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'Batwoman' Showrunner Caroline Dries on Giving Kate Kane Her Own Joker and Moving Beyond Batman [Interview]

While Joker is in theaters this weekend and Birds of Prey is on the way, The CW’s Arrowverse is launching a new Batshow. Batwoman stars Ruby Rose as Kate Kane, Bruce Wayne’s cousin who returns to Gotham City and becomes Batwoman in his absence.

Not every Gothamite is happy to see Batwoman. Jacob Kane (Dougray Scott) thinks his Crow Security team is all the protection Gotham City needs and Alice (Rachel Skarsten) wants to turn Gotham City into her own Wonderland. Batwoman will also be part of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover.

Batwoman showrunner Caroline Dries spoke with /Film after the show’s Television Critics Association panel. Batwoman airs Sunday nights on The CW. 

Is the reason Batman left Gotham City based in the comic books?

It’s one that I’ve invented. In the comic books, she’s sort of feeling like she has no direction in life. Some bad things have gone and she’s out drinking one night and she gets mugged. The caped crusader comes and saves the day and she looks up and sees the silhouette of Batman and she’s like, “That’s what I want to be.” That’s how it is in the comics. In our mythology, we wanted to make it slightly more complicated than that. So he’s gone and we don’t know where he is and we don’t know if we’re going to see him again.

Is anyone else going to connect that Bruce Wayne has been gone for exactly three years also?

Hopefully not. Hopefully you can just keep that secret as long as possible. You’d think a few more inquisitive journalists might have figured that out or been asking but apparently in Gotham, people lose track of a lot of different people very quickly.

Does Crow Security give you an engine to the show?

So in the comics, Jacob Kane was the head of what was called The Murder of Crows. It’s this international faction of the U.S. government. It’s a little Blackwater-esque. So he’s doing all these international missions, this independent company for the government. We wanted to keep him in Gotham so we decided to make the Crows the sort of Blackwater of Gotham. We’ve seen so many different permutations of the Gotham City Police Department that this was sort of what we could offer as the new way into Gotham and the new protectors of the city, and then obviously people who think they’re protectors of the city are counter to the superhero who thinks she’s the protector of the city. So it made perfect sense that the man in charge of this security company was Batwoman’s father.

Does Jacob Kane really have Gotham City’s best interests at heart?

In his heart of hearts, he believes that he does. This is a man who lost his wife and daughter in one fell sweep, in one second of the day. The Joker is responsible for running his bus and crashing into that car and putting them into the river. There wouldn’t have been a Joker if there hadn’t been a Batman. So he is trying to protect Gotham form people that create evil like The Joker and like Batman. So he’s not really doing anything that a father wouldn’t believe in. He just happens to be an opponent against our hero, Batwoman. So we might see him as doing bad but he’s actually trying to do all the right things. 

His and Kate’s relationship begins at a fraught place. Even if he doesn’t know her secret, does that further complicate their relationship because Kate knows?

Their father/daughter relationship is not black and white. It’s a roller coaster like any relationship where some days they’re growing closer and then some days they’re being ripped apart. The big thing, the pilot for her emotionally was that she’s just constantly trying to prove herself to this man who will never really believe in her. Her journey in the pilot was realizing I have to stop worrying about what he thinks of me. I have to worry about what I think of me and I’m going to do what I want to do and do it my own way. That’s her journey in the pilot and continues to be her journey moving forward. It’s up to Jacob to realize this is what she’s going to do. I can either be a fan of tis or I can continue standing in her way. Really the ball’s in Jacob’s court.

How long before people realize that she’s a batWOMAN?

No kidding. I think part of the reason she puts that wig on is to clear up any confusion. That’s a big event of episode three is her realizing enough is enough, people.

It’s Commissioner Forbes. Has Jim Gordon retired?

Yeah, I associate Jim Gordon with the Batman era. So Commissioner Forbes is going to be. We haven’t met him yet as we’re breaking stories but he is in the ether of the Gotham City Police Department.

Have you cast him yet?

No. 

Is there a Forbes in the comic books?

Yeah.

This is the sixth Arrowverse show. They have a stunt team and action coordinators. Do they help you mount up these fight scenes?

