to. There’s another cast member that’ll be directing. I’m sure Javicia will be directing. I’m honored. I can’t wait to be directed by her. I’m going to have to get in line a little bit, I think, but I’ve some other CW stuff coming up that I’ll be directing. I’m looking forward to that. It’s a great group of people. The crew’s great. Like I said, I can’t wait to be directed by Javicia, but I would love to have my turn, yes.
Leslie: Robin’s going to be an amazing director… I can’t wait to have, as in female directors, we don’t get them as often nowadays. Just in general, I’m not talking about our show. Our show does a great job, but we don’t get them as often nowadays. I think there’s this special touch that women directors have. It’s just their special thing… I remember my first time I was directed by a female. She said to me, she was like, “I like to make sure I shoot from this angle, so that it’s always really flattering to…” I’m like, “Oh gosh. Yes. I love this.”
Javicia, there seems to be a potential of some romance blooming between Ryan and Sophie. Is there anything there that you can tease about that?
Leslie: I am not a good teaser. I just don’t hold things in. I’m pretty easy, honestly. I don’t know what I can say and what I can’t say. I will say that they blurred a lot in the beginning of the season. I think I can say that, but I think there’s so many layers behind their friendship and relationship that continue to complicate things. I don’t know. As of now, I haven’t really experienced anything yet, and I only read the episode that I’m filming. I don’t know what’s in the future.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Batwoman airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on The CW.