From showrunner Caroline Dries and based on the characters from DC, The CW series Batwoman follows Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), who never planned to be Gotham’s new vigilante, but three years after Batman mysterious disappeared, she finds herself left with no choice. Even though Kate’s father, Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott), protects the city with his militia, known as Crows Private Security, it’s not enough for the Alice in Wonderland gang, led by the psychotic Alice (Rachel Skarsten), so Kate must enlist the help of her stepsister Mary (Nicole Kang) and Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson), in order to continue the legacy of her missing cousin, Bruce Wayne.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, executive producer/writer Caroline Dries talked about the responsibility of doing a show with this character, why she finds Kate Kane so interesting, getting out from under the shadow of Batman, what Ruby Rose brings to it all, getting to design a Batsuit and Batcave, the Kate Kane-Luke Fox dynamic, what a character like Alice adds, and the process for deciding which characters from the comic they can bring onto the show.
Collider: What sort of responsibility do you feel, doing a show with a title like this, knowing that you get to play with this character, in this world?
CAROLINE DRIES: It’s awesome, but it’s insane. I feel like there are three prongs of pressure on my shoulder. One is that, as a showrunner, you’re the CEO of a corporation and you have all of these people’s jobs at stake, so you wanna do a good job so that it stays on the air and people can go to work. That’s just like with any show. Then, this show has the unique privilege, I’ll call it, of having an affiliation with Batman, which I love, and the world of Gotham, which is such a luxury to be able to tap into. It’s such a luxury that the audience is already primed to what the world is, but the pressure is on me to make it feel a little different, so that they’re not bored, but also stay reverend to it, so that they’re not like, “What are you doing? We loved that!” And then, the third prong of pressure is that this is the first lesbian superhero with the main title named after her, so I don’t want to mess that up for all the people who are really craving a gay superhero. That’s why I signed on for this show and that’s what’s most important to me, but it’s really, really crucial that we get the Batman thing because so many people love that character.
How do you get out from under the shadow of Batman and establish this as its own show, in a way that people forget about him?
DRIES: We’re keeping Batman and Bruce a character within the show, even though we never see him. We purposefully invented that motif of her writing journal entries to him because he was such a fundamental part of her childhood. He’s an instrumental part of her as Bruce, and as Batman, he was there on the worst day of her life. She’s a combination of haunted by him, and also using him as a touchstone for inspiration. We don’t necessarily wanna walk away from him because he is the show, but at the same time, Batwoman is the next chapter of that. She has her own completely unique relationships, outside of him, and her own family drama, outside of him, and her own villains, outside of him. Slowly but surely, it’ll be less about Batman, but we’re not like necessarily shying away from it either, at the beginning.
Why do you think Kate hadn’t made the Bruce Wayne/Batman connection before now?
DRIES: For the same reason that nobody in his life has made that connection. She had a very special relationship with Bruce, and what she comes to realize is, “Wow, he was so good at keeping that secret, that even I didn’t know.” As she’s becoming this person who has to keep this major secret, she’s realizing just how hard that must’ve been for him, and all of the sacrifices he must’ve made, to keep that a secret. She’s realizing, “Wow, what have I signed on for here?”
After that realization, it seems like the first thing that might happen, if they ever do end up in a scene together, is that she might just punch him in the face.
DRIES: Yeah, that would be perfect. I could totally see that.
What was it that made you want to explore this character deeper? Was it specifically digging into some of the aspects of her that make her human?
DRIES: Yes. I find her fascinating. I think of Kate Kane as the woman that I wish I could be, in my day to day. I think I’m sometimes, on my better days, I’m good at standing up for myself, when I feel really unwavering in an opinion and I’m glad I spoke up, but Kate does that, in every single step of her day. She’s this character that I aspire to become, so that’s really what [attracted me]. I can see myself in her, but I’ve also wished to be a bad ass. For me, as a writer, it’s wish fulfillment. And hopefully, for fans, they’re feeling a sense of aspirational wish fulfillment, too.
What do you love about what Ruby Rose brings to this and the layers that she has added?
DRIES: She is so unique as a person. When you meet her, after you’ve seen a picture of her with a motorcycle in a G-Star ad, you’re like, “She’s tough. She’s scary.” She has this really intense veneer to her, with the tattoos and the cool hair and the make-up. You’re like, “Okay, I could never be friends with this person. She’s too cool. She’s out of my league, friend wise.” But then, when you get to know her, you’re like, “She’s so charming. She’s so real. She has such a big heart.” What makes Kate Kane so unique, as a character, is that, yes, she has tattoos, but she’s not cold. She is very warm. She’s reserved, in terms of how much she speaks, but she’s definitely not cold, and Ruby brings a warmth and vulnerability to the character.
How much fun is it to get to design and realize a Batsuit and a Batcave?
