Javicia Leslie on Playing ‘Red Death’ in the Final Season of ‘The Flash’

We speak with the one and only Javicia Leslie, AKA Red Death on The Flash, about the experience of taking the role of a villain!

Setup spoilers for The Flash Season 9, Episode 5, “The Mask of Red Death Part 2” follow.

On Batwoman, Javicia Leslie made history as the titular hero, and now she’s making history on The Flash as Red Death, another universe version of Ryan Wilder. While her story arc may be wrapping up, legions of Batwoman and Flash fans were incredibly excited to hear that she would be returning to the Arrowverse. We were fortunate enough to speak with Leslie this week, asking her how she approached the role and her final episode as Red Death, what her most fun experiences on set were, and whether we may be seeing more of her on The Flash in its final season.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity

The Nerds of Color: First off, I just want to say congratulations on landing one of the lead roles in the new HPI series on ABC. That must be very exciting.

Javicia Leslie: Thank you so much.

You’re very welcome. And also another know from this past October your Storm Halloween costume was incredible, and I think you’d be an amazing Storm in the MCU.

Thank you. I appreciate that. I had a lot of fun with that.

You’re welcome! So initially when you found out that you’d be coming back as Batwoman/Ryan/Red Death for this season, what was that like for you?

Oh, man, it was an honor. Before I got the call, Eric had already told me that he wanted me to come onto the show. And I figured it was as Batwoman. So when I got the call, a few months before I get to show that it was actually as Red Death. I was so excited because, I knew that I wanted to bring Red Death to live action and so it was a really a lot of fun.

How did you approach the role as a villain, the opposite of Batwoman, in which you were amazing at by the way, and did you take any inspiration from other classic DC villains?

No, I try not to do that. I tend to stay current and present with what was happening the circumstances in the specific story. But my approach was to release and not overextend myself in the opposite direction of who I am as Batwoman, and really drop into the world of what happens when my thirst for justice becomes clouded, overcast by my thirst for power, which is really the bigger issue. It’s really the power part. And so allowing that to be with that grounded me, that’s always where I will come back to how can I manipulate the situation to get what I want. And then at a point where I couldn’t manipulate to get what I want, almost act out as a child would throw these tantrums and become unhinged, but that was really what made her Red Death so different than Batwoman.

The Flash — “The Mask of the Red Death, Part Two” — Pictured: Javicia Leslie as Batwoman — Photo: The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Yeah, absolutely. Also what was it like to be the leader of all of these Rogues on the show?

A lot of fun and they’re all just so talented. And so it’s really not that I love being the leader, but we were all kind of there to support each other. And that made it fun, especially because I had never played the villain before. So to have a team that truly, like, supported the crazy decisions that we were making was really dope.

Yeah, totally. So what were some of your favorite memories on set? And in particular, I have to ask you, with your friend Candice Patton, about your amazing TikToks that y’all have put out!

That was one of my favorite memories. To be able to like anytime we get to have fun in the scene, the cameras rolling, that’s my favorite part of shooting. You really do make friends and family for life on these shows. And so to come on man, and be able to play and have a good time with my friends that over there was really really fun, and that was like some of the best movies or TikTok videos, or laughing, joking in between scenes. When we go downtown to shoot people will be seeing everything and we’ve laughed because we knew that there’s no way to hide this situation because we shoot outside and everyone’s gonna take pictures and all of that. It’s funny to us after a while and really just having fun with these. All of us kind of play into it and breaking character because of how much we’ve moved into it.

Yeah, absolutely. So we’re releasing this interview after the episode has aired, so we are delving into spoilers a bit. What was it like to fight literally against yourself on set as about Batwoman vs. Red Death? What was it like working with the stunt doubles and such?

The Flash — “The Mask of the Red Death, Part Two” — Pictured: Javicia Leslie as Red Death — Photo: The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And what we did was we tried to make sure that we I showed her how I plan to move my body and things like that that way. She was able to do it. That way she was able to mimic what I was doing for the for the moment that I couldn’t be suited because usually if it was read that there was a little easier to allow my son double it for both in the scene to do to play right that but sometimes we shoot one way I change and we should the other way. So really was depending.

Yeah, absolutely. So um, while we loved seeing you on screen as Red Death, I honestly have to say I wish we had more of you on the show. And I’m wondering if you can hint at all. If we might see Ryan or Batwoman again this season?

Oh, I don’t know. I have like a list of things. I can’t tell you.

I just like have to also tell you, your work as Ryan Wilder/Batwoman has been absolutely incredible. And it means so much to so many people I know so many who have loved seeing you in the role. What do you have to say to your legions of fans who have loved your work and supported you as Batwoman from the start?

It’s an honor to be able to play this character and that the character can impact and make people feel being represented, and I just want that I want that imagination to continue to go and grow and I want I just, it’s not like it’s ending it just feels like we’re kind of moving on to what’s next, the next story to tell. And that’s just the way it works. I’m not going to play one person for the rest of our lives. And so I will hope that they keep riding with me through this entire journey. Do all of the different characters I get to play and I love Oh my god, the fan base from the shows have been absolutely amazing. They’ve been so supportive and positive. And so I truly truly admire them and love them and I love getting to meet them in all the different ways and I look forward to meeting more of them at conventions and yeah, like we rock on. We got so many more stories to tell.

We can’t wait to see what you do next. Javicia Leslie, thank you so so much for speaking with us today and congratulations on all your continued success!

Thank you!

The Flash — “The Mask of the Red Death, Part Two” — Pictured (L – R): Grant Gustin as The Flash and Javicia Leslie as Red Death — Photo: The CW — © 2023 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

You can watch The Flash Season 9, Episode 5, “”The Mask of Red Death Part 2” on The CW App.