Javicia Leslie’s childhood prepared her for three careers – wrestler, martial artist or superhero,
She abandoned one after learning the World Wrestling Federation was fake. “I really thought (it) was real …. As I got older, I realized they were acting,” she told the Television Critics Association.
But now she’s merged the other two: She’s the new star (shown here) of “Batwoman” (8 p.m. Sundays on CW), flexing some martial-arts moves.
The bat-folks are the least super of the superheroes. For Leslie, who grew up on movies about comic-book heroes, that’s fine. “Batman was one of my favorites, because he didn’t have any magic powers.”
Instead of magic, Batwoman has great gadgets and crisp fighting skills. Leslie – with two years of Muay Thai training – makes it work. “That’s a huge stunt that the actress is actually performing,” said Caroline Dries, the “Batwoman” showrunner.
Dries faced a huge challenge: The show had centered on Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, a rich kid who took over the crimefighting when Bruce Wayue (Batman) vanished. But after the first season, Rose quit.
The show could have slipped someone else into the same role, but Dries decided to go the oppose way – “creating a character who is nothing like Kate Kane.”
This new hero, Ryan Wilder, is homeless, an out-of-work martial-arts instructor, fresh from prison. (She was framed, she says.) She happens to find the batsuit and a new likfe.
She also is upbeat, which Kate never was.
“We wanted to add a little bit more fun into the show,” Dries said, “because it is so bleak …. Javicia is funny and has really great comedic timing.”
Like Kate, Ryan is a lesbian; unlike her, she’s Black. The role suits Leslie who identifies herself as bisexual and who grew up liking the superhero Storm “because she was the only Black female superhero that I saw on TV for a very long time.”
Leslie, 33, was born in Germany, when both her parents were in the U.S. Army.. Her mother later worked with the military as a civilian, she said, including two stays in Afghanistan.
The big influence was a brother who is eight years older. “My brother was a huge comic-book collector, so I played and dabbled in his comic books. But for me, it really was the screen adaptations.”
Her brother became a semi-pro MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter, then opened a gym. That’s when Leslie jumped in. “I come from a physical background,” she said. “I ran track all my life.”
So even while she was working on “God Friended Me,” she was practicing Muay Thai. It was a strong boost in getting her ready for her next duty – saving Gotham from its bleak existence