Batwoman star Rachel Skarsten previews Alice’s season 2 “matters of the heart”

Batwoman -- “What Happened to Kate Kane?” -- Image Number: BWN201fg_0097r -- Pictured: Rachel Skarsten as Alice -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Batwoman -- “What Happened to Kate Kane?” -- Image Number: BWN201fg_0097r -- Pictured: Rachel Skarsten as Alice -- Photo: The CW -- © 2021 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved. /

Alice’s Wonderland has been given a violent shake-up. Rachel Skarsten teases what that means for the rest of her season on Batwoman.

Warning: This article may contain spoilers for Batwoman‘s second season premiere. 

Batwoman has returned.

Unfortunately, Batwoman herself has gone missing. In its second season premiere on Sunday night, we didn’t find out exactly “Whatever happened to Kate Kane?” but we do have some idea.

Her plane crashed on its return from National City, and while Kate herself was not found in the wreckage, her suit was. Naturally, our future Batwoman, Ryan Wilder, was first on the scene. But where there’s one Kane sister, there’s almost always the other nearby.

And indeed, in her first moments of the season, lurking in the shadows of the crash, Alice looks just as menacing as we remember her.

Ironically, that was something Rachel Skarsten, who plays Alice, was concerned about.

“I was a little worried actually that I had forgotten how to be Alice,” Skarsten reveals, laughing. “Because it had felt like so long ago since we’d last been one and the same. So, the first day back, getting ready and everything, I wasn’t sure.”

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Batwoman ended up seeing an eight-month hiatus between seasons. And while the extra time gave the writers the chance to sort out their story plans following the departure of Ruby Rose from the series, it meant eight months without our favorite deranged Gotham baddie.

“And then they yelled action and it was like meeting an old friend and like no time had passed” Skarsten continues. “It’s really wonderful. I really loved playing Alice last season, and I feel the same way about it this season to be honest.”

Of course, things have shifted drastically for Alice in season two. The new Batwoman is out for Alice’s head, Kate is gone, and Alice’s old enemy Safiyah is responsible for it.

There’s a lot for Skarsten to tackle this season, so we asked her all about it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Culturess: Before we get into anything else in the premiere, let’s talk about Drunk Alice. This is what my pandemic life needed, was Drunk Alice.

Rachel Skarsten: (Laughs). Yeah, Drunk Alice IS 2020.

Culturess: Yeah, she’s Peak 2020 for sure. So, when you’re playing Drunk Alice — she’s clearly unhinged, if you can call her hinged previously. Kate’s disappeared at this point, and Alice is just freaking out. Did you find more truth in Alice in that moment? Is she just more unhinged?

Skarsten: Well, I think that’s one of the wonderful things about Alice, is that she almost betrays herself so much of the time. I really think underneath Alice is just a wounded child ,really. And thankfully we got to see so much of why she became the way that she did, so I think the audience really understands that about her. And so, of course, when Alice is drunk, she’s going to betray her actual feelings about everything, and while I think Alice convinced herself that she wanted to kill Kate, I don’t think that she ever would have done that. I mean, Kate was the sun of her universe. So, to me, it’s just the denial, the anger, the different stages of what is actually grief for Alice.

Culturess: One of the scenes I really love is when Alice is talking to Commander Kane and she reveals that Kate was Batwoman. Why is she choosing that moment to reveal?

Skarsten: I think she, you know, in her mind thinks she wants to hurt her father. And I think that she feels — you know for her whole life it’s always been, in her mind, Kate is up here and her father just cares about Kate and he doesn’t care about her, and just kind of sweeps her over into the corner. And I think, in a way, there’s this twisted justice to the fact that the daughter that he felt that he saw and felt that knew, he actually knew less about than the one that he felt he didn’t want anything to do with. I think Alice feels that that’s really twisting the knife in his gut.

But I also think that Alice wanted him to see both of them, you know? I think she wanted her family back, the way that she remembered it, which was before the accident when they were all one family. And all of that is now crumbling around her. And ultimately I think a lot of the things that Alice does is just to also get her father’s attention. Alice is like the classic child who can’t get the positive attention so she tries to get the negative attention.

Culturess: In season two, we’re going to meet Safiyah. At the end of the premiere, she owns up to causing Kate’s crash, sending Alice a note that says “Now we’re even.” I’d like to know – even for what? What did Alice do that made Safiyah that mad?

Skarsten: Well, you’re gonna actually find out what I did, and it has to do with matters of the heart. And love. And that’s all I can say.

