Faster than a hater can snatch a crime fighter’s red wig, The CW’s Batwoman has shut down skeptics who predicted the show would be a flop.
The love-it-or-hate-it swirl surrounding it has been brewing for months. Some people couldn’t wait to see the first TV series about DC Comics’ most famous queer superhero, while others complained that lesbian star Ruby Rose, who plays Kate Kane/Batwoman, wasn’t “gay enough” for the role and that the show’s “social justice warrior” agenda was going to turn off a lot of viewers. In December 2018, comic book fans got a sneak preview of Rose as Batwoman when the character made cameos on The CW superhero shows Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl for the Elseworlds three-night crossover event.
The pilot of Batwoman had its world premiere in July at San Diego Comic-Con, but most audiences got their first real taste of the show when it debuted on The CW on October 6, followed by online streaming the next day. Critics’ reactions have been mostly positive, and audiences have spoken: According to Nielsen, the series premiere got a 0.5 rating (pulling in 1.86 million viewers) with adults ages 18 to 49, the most important demographic for advertisers, and Batwoman became The CW’s most-watched series premiere since Black Lightning’s debut in January 2018, reports Zap2It’s TV by the Numbers. With this auspicious beginning, Batwoman isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
At this year’s New York Comic Con, NewNowNext sat down with Batwoman co-stars Meagan Tandy and Rachel Skarsten, who portray the two women who have the most emotional impact on the titular heroine in the show. Tandy is Kate’s closeted ex-girlfriend Sophie Moore, who works as a high-ranking agent for the Crows security firm that protects the city of Gotham. And talk about complications: Kate’s millionaire ex-military father, Jacob Kane (played by Dougray Scott), owns the firm. Meanwhile, Skarsten is Wonderland Gang leader Alice, Batwoman’s archnemesis. In the first episode, viewers discover that Alice is Kate’s fraternal twin sister Beth, who was presumed to have died with their mother in a car crash when Beth was an adolescent.
“People seem to be very excited about it,” Tandy says of audiences’ reactions to the series. “A lot of teenage girls, they’re loving it. That’s exactly what we want. We don’t want it to be taboo that the superhero is lesbian. We want it to be normal. We want it to be an everyday thing and not for people to get freaked-out about it.”
Here, the actresses answer five more burning questions about what to expect in Batwoman’s first season.
Just how steamy will the love scenes be between Kate Kane and Sophie Moore?
Kate and Sophie had an intense love affair when they were students at the same military academy during the era of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The first episode of the series features a scene in which Kate and Sophie get caught secretly smooching outside on campus. Their relationship ends after Kate, who’s not afraid to be out, gets expelled from the school and asks Sophie to go away with her, but Sophie wants to stay in the closet because she thinks being out will hurt her career.
Tandy revealed that fans will get more flashback scenes with Kate and Sophie. “You’re definitely going to get the full backstory of what went down in military school and what the emotional connection is between the two,” she says. “This wasn’t just a fling. They were actually in love. We talk about how long they were together, and what it meant for both of them. There’s a little taste of it in the pilot [episode], but you’ll get some more later.”
What is Sophie’s true sexual identity?
“The thing is, Kate and Sophie abruptly broke up while they were in military school,” Tandy says. “One is standing in her truth; the other one is pretending a little bit. You’re going to see Sophie trying to figure out what she wants to do. She does love her husband, but was she ever fully on board when they got married? Probably not. So why was she not on board? Is it because he’s not ‘the one,’ or is it because she’s in love with a woman?”
While most queer characters on TV these days are not confused about their sexual identities, Tandy is proud to play someone who might not want to be labeled. “All the characters on the show are absolutely amazing, but Sophie represents so many women in this world right now,” she says. “My hope is that people will watch Sophie and it will only expand their empathy meter. There might be someone in their life who was going through something like that, and I hope this will help them understand why they were like that.”
Who does Alice want revenge on more: her father or her sister Kate?
Batwoman wouldn’t be a superhero story without family drama. In the first episode, Alice has the Wonderland Gang kidnap Sophie and later kidnap Kate, who has gone on a mission to rescue Sophie. When Alice confronts a tied-up Kate, she attempts to trigger her daddy issues, telling her, “Sophie is the daughter your father always wanted—not you, dear.” She also tells Kate that her ultimate goal is to take away Jacob Kane’s power.
Though Alice/Beth seems to hold the biggest grudge against her father, Skarsten says Kate has hurt her the most: “There’s no one else Alice loves in the same way. For any evil character, love presents a particular dilemma. And that love, albeit twisted, is the underlying thing that drives Alice throughout this entire season, and probably has driven her throughout her entire life, especially since they parted. It’s definitely her Achilles’ heel.”
Because Alice had her gang kidnap Sophie to push Kate’s buttons, it’s a sign that she knows about Kate and Sophie’s past romance, and that the ex-couple might still have feelings for each other.
Why is Alice so angry with her family?
Batwoman’s first episode flashes back to a deadly car crash in which Kate and Alice/Beth were in the back passenger seats and their mother was driving. The car was rear-ended by a school bus and went over an embankment, but Kate managed to escape with the help of her older cousin Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman. It turns out the school bus had been hijacked by the Joker (Batman’s most notorious enemy), and Batman ended up rescuing the people on it, but he had to live with the guilt that he couldn’t save two of his family members. In Batwoman, Batman has mysteriously disappeared, leaving Gotham without a superhero protector, and Kate discovers his tricked-out lair in the first episode.
Skarsten offered some intel on the relationship between sisters Kate and Alice/Beth: “They had the same childhood up until [age] 13, and then something went terribly wrong,” she says. “And you’ll see the paths of these two women that are incredibly different yet inexplicably linked. They should want to destroy one another, but they can’t.”
The Kane family also includes Jacob’s socialite second wife, Catherine Hamilton-Kane (Elizabeth Anweis), and Catherine’s compassionate daughter Mary (Nicole Kang), a medical school student who’s as bubbly as Kate is brooding. (Mary is also operating a secret illegal clinic at her school to help financially disadvantaged people in her community.) Also in Kate’s inner circle is trusted ally Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), the son of Wayne Enterprises’ tech whiz Lucius Fox.
“We’re going to see the backstory not just for my character, but all the [main] characters,” Skarsten says. “You will definitely understand how Alice got to the point where she is now, and that will continue to evolve as the show goes on.”
Who is Skarsten’s biggest inspiration in her portrayal of the villainous Alice?
The answer might surprise you. Skarsten wants her interpretation of Alice to have elements of physical comedy, and she was most influenced by… Lucille Ball?
“She is my favorite actress of all time,” she says. “I’m so in love with her. My family and I always watched I Love Lucy when I was growing up. I was always fascinated by that type of physical comedy, which was not typical for women at the time, and she just mastered that.”
Skarsten sees Alice as deeply “wounded” with a “rag doll” quality, but much like the Joker, Alice infuses her evil deeds with a dash of warped humor.
And speaking of inspiration: Be on the lookout for many references to Alice in Wonderland throughout the series.
Batwoman airs Sundays at 8pm ET on The CW.