entertainment

Batwoman star Javicia Leslie has a message for racist trolls: 'The suit doesn't have a race'

The 33-year-old actor talks to the Attitude March issue about celebrity fans and replacing Ruby Rose on The CW's hit show.

2021-01-27

Photographer: John Jay @ayejohnjay
Stylist: Jyotisha Bridges @jyotisha_
Hair: Sean Fears @seanchristopherfears
Makeup: Dion Xu @makeupbydion
Words: Jamie Tabberer

When Javicia Leslie was announced as Ruby Rose's replacement in The CW's Batwoman last year, the casting felt, well, right.

“I am extremely proud to be the first Black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television," she said at the time. "And as a bisexual woman, I am honoured to join this ground-breaking show, which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Months later, as she appears in the Attitude March issue - out now to download and to order globally - the 33-year-old reflects: "When you’re watching TV, it should look like the people you’re surrounded by — we’re all different colours, we’re all different, unique and original.

Bat to the future: Javicia Leslie opens up about her landmark TV role in the Attitude March issue, out now. 
Photographer: John Jay @ayejohnjay
Stylist: Jyotisha Bridges @jyotisha_
Hair: Sean Fears @seanchristopherfears
Makeup: Dion Xu @makeupbydion

"What I love about our show is that we put on a platform people who have not normally been put on platforms. We’ve been able to show, day-to-day, their lives. That’s exciting to be a part of. It’s a journey. In television, it’s been such a journey. To be able to be part of a change — it’s really satisfying."

The response before TX date, particularly from fellow superhero actors, was hugely positive - albeit, when asked if she's heard from Ruby Rose, Javicia simply says: "No I haven't".

Listing the stars who have been in touch, she says: "The Flash – Grant [Gustin]; Black Lightning – specifically, the actress who plays Thunder, her name is Nafessa Williams, also a lesbian superhero; [and] Chantal [Thuy], who played her girlfriend; Anna Diop, who plays Starfire [in Titans]; Melissa [Benoist], who plays Supergirl. They were all supportive in some sort of way. Tyler [Hoechlin] from Supergirl reached out via DM.

"You know who reached out to me who’s really cool? Shaq! [former American basketball player Shaquille O’Neal]. Through Instagram, Shaq said, “I love Batwoman!” It was one of my favourite ones! “I’m rooting [for] you and we’re here to support you.”

The most negative reactions, she explains, were "race-based; people feeling like Batwoman should not be Black."

Javicia goes on: "What I’ve learnt from this role is, the suit, no matter who is in it, represents something so powerful. It is automatically a responsibility. The first time I put this suit on, I automatically felt responsible for saving people. Do you know what I mean? It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the suit. The suit itself represents so much.

"I think that even if it wasn’t me, even if another race had been chosen, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change the suit. The suit doesn’t have a race. It still represents what it represents. So, it kind of sucks to hear people put a race on something that does not have a race.

Photographer: John Jay @ayejohnjay
Stylist: Jyotisha Bridges @jyotisha_
Hair: Sean Fears @seanchristopherfears
Makeup: Dion Xu @makeupbydion

"I’m Black, so yeah, while I’m Batwoman, Batwoman is Black. But anyone could technically be Batwoman."

Speaking of the suit, we ask with fervent curiosity: what is it actually made of? 

Laughing, Javicia tells us: "It’s made of these different types of leather. Some parts are stretchy, some parts are not. It has a lot of different layers to it. There’s the top and bottom, but also gloves, belt, cape – there’s a lot!

"As far as comfort… I’m able to do what I need to do. I’m able to save the world! And I’m able to do my own stunts. That was a major part of this for me. I have two suits: one that I wear when I’m doing my stunts, and one when I’m not. The one for stunts is a little bit bigger so I’m able to do more."

Javicia made her debut in the Batsuit earlier this month, with season two scoring an 88% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes; it reaches UK screens on Channel 4 later this year.

Read the full interview in the Attitude March issue, out now to download and to order globally.

Subscribe in print and get your first three issues for just £1 each, or digitally for just over £1.50 per issue.