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We Catch Up with Local Javicia Leslie on Her New Role as Batwoman

By Michael McCarthy | December 21, 2020 | People


Actress Javicia Leslie would like to get something out of the way. She was a fan of Batman growing up, but an even bigger fan of Storm, the female superhero whose powers included changing the weather by sourcing the earth’s electromagnetic field. Leslie, who spent her formative years in Upper Marlboro in a military family, is all about mixing things up and changing worldviews. “When you think of the Bat family, you think of these characters who come from a very prestigious background. Bruce Wayne and Kate Kane came from money,” says Leslie, whose CW Batwoman series resumes filming soon. “But with Ryan Wilder, she’s the girl who’s an underdog. She represents the community that has been overlooked for so long in Gotham City. To find a hero from that world, to find someone who doesn’t need to be saved—and instead is doing the saving—that’s a perspective I want to play with.”

Leslie says she gained this perspective while growing up in the area, where her teachers introduced her to voices like James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, August Wilson and Ntozake Shange. After graduating from Hampton University, she returned to DC and directed her first play via the former performance troupe Love From the Soundstage. The company also gave her the opportunity to host weekly performances; artists competed for a chance to appear on the hiphop and R&B countdown show 106 & Park. During this time, Leslie worked as an Army contractor, assisting families whose loved ones had died. “I found joy in being able to contact a family with something they weren’t expecting— something good. Having a military family and working for the Army gave me so much appreciation for our veterans and soldiers, and the bravery it takes to risk their lives for our country. It’s something I truly admire.”

Strength has been Leslie’s calling card in Hollywood, especially in star turns like God Friended Me and, now, Batwoman. The actress says her roles come down to authenticity. “I always look to completely transform, but, naturally, no matter what, you’re going to carry parts of yourself into the role because we are human,” she says. “Our human connection is what allows us to empathize with these characters. As long as I’m grounded in that world of true empathy, there’s going to be a part of me that’s connected to all of these different characters. Then it truly becomes a unique experience—not only for you, but also for your audience.”

Photography by: John Jay