But it actually…I’m so excited. It was always in the cards to take Alice to Coryana. It was always in the cards from season one to explore that relationship with Safiyah. But what has changed this season was, last season, Alice was so afraid of Safiyah. And this season, I think she still is a little bit, but now she’s really a woman on a mission.

However, when she gets there and once we delve into the backstory of that, it’s really sort of a different side that we’ve never seen to Alice, once again, to do with love. So I’m really excited for people to see that.

Culturess: I had heard that because your showrunner, Caroline Dries, has said that Alice’s story arc this season will have “intrigue, love, betrayal, jealousy and murder.” Murder, obviously.

Skarsten: (Laughs) Murder, we knew, yeah.

Culturess: But this “love” thing. I’m never one that’s like “we need a love interest.” At all times, a woman can thrive on her own. BUT. If Alice is getting one, I want to know! Is she in love with Safiyah? Did Alice kill Safiyah’s love?

Skarsten: Well Alice, let’s be real, she can absolutely survive on her own. You know, why I really loved it was because I felt, last year, albeit platonic and of course they were siblings, but it a way, Kate was really [Alice’s] love story. And with the disappearance of Kate, she sort of loses that love story. But the writers so brilliantly sort of gave Alice another love story and it is also…someone…who is very part of kind of the fabric of what made Alice who she is. And, yeah. There might even be a triangle involved there, who knows?

Culturess: What would Alice’s ideal date night look like?

Skarsten: Alice’s ideal date night. I feel like it would include some type of junk food. Maybe like a pizza or fries. Maybe I’m just talking about myself. You wouldn’t have to take Alice to a nice place. Alice loves sewers, so she likes that kind of vibe. Maybe like an abandoned warehouse, just the two of you, couple dead bodies. You’d have to romance her but in a specific way. Alice doesn’t want your flowers. (laughs).

Culturess: Is Alice going to Safiyah out of grief for Kate? Out of pettiness, for ruining Alice’s plan? Is there anger at Safiyah there?

Skarsten: I think Alice holds Safiyah accountable for Kate’s death. And then, yeah I think that makes her very angry. But at the end of the day, Alice isn’t really angry at any of the objects of her anger. She’s angry because of what happened to her. And that can never be undone. So Alice just ends up going around, chasing her tail. So, last year it was Kate and her father, this year now it’s Safiyah and some other characters. But I do think that every season, every episode, there’s more and more uncovering of that, more and more healing for Alice, whether she notices it or not (laughs).

Culturess: Are we ever going to see a point where Alice does fully confront her emotions?

Skarsten: This season, we do see Alice let go of that anger. However, it may or may not be in the present.

Culturess: Obviously we have to talk about our new Batwoman, Javicia Leslie as Ryan Wilder. We now know that she has a very personal connection to Alice, but is she even a blip on Alice’s radar? Is the murder of Ryan’s mother a moment that even registers in Alice’s memory? 

Skarsten: I actually think it’s really interesting that you said that, because that’s pretty much exactly what it is. I think in the beginning [Ryan’s] maybe slightly amusing to Alice, but I don’t think Alice really cares about her. I think that will change over the course of the season, but I actually think it was really wise of the writers.

Because, audiences aren’t stupid. The only thing Alice cared about last season was Kate. And so you can’t just come in this season and say “Oh well now you just magically care about this new Batwoman.” But I was happy that they still tied us together in some way, so that there’s a vendetta on one side of it. Of course when you have two strong, powerful female characters with opposing agendas, they’re gonna crash into one another, and Alice does not like to have anything crash into her or stand in her way.

So she will definitely go from not caring about Ryan and Batwoman to, I think, having investment in it for sure. But I actually appreciated, in the beginning, that they didn’t try and force some feeling on Alice’s end. They’re making her earn it, which is great.

Culturess: Do you believe there’s still good in Alice? You said that she lets go of her anger – is it enough to get to the Beth that we knew?

Skarsten: I don’t think Alice will ever be the Beth that she was before. I don’t think we can ever go back entirely to the people that we were before, because we’ve had new experiences, and are in different situations. But I think the good that was Beth absolutely still exists in Alice, and it’s very much the approach I’ve taken in playing Alice.

Because I think the most brilliant villains are in fact the ones that you root for because there’s a possibility of redemption, and because you see your own failings or your own sort of evil reflected in them in some way, and you root for yourself. I know, for me, the villains that I’ve loved the most have been that way, and I really wanted Alice to be that way. And in fact, I think the moment that she doesn’t have any good left in her is probably when I’ll be done playing Alice.

Next. Batwoman: Javicia Leslie teases Kryptonite fallout. dark

Batwoman airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on The CW.