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. Three years after Batman mysteriously disappeared, she finds herself left with no choice but to take that role on. Even though Kate’s father, Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott), protects the city with his militia known as Crows Private Security it’s not enough to keep the Alice in Wonderland gang, led by the psychotic Alice (Rachel Skarsten), from wreaking havoc. So, Kate must enlist the help of her stepsister, Mary (Nicole Kang), and Luke Fox (Camrus Johnson) in order to continue the legacy of protecting the city of Gotham with a brand of vigilantism first begun by her now-missing cousin, Bruce Wayne.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Skarsten speaks about being a longtime Batman fan, what it means to her to be a part of this world, how excited her brother is about her being on this show, how Alice isn’t all villain, what makes her a relatable character, what Alice wants from Kate Kane, and developing Alice’s look and wardrobe.
Collider: What were you told about this character? Did you know how compelling she would be?
RACHEL SKARSTEN: I’ve been a really big Batman fan, since I was a little girl. I had Batman pajamas, and I watched the old Adam West Batman. It’s a standard interview question, so when people would ask me, “If you could be any superhero, which would you be? And I’d say, “Batman,” even though he’s a man. That’s fine. Nowadays, you can be whatever you want. But I have to say that Alice is a pretty close second. I didn’t know anything about Batwoman, or that lore. When I initially read the sides for my test, I didn’t even know that it was Alice. They changed the names of everything, and I just read it and was like, “Whoever this is, she’s so crazy that I love her.” She goes back and forth between being sane and insane, and you never know what to expect with her. As an actor, it’s such a challenge to hit it on a dime, and get to do that, so I love her. I definitely think I have the best character, but I don’t know if I can say that ‘cause I do also love all of my other castmates. I also get these great costumes, too. Obviously, Ruby wears the Batsuit, so that’s pretty cool.
Alice seems to have her own set of rules to live by, but that, at the same time, those rules also seem to be fluid.
SKARSTEN: It’s so funny that you said that because there’s a line that we filmed in an episode, where I specifically reference that there are no rules for me. That opens such a world of possibility, but what I also like about that is, because there are no rules, it doesn’t mean that she’s exclusively bad. I think the best villains are the ones that have a redeeming quality to them, and there’s something that you root for. I always reference Walter White from Breaking Bad because he did all of these terrible things, and yet somehow you found yourself rooting for him. And I hope Alice will be like that. There’s a very human, very vulnerable side to her that will unfold. The relationships that she has, the history that she has with certain other characters in the show, involve very complex, very real human emotions. You’ll see the motivations behind all of the crazy stuff that she does, and I really, really love that about her. She’s not just exclusively bad.
You can understand and relate to someone who has personal connections to someone that they feel has done them wrong, in some way.
SKARSTEN: Oh, totally. I don’t murder those people, like Alice, but absolutely. I think that’s quite a relatable emotion in Alice, and the writers have definitely let that come through. It’s quite obvious, at least in what we’ve filmed thus far, what motivates Alice and all of the terrible things that she does, and it’s actually quite heartbreaking. I actually think Alice knows more than anyone in the show because she’s the mastermind behind everything and she knows the history of all of the characters. She’s been waiting in the shadows, for years, to exact this master plan of hers. She’s very smart, which I love. I don’t really do it on purpose, but I feel like I land in all of these wonderful, juicy roles of incredibly intelligent, malicious and rich of heart characters. It’s really lovely. I feel very blessed.
Because she knows so much more about what’s going on, is she testing everybody to see how they react? Would she let them get away with things, if they respond in a way that she wants them to?
SKARSTEN: Yeah. Alice has a very specific intention and a very specific purpose, and when characters react in certain ways that align with her intention, there’s a very surprising side that comes out of Alice and what we’re able to see. In a way, some of it is a game for her, and it’s just fun and she’s out to cause chaos for chaos’ sake, similar to like the Joker in Batman. I’ve had scenes with characters in the show, where she surprises you and she saves someone because there’s a lot of love there, too.
Does she have genuine friendships or allies that are on her side, who don’t necessarily want something from her?
SKARSTEN: I think Alice is incredibly charismatic, so she obviously has minions and followers. I think Alice is like many of the terrible characters in history, where she can convince anyone to do anything, and to follow her, like a cult leader. There are two people for whom she deeply desires a genuine relationship with, but apart from them, I think that everyone is expendable for Alice, simply to achieve a means to her end. It’s pretty clear that one of those characters is Kate Kane. She definitely has an obsession there.
What does she see happening there? Does she want a team-up between the two of them?
SKARSTEN: I think she has a deep desire for a very specific type of relationship with Kate Kane. Without giving too much away, they’re very similar. They’re both incredibly strong, very capable women. They’re both bad-asses. They’re formidable partners and adversaries. That’s quite interesting, in their relationship, and that is quite attractive to both of them.
Do you get to have a say in creating Alice’s look, or are you just game for whatever they give you?
SKARSTEN: It’s funny, when I did the audition, I didn’t know who I was auditioning for. But then, when I did the test with Ruby, I was told that it was Alice, so I immediately Googled her. It was weird because she has green eyes and short blonde hair, and I was like, “This is odd. I look a lot like this person.” And as a comic book fan myself, I try to stay as true to a character as I can because you fall in love with these characters. It would be weird if Batman showed up and his suit was completely different and pink. Actually, that would be rad. But I wanted to stay true to that. There was a little bit of collaboration, in terms of the hair and make-up. I really pushed for the bangs. I wanted her to have bangs and short hair, and to be blonde. W went through a few incarnations of it. It’s changed a little bit, since the pilot. And then, I can’t take any credit for the costumes. Maya [Mani], our costume designer, but also Colleen Atwood, who’s just so brilliant, actually came up with the concept of one of the costumes that I wore in the pilot, which was a very authoritative, Mad Hatter vibe. That was a bit of a departure from the comics, which is a little bit more of Victorian. I loved the authority of those costumes, so Maya has just taken that and run with it. I love it. It looks like Alice went into a Goodwill and maybe had too much vodka, and came out thinking that she looks great. It’s like a little off, but she’s definitely got flare, so I’m into it.
As a comic book fan, what does it mean to you to be a part of this world, and who, in your own family, is freaking out the most about you doing this role, on this show?
SKARSTEN: My brother is freaking out the most, which is weird ‘cause he’s so chill about this business. He just comes to visit me on set for the free food. I’ve been doing this since I was a child, and he’s younger than me, so he’s always been around sets. He never get starstruck and doesn’t care about any of that, but he’s so cute, going around telling everyone about this show. My mom’s like, “I don’t know what’s gotten into him. He’s so excited.” So, that’s very sweet, that he’s proud of me.
And honestly, there are two things about the show that I really love. First, that it’s Batman and just that whole world. To even be filming in Gotham is crazy and so cool, but it’s also a homecoming for me because I did Birds of Prey with Warner Bros., and it was one of my first jobs. It’s so lovely to be back on the network with Peter Roth, who’s still there. It’s really, really lovely. Also, I really love that we have representation for LGBTQ. I just think it’s so cool that it’s a female superhero that’s gay. I’m so proud to be a part of a show that’s doing that, and that’s giving people of that community someone to look up to and represent them. Even though it’s not me, I’m just so proud of Ruby and I’m stoked to be a part of that, in any way.
Batwoman airs on Sunday nights at 8/7c on The CW.