Batwoman recently premiered on The CW and joined the immense group of superheroes currently occupying the TV line-up and launched with the one hell of a shocker: (spoiler alert) Alice is Kate Kane’s twin sister.
Though Batwoman season 1 is only two episodes in — read our Batwoman season 1, episode 1 review and our Batwoman season 1, episode 2 review — Alice has already proven herself to be one of the most intense and interesting villains in the Arrow-verse, thanks largely in part to Rachel Skarsten (Reign) and her performance.
Alice teeters on the brink of madness, going in and out of reality to a world of her own creation. What caused her to almost go completely insane? Well, that’s a question that Skarsten promises we’ll find out. Batwoman season 1 will explore the aftermath of the car crash that killed Kate’s mother and presumably her sister, leaving Beth all on her own… before her arrival in Gotham with a vendetta.
Her relationship with Kate, as we saw on episode 2, is going to probably be the determining factor of whether or not she’ll come back to them and try to put her past behind her for redemption. Is it possible for Alice to be redeemed? That’s another story that will be explored, but hopefully not too soon. Alice’s madness makes her an interesting threat as she goes in between emotions rather quickly and the characters (and viewers) are never sure what exactly her motives are or how she feels about something.
Plus, Skarsten and Ruby Rose (Kate Kane) have incredible chemistry that lends itself to the belief that these two sisters — twins, at that — have so many emotions underlying every interaction they have together. As Batwoman begins to explore these, I have no doubt that Alice could easily be integrated into the story in a more permanent, less villainous role.
Interview with ‘Batwoman’s’ Rachel Skarsten
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to ask anything about the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover, but we did learn a lot about her character, Alice, on Batwoman!
Hypable: What did you do to prepare to step into Alice and her mindset and the darkness of Gotham?
Rachel Skarsten: Well, you know, I really believe as an actor that each and every individual, because ultimately every character that you play, it’s just a human being so, and I believe that all of these feelings and emotions, they’re universal. However large or small that they exist in your person, you simply personify it for, you know, whichever character you’re playing. So kind of stepping into the darkness of it. I also grew up with Batman, and it was really important to me that we meet kept the grittiness and the darkness of that universe because, you know, it was quite dear to me growing up. But so that wasn’t so difficult. But I think what was particularly challenging for me was knowing where to draw the line in terms of depicting her insanity because it’s so easy to go too far with something like that. And, and it becomes un-relatable or frankly unwatchable.
I had to really sit with what I defined as unsettling, as deeply unsettling for me in another human being. And I think it was, you know, this ability to sort of change on a dime so quickly. So when you meet someone, and they’re one thing and then they can so quickly turn into another thing, I think that, I find that quite jarring. So I tried to do that with Alice. And then the other thing I felt would be really important for her character and just to define her as being different and all was her physicality. So I really wanted there to be, you know, reading the comics there were so clearly this very dramatic elements to Alice.
And I really wanted to sort of keep that theatrical tie to her but also, you know, have this sort of ragdoll quality in how she moved her body and how she interacted with other people physically and that sort of thing. So it was, you know, I said it before, but I feel in some ways it was like a choreographing a dance with myself and provided an interesting challenge. I’ve definitely had to spend more time with Alice before we shoot scenes to kind of figure out how, you know, the moments that I’m going to be happy, the moments that I’m going to turn and be angry and then docile again and, and those sorts of things.
Well I have to say you’re doing a great job after just two episodes. Alice is already my favorite villain in the universe.
Thank you. That actually means a lot to me because, you know, there was so much pressure in the pilot, and there are so many cooks in the kitchen [with] different ideas of what ours should be. And I just thought, okay, I’m just going to have to pick one and hope for the best that I’m not fired in the second episode. And they were so generous with me and they were like, just do whatever you want to do. That’s fine. Like, you know, we loved it, but then that’s almost also as much pressure because then you think, okay, well now it’s all on me and if I mess this stuff, you know, no one to blame for it. So I’m really glad that you liked her.
Are there any other characters or performances by other actors that you’ve drawn inspiration from? I get kind of a joker and Harley Quinn vibe from Alice. I’m just wondering if any other people came into play.
I said this before as well, but I shy away from the comparison to the Joker just because that character’s been played by such prolific actors. […] Just from an acting perspective in general, I kind of watched [Heath Ledger’s performance] in awe.
There’s definitely a Harley inspiration. Although I didn’t try to sit and study what they did as specific inspiration for this character. I sort of wanted to make something that was entirely my own, if that makes sense. But I will say, outside of the DC universe, I drew inspiration from Walt Whitman in Breaking Bad. And that sounds weird, but I’ll explain it.
I really always found it quite fascinating how audiences of that show would root for him despite the fact that he did such despicable things. And I found the redeemable quality in him to be so fascinating. And I want that to be the same for Alice. I want people to root for her, to have compassion for her, to have all of those things. I didn’t want her, unlike the Joker who I, I think you know — now of course you’re seeing this whole backstory — but in the past [he has been] very much been defined by just being evil. There’s no rhyme or reason for why he does the things that he does. He just simply wants to cause chaos. But Alice isn’t like that. You know, she always had this back story of something very bad that had happened to her that had transformed her into this sort of mega-villain. And I found that element to her character very interesting.
Do you know what happened to Alice or an idea of what happened to Alice during those years? After the car crash?
