The New Faces of Pride: Javicia Leslie Plays a Superhero on TV—and Her Watch Doesn't End There

Batwoman star Javicia Leslie talked to E! News about representation in Hollywood, which queer artists she has on repeat and why Pride has taken on new meaning for her lately.

By Natalie Finn, Billy Nilles Jun 25, 2021 1:00 PMTags

With the world slowly beginning to come out on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, this Pride season is one of tremendous celebration. And yet, the spirit of a movement itself born out of a protest lives on. As the month of June comes to a close and International Pride Day nears, E! News has asked some of Hollywood's newest generation of LGBTQ stars to share what Pride means to them in 2021.

Welcome to The New Faces of Pride.

Not all heroes wear capes. 

However, sometimes they do, and Javicia Leslie does.

In January, the second season of The CW's Batwoman premiered with Leslie in the title role, making her the first Black actress to play the iconic DC Comics figure onscreen.

Moreover, her regular-person alter ego on the show, Ryan Wilder, is a matter-of-factly out lesbian—an aspect of the character that was also very important to Leslie, who identifies as bisexual.

"We're reducing our representation, but it doesn't change the population of who is a part of that community," she explained to Comics Beat in an interview ahead of her debut. "So that's why it's necessary to say it. That's why it's necessary to find some kind of way that finally people of that community can identify with superheroes." 

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Telling the story of a woman who slipped through society's cracks as a kid and who subsequently continued to feel unseen—until she dons a fierce suit and becomes the savior of Gotham—was a draw for Leslie as well, especially at this moment in time.

Nino Muñoz/The CW

"I'm very, very sad and disappointed with everything that is going on right now and what has been going on," she told Insider in January. "A lot of what we thought had changed has been proven not to have changed. But life imitates art and it's very important that we continue to have representation on the screen so that we can continue to build a future of people that feel empowered to fight their fight and speak their piece and still represent it. So to be a part of that, in any kind of capacity, I feel very honored."

In honor of Pride Month, Leslie talked to E! News about what the annual celebration means to her in this day and age, LBGTQ+ artists who inspire her and how the entertainment industry can go about effecting real change.

Leon Bennett/WireImage / E! Illustration

How has your personal definition of Pride changed or shifted after all we've been through these last few months?

The definition of Pride has shifted for me because with everything we've been through this year, more people are choosing to walk in their truth and show who they are. Pride supports every step of that journey because now people can look around them and find someone who has been through their specific journey. They can be told, "You are everything you're meant to be and more." They can look on television, read books and scan social media, constantly seeing people that feel and look like them.

What queer media, be it books, music or film/TV, is a mainstay in your life? Why?

Right now, queer music artists are a mainstay in my life because their words are free of heteronormative ideas and instead are able to freely express love in their own unique perspective. I specifically love the remix of "Touch Me" by Victoria Monét and Kehlani.

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What was the first time you saw yourself reflected in entertainment in a way that filled you with pride? And if you're still waiting, what is it that you're hoping to see?

I still haven't seen myself in entertainment through characters, but I have seen myself represented in the actual artists. Now that artists feel more comfortable sharing who they are, I find myself seeing many similarities in those I watch and listen to lately.

You finally get to meet your queer hero. Who are they? And after "Thank you" and "I love you," what the next thing you tell them?

I love Indya Moore. She fearlessly uses her platform to advocate for others. Also her art is constantly pure and grounded. If I met her, I would tell her that she has power in her existence. Choosing to be honest, open, and present employs others to do the same. Thank you!

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You are given the keys to your industry. What's the first thing you do to make it a more inclusive environment for everyone?

I would start by implementing programs like Ava DuVernay's Array Crew, which provides film and television hiring managers access to crew members with diverse backgrounds. This helps to relieve the excuse that it's difficult to find and hire qualified diverse employees. Changing the industry starts with changing the faces that are behind the scenes.

What is your message to future generations of queer people, coming of age right now? How do you want to instill hope in them?

I want future generations to share their stories through every version of their art. Art outlives us all, and when you create, you are leaving a piece of yourself that others can connect to.

The season finale of Batwoman airs Sunday, June 27, at 9/8c on The CW.

For more from The New Faces of Pride, be sure to return every day through the end of June!