TV

The “Batwoman” and “Nancy Drew” TV Series Are Getting Even Queerer

Kate Kane is opening a gay bar! Nancy Drew's gal pal is a lesbian! How the CW shows are switching things up from the books.

The CW’s Batwoman and Nancy Drew are taking major strides to ensure they have more queer representation than the books on which they’re based. The shows, which debuted in October and have been picked up for full seasons, recently revealed some major plot twists and character developments.

The big gay switch-up for CBS Television Studios’ Nancy Drew is with its character Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani), who was Nancy’s boy-crazy straight friend in the book but is now an out lesbian on the show. Bess got her first romantic storyline in the series’ sixth episode, “The Mystery of Blackwood Lodge,” which aired on November 13, when waitress Bess went on a date with security employee Lisbeth (Katie Findlay) and they kissed each other for the first time. Nancy Drew fans on social media are loving that Bess is a lesbian, with many of them affectionately referring to her as “Bessbian.”

Colin Bentley/The CW
Maddison Jaizani (left) as Bess and Katie Findlay as Lisbeth in Nancy Drew.

Meanwhile, the change to Warner Bros. Television Studios’ Batwoman that has DC Comics fans abuzz is that Batwoman/Kate Kane, who’s an out lesbian in the comic books and in the show, is opening a gay bar in Gotham.

In Batwoman’s seventh episode, “Tell Me the Truth,” which aired on November 17, viewers got to see more of the backstory about the bitter breakup between Batwoman/Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) and her ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore (Meagan Tandy), who had a passionate, three-year love affair while they were in military school during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” days. They split when Sophie denied the affair to school officials because she was afraid of getting expelled. Kate was honest about her own sexuality, and was kicked out of school for it.

Meagan Tandy (left) and Ruby Rose in Batwoman.
Kimberley French/The CW
Meagan Tandy (left) as Sophie Moore and Ruby Rose as Kate Kane in Batwoman.

Sophie now works as a high-ranking official at the Crows security firm owned by Kate’s millionaire ex-military father Jacob (Dougray Scott) and is married to a man: her co-worker Tyler (Greyston Holt), who’s not a beard. However, Sophie and Kate still have romantic feelings for each other, and the show’s latest episode showed them trying to get closure over dinner at a restaurant.

While they hold hands over the table, the restaurant’s homophobic owner-manager assumes that Kate and Sophie are a couple, and he asks them to leave. Sophie doesn’t want to make a big scene, but Kate calls out his bigotry, decides she doesn’t want to give the restaurant her business, and storms out with Sophie. At the end of the episode, Kate divulges that she has bought an abandoned bank across the street from the restaurant. As she hangs a rainbow flag in the front window, she announces that she’s turning the building into a gay bar.

Batwoman’s lesbian showrunner Caroline Dries co-wrote the episode with Natalie Abrams, a former entertainment journalist who’s written for the CW’s All American. “I knew at the beginning of the season that Kate would open a gay bar with her real-estate company, and that this would be a great episode to do it in,” she tells NewNowNext. “As we were trying to generate these stories, I needed a standing set that would allow these characters to organically cross with one another. We had this amazing little world for them, but they didn’t interact naturally. We needed a restaurant or bar where they could pop in and bump into each other.”

According to Dries, Batwoman’s gay bar, which will be called the Hold Up, is inspired by The Abbey in West Hollywood, Calif. “It’s a gay bar, but it’s very straight-friendly,” Dries says of the Hold Up. “It’s not like the Normandy Room or the Cubby Hole. It’s more of an ‘all are welcome’ kind of place.” She also reveals that the club’s grand opening (which hasn’t been filmed yet) will be “a big party to catch a bad guy.”

Julia Pennyworth (Christina Wolfe), the daughter of Batman’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth, also makes a guest appearance in the episode, which uncovers that Kate had a rebound fling with Julia shortly after Kate and Sophie broke up. That fling isn’t an explicit plot point in the comic books, although it was hinted that Julia was sexually attracted to Kate. It’s worth noting that Sophie and Julia are both badass women who know how to take enemies down in a fight, and Dries says Kate definitely “has a type” when it comes to her lovers.

Michael Courtney/The CW
(L-R): Camrus Johnson as Luke Fox, Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, and Christina Wolfe as Julia Pennyworth in Batwoman.

In past comics Julia was white, but the most recent books portray her as biracial (her mother is black). In response to the criticism she’s received about casting a white actress as Julia for the TV series, Dries explains that there’s a scene in the seventh episode in which Julia disguises herself as Batwoman and the Julia character “had to be a white woman of Ruby’s height and weight” and that “her face had to be similar to Ruby’s” in order for the scene to be believable.

As for casting MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in the voiceover role of Vesper Fairchild, Gotham’s gossipy media personality? “She was surprised that we wanted her on the show, and we’re surprised that she agreed to it,” says Dries. “It’s a fun little cherry on top.”

Writer and editor whose work has appeared in AXS.com, Examiner.com, Lifetime, People, and Billboard.