Yeah, we will get to see that this season. You [will] know what actually happened between the time of the crash and when we meet Alice in the pilot. [It] will be explained to the audience.
What do you hope to see from Alice [this season]? Where do you hope to see her story go? Do you believe she could be redeemed at some point?
It’s funny because in some ways, just as a selfish actor, I don’t really want her to be redeemed because it’s so fun playing her bad. But having said that, I’ve really tried to maintain parts and elements of that in her character. And so in my mythos of Alice that good still very much exists, however deep down. And I genuinely believe that where there is any good, there can be redemption. So yes, I do think that Alice absolutely could be brought over to light side. Well that is unfortunately not my decision, so we’ll have to wait and see.
How do you and Ruby prepare to act off one another? Like in the park scene in [Batwoman season 1 episode 2] where there’s so many layers to the relationship?
Well, we kind of leapt out because we had sort of an instant chemistry when we did our tests before we got cast. We have a very similar sense of humor, and we get on quite well on set and outside of work. So that makes it easier. And Ruby’s very good at, sort of, doing things the way that I actually naturally like to do scenes, which is very much when you’re in the moment.
You know, you can prepare a scene and have ways in which you want to do it, but when you’re in that moment with another actor, you will change little things depending on how they present their character because that’s real life. I don’t go into this conversation with you having set answers that I’ll only give, and it doesn’t matter what questions do you ask me, those are the only answers I’m going to give. You know, how you asked the question and where our conversation goes. And so we’ll kind of play it like that. I think in that sense I’ve also been given so much more free range to bounce off of the things that she does. And it’s typically in my goal in any scene to see just like how much I can creep her out. And if I ever creeped her out a lot, then I know I’m on the right tract.
I know it was a long time ago, but how does being on that woman compare to your short time on Birds of Prey?
Life is so crazy sometimes because that was my first American job. And I really was, in so many ways, my character because Dinah was coming into the big city and all starry-eyed and had no idea really what was going on. And that was very much me, you know, coming to Los Angeles and this first job.
And I learned so much on that show and have learned things subsequently and feel so much better prepared to deal with this business, and my craft, and all of those things. So even though it exists in the same universe, it feels so wildly different. And then, of course, the characters are totally different because you have a very innocent, naive, young girl, and then they’re dealing with Alice who is extraordinarily capable and prepared and off the wall. So yeah, even though there are undeniable similarities, it actually doesn’t feel very similar at all. But it is a lovely homecoming.
What was the experience like to step into this already established universe on the CW with four/five successful shows? [Was there] a lot of pressure? [Was everyone] very welcoming?
I think it was actually the opposite [of too much pressure] because you sort of stepped into this pre-existing fan base. Of course, any time you do that, you don’t want to be the person who messes it up. But I think there was less pressure to do with stepping into the Arrow-verse and more pressure, at least for me, to do justice to it specifically, you know, Batman, just because I’d been a fan before. And I also feel that people, even if they aren’t a fan of comics, they are very well-versed in that universe through all the films and television shows and whatnot around Batman. So they very much have an idea of what that is.
The other actors, specifically Melissa [Benoist] on Supergirl, have just been so, so welcoming and so friendly. My interaction with them has been a little bit less than [Ruby Rose’s], but I know that she felt incredibly welcomed by all of them. That’s very much the CW way. They very much promote a sense of family amongst all of their shows, and you kind of come up to Vancouver and you’re in the game, and that’s really nice.
If you weren’t cast as Alice, what other character on Batwoman would you like to play?
Oh I think it’s funny to be honest, not because I like my character best, but like genuinely I do, but I would say none because I really feel like everyone plays their characters so well. I think I love their characters more because [of] the actor’s interpretation of them. I’d probably say Mary because she’s also almost a dual personality and she has this very lucky, sort of, socialite vibe and she’s funny. And, she has a much more serious, very intelligent vibe. I really, really like the way Nicole [Kang] plays her.
I’d probably shy away from playing Batwoman only because I’m really clumsy. I’m not particularly good at jump scenes and stuff.
Do you do any of your own stunts?
We have to do a certain amount within the scene to sell the fact that it is, in fact, you doing it. However, we have such a great stunt team and, and I have a wonderful stunt double, and I’ve always been [in the mindset] that a true professional knows the things that they’re not good at. So I’m very happy to let this go to [the stunt team] to make me look really good.
But I did learn my butterfly knife. That was really important to me to learn. Actually, I think that was the one thing they thought I wouldn’t be able to learn. And they, in the pilot, they were going to just have a shot of my hands during the butterfly knife and then cut up to my face. And I made it my absolute mission on the pilot to learn how to [do it]. And I did. Now, it’s like sometimes I just do it when I’m sitting at home and I’m stressed, which is like kind of creepy, I guess, now that I say it out loud. But I really love doing this.
Do you plan to be around for [Batwoman season 2, if it happens]?
I am planning on being around for [Batwoman season 2], but we’ll just see how good a job I do for the rest of the season.
Here’s hoping Alice sticks around
If Rachel Skarsten is planning to stick around for Batwoman season 2, then I have hope that Alice, who is genuinely one of my favorite villains in the Arrow-verse already, could find redemption at some point. Although, not complete redemption I’d hope. I’d much rather see Alice become her one-time alter-ego, Red Alice, and be an antihero amongst the grime and darkness of Gotham.
Batwoman airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW! Be sure to tune in!