Nicole Kang Says Intersectional ‘Batwoman’ Fights Discrimination

Batwoman is a landmark show for presenting a gay woman as the central superhero on a prime time show. The social relevance of Batwoman doesn’t end there. The show is also a champion for representation. In addition to openly gay star Ruby Rose, the Batwoman cast includes African-Americans Meagan Tandy and Camrus Johson, and Asian women Nicole Kang and Elizabeth Anweis. 

Nicole Kang and Ruby Rose in Batwoman
(L-R): Ruby Rose and Nicole Kang in Batwoman | Kimberley French/The CW

Kang spoke with Showbiz Cheat Sheet at the CW party for the Television Critics Association. Representation was a major factor motivating her to join the cast of Batwoman, as it has been throughout her career. Batwoman airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. on The CW

Nicole Kang can’t help fighting for representation

Representation isn’t really an optional factor for Kang. She is an Asian actress, so for her to work at all requires shows to be open to diversity.

“I have no choice for it not to be important to me because it is my identity, which is a blessing because it’s been, I guess, this platform that has been placed upon me,” Kang said. “Has it been my priority? Has it been my intention? Well, has it been that way for life because it’s just who I am. So of course, representation is of the utmost importance to me. By me entering into Gotham, by my presence in Gotham, it’s hugely [significant].”

‘Batwoman’ represents intersectionality

Batwoman covers a full spectrum of intersectionality, between race, sexuality and class. Kate Kane (Rose) is wealthy and inherits Bruce Wayne’s gadgets. Her father Jacob Kane is too and he uses it to monopolize the security of Gotham City. Mary Hamilton (Kang) is part of the Kane family by her mother’s marriage, but plenty of Gotham falls victim to the whims of the wealthy.

“Intersectionality, we’re here to talk about it because people are ready to take in,” Kang said. “We are not just one identity but that those things are incredibly complex and layered. A person is not just their race, not just their sexuality, not just their gender and that those are questions that you shouldn’t assume about a person.”

Batwoman star Nicole Kang
Batwoman star Nicole Kang | Jordon Nuttall/The CW

Kang hopes seeing intersectional characters on Batwoman will make people more curious about intersectionality in real life.

“It’s something that if a person is so moved to will teach you about themselves,” Kang said. Identity is not something that you can assume as well. That’s huge. Intersectional characters are the future because they’re closer and closer to being authentic to what it is to be a human.”

The backlash against Ruby Rose makes an intersectional ‘Batwoman’ more necessary

Most of the reaction to Ruby Rose’s casting as Batwoman was lovely and supportive. Of course there were a few haters who were especially negative about Rose’s real life and Kate Kane’s sexuality. That only emboldens Kang to tell these stories.

“When people are bothered, you’re hitting on something sore,” Kang said. “You’re hitting on a nerve. You’re hitting on something that needs to be healed, that needs to be educated, that needs more attention. The universe is calling attention to this sore saying, ‘Pay attention to it.’ And that’s where our show comes in.”

Ruby Rose as Batwoman
Ruby Rose as Batwoman | Kimberley French/The CW

Kang is hopeful that the hateful people can come around to love.

“Hatefulness in general should be our, as a community, as a people, we should all be working to heal it,” Kang said. “It starts with education. It starts, the entertainment industry has been such a powerful step forward, such a powerful source of bringing that kind of change to hatefulness is happiness is comedy is love. I think what an incredible honor we have and what a tall order.”

Nicole Kang has found intersectional shows before ‘Batwoman’

Prior to Batwoman, Kang joined the cast of Orange Is the New Black for the final season.

“Just for what it stands for and that show was an absolute honor,” Kang said. “Oh my God, what that show has done for diversity, for women has been outstanding. So to hop on the last season of that was kind of a surreal moment because I remember binging that first season of TV. It was one of the first TV shows you could binge on Netflix and I remember doing it. Anyway, full circle moment.”

Nicole Kang
Nicole Kang | Rodin Eckenroth/FilmMagic

Kang was also part of the cast of You.

“That was one of the most fun roles I’ve ever played,” Kang said. “It was also in New York City, my home turf. I was filming in Cafe Lalo when I was like oh my God, You’ve Got Mail takes place here. I was absolutely floored so it was so much fun.”

Nicole Kang’s ‘Batwoman’ audition felt right

Given her interest in intersectionality, auditioning for Batwoman felt right. Mary Hamilton will get involved with some of the action too, and help Kate patch up her wounds.

“When I tell you that I read this ‘audition’ because it was so alive from the moment that I read it, it fit me like a glove,” Kang said. “It was one of those roles that I was on the inside of immediately and I was like I think I’ve unlocked something. It would be my g*d damn pleasure to play her.”

Playing Mary Hamilton has fulfilled Kang’s expectations too.

Nicole Kang
Nicole Kang | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

“She’s my favorite person to play and discover things about,” Kang said. “She’s teaching me constantly. She’s challenging me constantly. I’m researching all the time. I’m expanding my vocabulary. She’s such an ally. She’s like the world’s biggest ally and incredibly intelligent at that. So it forces me to be. It just kicks off the ceiling for that.”

Research includes medical terminology and procedures for the show, and general social issues.

“I researched a lot of medical things,” Kang said. “I researched a lot of societal things, a lot of definitions of how people identify and how those things are intersectional and how to talk about them intelligently. Gaining those people, those representation of who I’m talking about in my life as friends, as mentors, as colleagues, hugely important. Changed my life.”