When Ella Jay Basco got the call to play Cassandra Cain, aka Batgirl, in DC’s Birds of Prey, the first thing she did was cry tears of joy.
“I didn’t think it was real,” said Basco over the phone. “I broke down into tears. I never really expected that it would be like this because it’s just so crazy. I really broke down into tears. I couldn’t believe it. It was super emotional, but I was so happy.”
Still reveling from the Birds of Prey premiere in London the night before, Basco was enjoying her first full press junket. “It’s a lot of fun,” said Basco as she prepares for a full weekend of questions.
At only 13 years old, Basco appears alongside Hollywood powerhouses — Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Ewan McGregor, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Chris Messina, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead — in the first all-women superhero squad film, Birds of Prey (and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn).
“It felt amazing to be part such a big movement,” exclaimed Basco. “I felt so inspired and felt a great responsibility at the same time. All of the women are just so inspiring. They taught me how to be a boss. I think looking back now and seeing all the support with women and the whole movement, it’s super refreshing.”
Directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), Birds of Prey tells the story of newly-single Harley Quinn (Robbie) as she joins forces with Black Canary (Smollett-Bell), Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress (Winstead), and Renee Montoya (Perez) to save Cassandra Cain from crime lord, Black Mask (McGregor).
Basco did a lot of research into Cassandra Cain by reading the comics of Batgirl, Oracle, Birds of Prey, and Harley Quinn. She also watched a lot of movies about vulnerable kids on the streets.
“I really wanted to figure out how could I make Cassandra Cain the way that she is. This is pretty much her origin story and I kinda based it off that,” Basco explained.
In the film, Cassandra is a street smart thief who survives by stealing and hustling. After pickpocketing the wrong person — Black Mask’s right-hand man, Victor Zsaz (Messina), Cassandra is forced to go on the run.
“[Cassandra] taught me so much about what I never really knew about being a scrappy kid and not having three meals a day,” said Basco. “It was interesting learning about how tough she has to be. She doesn’t have parents. She doesn’t have guidance in any way. She has to fend for herself, which also makes her super tough and independent.”
Cassandra eventually does get help from Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Huntress, and Renee Montoya against Black Mask. This was Basco’s favorite part of the film — the carousel scene when the women fight.
“Watching all of the women fight together and punch a bunch of guys, we really formed a group,” said Basco. “I could feel that energy of being strong and powerful and coming together as a team.”
With this being Basco’s first major role, she did receive advice from her famous co-stars throughout filming and even afterward.
“I constantly talk to Rosie about my goals and she gave me a bunch of advice,” said Basco. “So did Margot. They really taught me how to be a boss in the industry and how to work your way around that. They taught me that if you have a goal, you should really strive for that. Don’t let anyone tell you any different, because you’re you. They also told me to also be 13. ‘You’re a kid still.'”
Basco is enjoying being a kid and doesn’t really worry about stardom getting to her head. She comes from a family of well-known actors and they have taught her well.
“[My family] were also kid actors and understood being in the family business,” said Basco. “They just told me to be myself because everyone else is taken. They really taught me to just memorize your lines and be present and be there. Just do the best you can.”
Basco hopes for more films surrounding Harley Quinn and Cassandra Cain, especially Cassandra’s turn into Batgirl. She mentions that she wants to go forward with the comics roots, but doesn’t mind more films surrounding Harley Quinn.
“I would love to work with Margot again and a fun spin-off,” said Basco. “That would be so fun and exciting. There is so much more to Cassandra Cain that we could share with the world. I’m super excited. I hope to see more of Cassandra Cain.”
Birds of Prey and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn opens in theaters everywhere on February 7.