So each show has its own stunt team. What I think makes our show unique is our stunt crew came from the show The 100 which is a much different type of action than the Arrowverse shows. They said to me, “What kind of stunts do you want her doing?” She’s trained in the military but she’s trained all over the world. I said, “I just want it to feel really, really grounded. Marcos wanted to shoot it in a really grounded, brutal, visceral way. It’s hard to explain but basically what that means is less wide shots and more like you’re just getting the nitty gritty, so you’re on Ruby’s face as she’s throwing the punch and you’re watching the punch connect. So a lot of it is more hand to hand combat as opposed to acrobatic combat where she’s twirling around and doing a ton of kicks. So that sequence in the orphanage I think is awesome because it’s really just using her environment as a weapon and it shows more of her cleverness as a fighter. Her posture is pretty small so she’s going up against big guys. She has to be smarter than them fighting-wise because she’s not going to have the brawn to take them out necessarily. And then as she becomes Batwoman it becomes slightly more acrobatic and she’s doing flips and kicks and stuff like that.

Does the Crow team have their own style?

Yeah, we tried to show it in the Sophie fight in the teaser, but it all happened so fast. Their style is really to shoot first and ask questions later. They’re much more into guns and the AK-47s and shooting people.

Is Alice Kate’s Joker?

Yes, so in the Batwoman comic book lore, Alice is the main villain that Batwoman goes up against. I wanted to make that the main conflict of the show. But she is definitely The Joker in terms of being theatrical and overly dramatic and loving being the center of attention. 

You launch this show and know that in December you have to cross over with five other shows. How daunting is that?

It’s been really, really hard. It’s hard enough to just schedule one show and then this show is unique because we’re also going to Chicago, which I won’t bore you with the logistical details of that but it’s an extra thing to add onto your life. So then to do this, it’s like wait, what? At the same time, it’s awesome too. As a fan of these types of shows and these comics, it’s like yes, bring it, bring it, bring it. I’m just flattered that I get to be part of it and I love that Kate’s going to be intimately part of it.

Did it change the pace of your story knowing episode eight or thereabouts wasn’t going to be just a Batwoman episodes?

Not really. We had the luxury of breaking out the season knowing the crossover episode falls right here so leading up this needs to happen, and then after it, this is going to happen. We knew broadly what was going to happen in the crossover, but when you see the crossover you’ll realize this is a really standalone five hour movie. It does impact our series but it didn’t affect our storytelling.

How many other villains will crop up? What will Alice think of other villains?

Alice has a very specific agenda. She’s sort of unflappable in her agenda so she doesn’t pay too much attention to people who aren’t personally related to what she needs to be doing. That being said, because she’s willing to do anything to get what she wants like any good villain, she’s going to, as a byproduct, bring in and lure in more villains to Gotham that she has to deal with or Kate has to deal with. 

Was it on purpose that you cast Rachel who had been in Birds of Prey?

No, I didn’t realize that until after. We brought her in for three auditions which is a lot of auditions for a role. We just wanted to make sure that we were threading the needle with somebody who could understand the deliciousness of the character and also keep it really grounded. Rachel was the standout. It didn’t occur to me until her third audition when Peter [Roth] was like, “We’ve worked together before on Birds of Prey.” I guess I knew of her more so from Reign.

Does Kate have all of Batman’s wonderful toys?

Of course, yes. That’s what’s fun about the Batcave is the way Lisa Soper designed it is that it has sort of these alcoves that go into shadows. We don’t know what’s in that cave over there, what’s in that cave over there. So I keep waiting for Kate to find the Batgarage. 

Which classic Batgadgets have you had fun bringing back, and what new ones do you invent?

They’re all super fun. Our props department is awesome. We’re trying to do all of them that aren’t super cheesy. We’re not doing shark repellant but I like the rebreather. That’s awesome. We invented one, this laser cutter thing that’ll be useful for Kate. Obviously the Batarang and there’s different versions of the Batarang. We try to do one an episode of just introducing a gadget and just having fun with it. 

And you haven’t thought about vehicles yet?

We’ve thought about it. I just really want to nail it and I also want to have the right budget for it so you’ve got to kind of make that work.

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