Rachel Skarsten returns to the world of costumed superheroes with a starring role in The CW’s new comic book-inspired series, Batwoman. Skarsten stars as Alice, leader of the Wonderland Gang and Batwoman’s nemesis. The series opener also revealed a major plot twist involving the two women, a relationship Skarsten talked about during our roundtable interview at the 2019 New York Comic Con.
Batwoman, starring Ruby Rose in the title role, joined The CW’s primetime lineup on October 6, 2019. New episodes air on Sundays at 8pm ET/PT immediately preceding season five of Supergirl.
How does it feel coming back to DC Comics?
Rachel Skarsten: “It’s actually a beautiful homecoming for me because obviously I was on The WB which was sort of the predecessor to The CW. And it was with Warner Bros when I was 16. (Laughing) I’ve more than doubled my age now! It’s funny because in my test for this show I went and there’s all the studio executives. They’re sitting there and it’s a bit of a nerve-wracking situation. I’m standing there and I see Peter (Roth) who’s the most lovely man. He’s sitting there and he’s looking at me, and then he’s like, ‘I know you.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, Peter, because I was here when I was 16 years old doing this exact same thing for Birds of Prey.’
So, it actually felt like coming home.”
Jumping off of that, the world’s changed so much and so has the industry. What’s it like having all these wonderful women on this series?
Rachel Skarsten: “It’s funny because Birds of Prey really tried to do that. It was a female-led cast with three very strong women. The three of us joke to this day that had that show premiered now, it would probably be on the air for seven years. But, it’s really wonderful to see.
I don’t think that having strong women in the industry means excluding men. I think it’s really wonderful to have a place for everyone. I think that we can all play into each other’s strengths. But it’s nice to see that there are more strong women doing their thing. I hope – I hope – that women will be a large part in ushering in a new era.”
How do you find the right level of craziness for Alice?
Rachel Skarsten: (Laughing) “That’s such a difficult thing. And in fact, I was really worried about that, just to be totally candid, because you can go too far with crazy. It has to be nuanced. I thought a lot about it even in my audition process, like what is crazy to me? What is it? And more than crazy what is unnerving and unhinging for us as human beings?
I think for me it’s when someone sort of seems very normal and then on a dime can switch. I try to do that with Alice. I think it also presents for me as an actor a really interesting challenge because within one character you’re bouncing back and forth between being lovely and then I murder you and then we’re going for dinner. So, yeah.
Truthfully you never really know until you see it on screen. Hopefully, people like it. I did my best.”
How does Alice play into Kate’s world?
Rachel Skarsten: “She has a very big part of not only Kate’s present but Kate’s past because they’re twins. I think that that’s been such an interesting relationship for us – Ruby and I – to develop. What does that mean? You’re taking two females who are evenly matched in every way in their physicality and their intelligence and all these things and now they’re foes to one another. But they can’t really destroy one another because they’re family and they love each other. They have this incredible bond that they had from pre-birth till the age of 13.
It’s been very fun. Although it’s funny because sometimes we’ll look at one another and I’m like, ‘We could never be twins!’ I’m a lot taller than Ruby. But on camera it actually plays really well. We have the same eye color, so I think that plays in our favor.”
What can you tell us about season one’s action sequences?
Rachel Skarsten: “It was really fun for me because Alice has butterfly knives that she uses and so when I first went in to learn them, I had to take a slo-mo video of the stunt girl doing it. I must have spent 48 hours straight just doing the butterfly knives.
I remember I was actually on Facetime with Nicole Kang who plays Mary in the show…don’t ask me why we were in the same hotel and on Facetime together…and I guess I was doing the butterfly knives and after about 15 minutes she’s like, ‘What are you doing with your hands?’ I’m like, ‘Just butterfly knives,’ and you realize what an odd job we have.
But now I feel like a badass so it’s great.”
The show has a dark tone. What’s the atmosphere like on set?
Rachel Skarsten: “We have a lot of fun. It’s funny. There’s so many things that you can create that atmosphere with, being it lighting and post-production. It doesn’t feel dark or heavy at all when we’re actually on the set. I mean, obviously, when you’re in the scene you’re in that moment and on scene. But we also have genuinely such an amazing crew. I know everybody says that about their crews, but we actually have the best crew. It’s just really nice to go to work with people that you like every day.”