Batwoman has found a new lead actress, with Javicia Leslie stepping up to wear the cape and cowl on the TV show’s second season.
Leslie will play Ryan Wilder, a new “likable, messy, a little goofy and untamed” character who will take over from Kate Kane, alias Batwoman.
Kane was played by Ruby Rose, who shocked fans by quitting in May.
Leslie’s casting makes her the first black actress to portray the character in a live action TV show or film.
“I am extremely proud to be the first black actress to play the iconic role of Batwoman on television,” said the actress, who previously starred in the US comedy-drama God Friended Me.
“And as a bisexual woman, I am honoured to join this groundbreaking show which has been such a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Rose walked away from the role of Batwoman in May, shortly after the first season finished on US TV network The CW.
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The actress said it had been a “very difficult decision” not to return to the show, which is the first superhero series to have a gay lead character.
Her departure came a year after she suffered an injury while filming that required her to have emergency surgery, although Deadline reported her decision was not related to the injury.
Rose congratulated her successor on Instagram, writing: “This is amazing!”
Fellow Batwoman actress Meagan Tandy said she had “watched your star rise over this past year”, adding: “YOU are our ancestors’ wildest dream.”
Actor David Harewood, who appears in Supergirl, part of the same “Arrowverse” stable of shows based on DC Comics characters, also welcomed Leslie.
Anjelika Washington, who appears in the series Stargirl, declared it was “the golden age of black female superheroes”.
Initially, producers announced that the role of Kate Kane would be recast. But in June, they put out a casting call for an entirely new character.
Showrunner Caroline Dries later explained that she made the decision out of respect for Rose. She also denied fan speculation that the show planned to “erase” Kate.
“[Kate’s] disappearance will be one of the mysteries of season two,” said Dries in a statement.
“I don’t want to give away any of our surprises, but to all our devoted fans, please know that LGBTQ+ justice is at the very core of what Batwoman is and we have no intention of abandoning that.”
Revealing Leslie’s casting, producers said the new Batwoman would be “nothing like Kate Kane, the woman who wore the Batsuit before her” and “not your stereotypical all-American hero”. The character is a former drug runner who now lives in a van.
Leslie, whose other credits include the BET drama The Family Business and 2019 rom-com Always a Bridesmaid will make her debut on the series in January 2021. Batwoman is shown in the UK on E4.
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