The Flash: Javicia Leslie Breaks Down All Things Red Death (Exclusive)

The era of the Red Death came to Central City Wednesday night on The CW‘s The Flash as Red Death, a version of Ryan Wilder from another timeline decided after the events of last week’s “The Mask of The Red Death, Part 1” that if she couldn’t get back to her own timeline, she’d bring her brand of justice to this one instead. The episode — and the Red Death storyline — saw Batwoman star Javicia Leslie return to The Flash after appearing in last season’s five-part “Armageddon” event and Leslie sat down with to talk about what it was like to play a character very different from her Arrowverse hero, uttering those iconic Batman lines, and even found out which character has the suit that was the most fun to wear.

Warning: Spoilers for this week’s episode of The Flash, “Mask of the Red Death, Part 2”, beyond this point.

Nicole Drum, I have to say, first, I loved Batwoman so much, but I have loved watching you get to play evil Ryan, Red Death. I especially loved last week’s episode just watching that switch flip when Ryan goes, “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts.” And go full crazy eyes. As a huge Batman fan, that just felt like such a badass throwback to Michael Keaton’s Batman. How did you approach Red Death and was that “let’s get nuts” moment as deliberate as it felt? It was awesome.

Javicia Leslie: I feel like what I try not to do in any of the Batman lines is I didn’t try to repeat what I saw in movies already. I felt like I just wanted to respond to the moment that was happening right there and then. But when I was doing the scene with Candice, we were just, it was one of those days where we were all allowing it to go as far as it needed to go.

There was no one there saying, “Oh, okay, let’s pull back, let’s do this.” By the time we got to that part, it felt very in alignment with what I had also obviously seen, but it wasn’t even intentional. It was like, “Okay, we’re going to take it there? Let’s take it there.” I think she felt like I played nice long enough. And you know what? You’re taking my niceness for granted, so here we go.

It was just such a perfect gloves off moment.

Yeah. Even her putting her hair in a ponytail, it was such a moment of, “Let’s go.” It was so, and when it comes to preparing for that entire role, not just that scene, I think it was just really important to respond to what was in front of me. But have the overall intention of getting what I want from each person in that moment. Which overall, is that I want to rule the city and the world through my version of justice and whoever doesn’t believe in my version of justice, goodbye. And so, my only goal was to get everyone on board with that by any means necessary, whether they want to or not.

You also go to deliver probably one of the most iconic Batman lines in all of DC, which is the “I am vengeance” line. And not only was it that line, but you also put your own spin on it. That had to feel so damn good.

It’s funny because that was also another line that I didn’t look at old Batman footage or even Robert Patterson’s footage because it’s not the same circumstances. There’s no point of me repeating it the way that they repeated it. There’s no point in me saying it the way they said it.

It’s not about me taking the line and making it just like everyone else. It’s about me taking this piece of dialogue that is being exchanged in a conversation in that moment. And in that moment, that’s where I felt she was.

You’re taking what’s iconic and making it iconic for this character and in a new way. And it’s a female character who gets to say it. It’s a black bisexual woman getting to say it. That’s amazing.

It’s always going to come with opinions. I do know that the only thing that we hold very sacred is anything Batman. And so, to have a woman saying these exchanges, I know for some people they’re going to have their opinions, but everyone has that. Just like everyone has other things.

Red Death is not Batwoman on any level. And I love that your performance makes that distinction at every possible turn. This is definitely a very different character. And I must ask, since you’ve played Ryan Wilder, Batwoman this awesome hero. And then you’re playing this on the other side of the coin, the villain who doesn’t see themselves as a villain, they see themselves as the hero. This is a character that’s in a lot of ways, much more like Batwoman‘s Alice. What was it like kind of playing the other side of the coin?

I think that what you said, there’s this common interest where we both really want justice. Red Death, Batwoman, we both want justice. The only difference is I, as Batwoman, I don’t kill. And I don’t believe that you should ever kill, even if it is for justice. Red Death does not have those limitations. I think that that’s what made playing Red Death fun because of its limitless. I could do absolutely anything, but as Batwoman, I have way more limits because I have rules that I follow. But strict rules that I believe in, a moral code that I believe in. And that moral code has limits on what I can do to get justice. The moral code of Red Death does not have limits on what she can do to get justice. It’s any means necessary.

Which was more fun to play?

Well, obviously Red Death is more fun to play, but Batwoman’s suit is more comfortable.

There’s also a moment in this week’s episode where we get the real Ryan Wilder, aka my girl Batwoman back. She shows up in Central City to kick her own butt, so to speak. You get to play the hero and the villain in the same episode at the same time. For you, considering that it’s been a minute since we’ve had Batwoman on screen, what was it like for you getting to revisit that character?

I haven’t seen it yet, so I’m really excited to watch it as well. But it was cool. It was really nostalgic to be able to suit back up. And it’s always an honor to put the Batsuit on. You feel you like you have to do something good. You are a hero when you put the Batsuit on. And so, it was a lot of fun to be able to play against myself. And beat my own ass, like you said. With the help of the Flash.

Now, I know that obviously The Flash is coming to an end. And in a way, this chapter of the DC TV story is coming to an end. And I also know that in the past, you’ve also said if anyone ever came knocking that, “Hey, you want to suit up as Batwoman?” you’d be happy to do it. Let’s say that DC comes knocking again and says, “Hey, would you want to suit up as Red Death again?” Would you be open to popping up somewhere in the grand DC universe as Red Death again?

Definitely. I would do anything in the DC Universe again. It’s one of my favorite worlds to play in. Anything that has to do with Batman, I’m always down for. I would definitely suit back up and play that again.

Is there anything about your experience getting to be part of The Flash’s final season that for you was just maybe a favorite moment or just a major takeaway that’s something that you’ll always just really treasure and take with you?


I think that what I loved about being able to be in the final season is that, obviously when Batwoman ended, we didn’t know we were ending. But coming back to The Flash, I knew we were over. And so, it felt like it was the appropriate goodbye.

The Flash airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.