The Arrow-verse is finally planting a firm stake in Gotham City this fall, with Batwoman joining the weekly adventures. The show's first trailers and early footage make it very clear that Ruby Rose's Kate Kane is no mere Batman copycat, and star Rachel Skarsten says that her villain Alice isn't meant to be a female Joker. She's too busy murdering people to worry about all that.
While Batwoman's Rachel Skarsten was promoting the show during this year's Television Critics Association summer press tour, she sat down with CinemaBlend for a chat filled with love for these comic book characters and their important mythos. Acknowledging that her villain Alice will inevitably get lots of comparisons to The Joker, I asked Skarsten whether she avoided or embraced that when prepping for the role.
I mean, no one can fill the shoes of the people who have played Joker before me. That's insane. It would be crazy to try. And I always think that while imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I can flatter them in other ways. I wanted to create something that was my own. I will never be able to play The Joker the way those people did, but I can play Alice the way I play her, you know? So yes, of course you look to those characters because Alice is to Batwoman what Joker is to Batman. But no, beyond that, I've sort of tried to create my own thing.
While it didn't get brought up directly, note that the Lewis Carroll-quoting Alice also isn't a stand-in for Joker's better half, Harley Quinn. Alice might enjoy the same kinds of chronically manic bouts of violence and chaos that The Joker and Harley do, but there's a DNA to Rachel Skarsten's character that's completely unique.
Granted, Alice does share some of the same ideals as Joker and various other villains from the Batman comics' long histories. Ideals such as "tearing shit up" and "making Gotham City citizens miserable." But don't let her performative nature immediately bring the Clown Prince of Crime to mind. Alice likely isn't down with all that pancake makeup anyway.
Speaking to Alice bringing an unpredictable and wild nature to Batwoman, I asked Rachel Skarsten how she got into the character's semi-psychotic mindset.
Well, my family would argue that I just naturally come by that state. [Laughs.] But I've had to sit with Alice more than other characters. I think any time as an actor, you want to, even if it's the smallest part, draw off of your own experience or personality, and then you personify that for that specific character. But Alice, she in a way inhabits so many different characters, because she goes from being totally normal to completely crazy to very vulnerable to like super-angry, and does it all within one paragraph of dialogue. So I've had to tinker with and play with the scenes more, to kind of land on...it's almost like choreographing a dance with myself. That's been actually really fun, because you always want a new challenge as an actor. And I come back to this universe that I know so well, but have been presented with like totally new challenges. So it's interesting.
Fans can only hope that a future episode of Batwoman brings about a literal choreographed dance for Rachel Skarsten and Ruby Rose to take part in. That might be more of a Season 2 idea, but it could work.
During Batwoman's panel at the TCA press event, Rachel was asked about balancing "the crazy" when playing Alice. Here's the actress' gracious answer:
First and foremost, let me just say it is so much fun to play a character that you can really make a meal out of, and all of the writers give me such sort of wonderful, brilliant, crazy, off-the-wall things to say. And one minute she’s making perfect sense, and then she’s quoting Alice in Wonderland, and then she’s throwing someone off a building. And so that’s been so much fun to do. But I think the best crazy is one that's also grounded in a really solid reality. I think it makes the crazy part even more crazy when you have someone that you’re talking to, and they’re so incredibly normal and then, boom, they switch on a dime. To me, it’s very concerning and crazy. So I’m trying to do that with Alice. But at the same time, sometimes it’s just really fun to go totally bonkers.
Her cackles won't be heard bouncing through Gotham City alleyways, and she (probably) won't be delivering the most violent puns on TV, but Rachel Skarsten's Alice is still a force to be reckoned with for Kate Kane's Batwoman. As well as the cops and anyone else who tries standing in her way. I imagine she's also rude to food delivery drivers, defective henchmen, and others.
It's not known yet whether or not Alice will have a part to play in the upcoming "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover that'll incorporate the main heroes from all six of The CW's Arrow-verse dramas. (Yes, Black Lightning's Cress Williams is finally coming to play in the sandbox.) Of course, knowing if Alice was involved wouldn't necessarily mean very much at this point, considering viewers aren't readily familiar with the character yet.
Still, we do know that Burt Ward of the '60s Batman series will be involved, as will Batman: The Animated Series vet Kevin Conroy and presumably many more. It was also announced at TCA that the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" comic arc writer Marv Wolfman will be writing the Arrow crossover installment with executive producer Marc Guggenheim. While not even Batwoman had been created yet when "Crisis" wrapped its run in 1986, it will be fun to see how she and Gotham City are used, and are then possibly changed forever. And if Alice is there to take part in the mayhem, by all means, let her in.