“I always say as an actor I want to know enough about my character — the bigger picture of my character — because of course that informs my decisions in the moment.” – Rachel Skarsten
The latest of the many DC Comics-based “Arrowverse” series, Batwoman, had an intriguing reveal in its very first episode: that the supervillain Alice (influenced by the Alice in Wonderland stories), portrayed by Rachel Skarsten, is actually the long-lost sister of Kate Kane, the alter ego of Batwoman (portrayed by Ruby Rose). In an interview with Variety, Skarsten spoke about how this unique arrangement offers intriguing possibilities for her character and explained how that informs her portrayal of Alice.
The revelation of the link between the two characters is something that Skarsten uses to inform her performance knowing that the audience is in on the secret. She explains, “As the actor who’s playing Alice, it’s wonderful because the audience more deeply understands the motivation behind everything that she’s doing. And it gives them the opportunity — and the opportunity for me playing Alice — to get them to root for her, which I think makes a very interesting villain.”
Nonetheless, while it was important for Skarsten to be aware of her character’s relationship to Batwoman, there are elements of her characters that she prefers to be unaware of until necessary. Skarsten says, “I always say as an actor I want to know enough about my character — the bigger picture of my character — because of course that informs my decisions in the moment. But I also like to not know some things — because we don’t know everything about the story of our lives as [it] unfolds. I tried to play it as subtly as possible until the reveal, but obviously wanting to do it enough where, if you were looking back on it, you’d say, ‘Oh, there it is!’
Part of what makes playing Alice so interesting to Skarsten is how the character floats between acting like a supervillain and childlike behavior. She reflects, “She oscillates back and forth between, I think, two really distinct personas and personalities and they change so quickly, I’ve sort of approached it that she’s quite calculated in all that she does. But I do think that in moments of vulnerability, there’s the child Alice that comes out, and I don’t necessarily know that she knows what is going on in those moments.”
With that said, Skarasten also enjoys playing a character who just can be so downright evil — but with a tinge of hopeful possibility. She reveals, “My mom, still to this day, says, ‘Oh well, you play the redeemable bitch.’ But I really love playing those characters because it’s so fun to be bad, but to have the redeemable quality behind it and the possibility of retribution and change, what more could I ask for?”