DRIES: You want it to be more fun, but it’s actually just so stressful. I’ll be honest with you, it’s so stressful. For example, we had to design this suit early because of “Elseworlds,” the last crossover, so we needed to cast somebody to get the suit design. We had to hurry up. So, when I met with Colleen [Atwood], she was like, “Well, here’s what I was thinking,” and I was just like, “Oh, my god! Thank god! Yes!” It was all of the things I was worried about. That’s why you hire Colleen to do it. She just nails it. I would never let somebody come and read my writer’s draft of a script, but I had to get in there while she was sewing it on Ruby’s body. It was just stressful. I had to let her have her process, but I was full of anxiety, needing to get my opinions out. There was just so time, so the fact that she nailed it in such a short amount of time was amazing. It was really just her idea and her use of materials. She just looked at the comic and was like, “I like this, and I don’t like this. There was one, in the comics, that’s really busty and she was like, “No, she’s a feminist. She wouldn’t wear this.”
And then, designing the Batcave was amazing. Lisa Soper was our production designer for the pilot. We hired her, and she has Batman tattooed all over her. I didn’t even know that, when we hired her. It just blew us away, when we saw it. You go in there and, while we were rehearsing, somebody was painting. There was no time to do any of it, so the fact that they pulled off that massive set, in such a short amount of time, was insane.
What can you say about the relationship between Luke Fox and Kate Kane?
DRIES: I love him so much. When (executive producer) Greg [Berlanti] and I sat down to brainstorm the characters that we wanted to see, we knew we wanted a Batman loyalist and a Bruce Wayne loyalist, and we wanted somebody that represented diehard Batman fans because we knew that those are the people who are gonna be watching the show with a critical eye. So, to make it that we actually have one of those viewers on the show to be like, “Nope, don’t touch that. Batman wouldn’t do this,” is what’s fun about it. His arc over the season is that he starts to come into his own as the gadget guy. In Episode 2, he’s like, “I don’t even know how to work half of the shit in here.” And then, slowly but surely, he’s gotta figure out how everything works ‘cause she’s gonna be Batwoman, whether he lets her do it or not.
Even though he was there first, it seems like he’s just always trying to catch up.
DRIES: Yes, because he’s refusing the call to be his father (Wayne Enterprises’ tech guru Lucius Fox). His dad had a huge impact on the city, and Luke doesn’t see himself that way. Deeper into the season, we’ll find out more about his relationship with his dad and how his dad tragically died. There’s a resistance there to become his dad, but Kate’s just throwing him into the deep end and it’s sink or swim.
There’s such an interesting family dynamic on the show. What are you enjoying about exploring that?
DRIES: My favorite dynamic on this show is the sister relationship, between Kate and Mary, Kate and Alice, and Alice and Mary. That’s a love triangle, right there, it’s just a family love triangle. It’s three sisters who could literally not have any less in common, but are all entwined by the cosmos. So, this season is really about Kate trying to establish relationships with both, and just how complicated their relationships are. And Mary is one of my favorite characters on the show because she brings so much life to it, and so much happiness and joy in a bleak world. Her relationship with Kate just feels so raw and natural. She worships the ground she walks on, and Kate is just too busy to notice her. That will be an evolving relationship, over the first half of the season.
With a character like Alice, do you always have to think about just how big you can go with her and when you should pull back?
DRIES: For sure. Even in the audition phase, we were trying to modulate the auditions. If you go too big it’s like you’re chewing up the scenery. If you go too small, it’s like, “We’re in Gotham. I thought you’re supposed to be fun.” So, it was finding an actor that could thread the needle, and Rachel [Skarsten] was it. She can deliver these really absurd speeches, and as long as you just give her something grounded to latch into, she just pops.
Will we come to understand her motivations?
DRIES: 100%, yeah. They’re very, very personal. We wanted to keep it from getting too wacky and too, “I wanna take over the world,” and mustache twirly, so it’s grounded in pain. She is very deep in her convictions and hair-trigger which makes her very scary.
Was it fun to create a look to visually contrast Alice and Batwoman?
DRIES: Yeah. The fun of the Alison Wonderland world is how absurd it all is. That’s the whole motif book, and we wanted to lean into that where we could, like the masks and Alice’s costume. She always just has a little bit of Alice in Wonderland, dark, bleak and dystopic.
When it comes to other familiar characters in this world that you’ll bring in, at some point, how do you figure that out? Do you have a list?
DRIES: Yeah, every season, DC is like, “Here are some ideas, and here’s what you could maybe do,” and we’re cool to use those, so we use that as inspiration. And then, we’re like, what is Kate going through? Where was she, the last episode? What’s she doing now? What would be a good complication to that? Let’s give them a face. This is what the villain’s agenda is. Is there a DC villain that’s like this, that we could adapt? That’s usually how the process goes.
Is there one that you’re most excited about getting to or hinting at?
DRIES: There’s ones that I’m excited about like hinting at, that really only Batwoman fans will appreciate. Batwoman doesn’t have the same fanbase as Batman, so a lot of people will be like, “Who is that? Why do I care?” We did it on The Vampire Diaries, too, where lots of people didn’t read the book, but you could still hint at something, and because it carries weight on the show, people would get excited about it, and that’s what we’re gonna be trying to do.
Batwoman airs on Sunday nights on The CW.