Afro-Latina In the Heights star Leslie Grace, 26, has just been named DC Comics new Batgirl! The actress will star as Barbara Gordon in the new Warner Bros. and DC film that will be exclusively on streaming service HBO Max though production has not yet started. Leslie reportedly auditioned along with a number of actresses including Isabella Merced, Zoey Deutch and Haley Lu Richardson, earlier this week, and impressed studio execs immediately, Deadline reported. Not only is this a major role for the Afro-Latina star, it’s also following her big screen debut in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical film adaptation earlier this summer which shows her star is only getting brighter. Sources tell Deadline that her performance as Nina Rosario in the musical caught their eye and her audition sealed the deal.
Gordon, the most established version of the Batgirl character, was first introduced in 1961 as Betty Kane and it’s confirmed she’ll be the character in the film though plot lines haven’t been released. Both Leslie ,who is of Dominican descent, and many of her fans took to social media to express their excitement after the casting announcement was made official. “I am BEYOND EXCITED to embody Barbara Gordon, your #Batgirl! I cannot believeeee what I’m writing rn… THANK YOU DC for welcoming to the family! I’m ready to give her all I’ve got!,” the actress tweeted.
I am BEYOND EXCITED to embody Barbara Gordon, your #Batgirl ! I cannot believeeee what I’m writing rn… THANK YOU DC for welcoming to the family! I’m ready to give her all I’ve got! 🦇💜✨ https://t.co/muq9GuVVk6
— Leslie Grace (@lesliegrace) July 21, 2021
Fans have flooded social media with messages of support and even shared some incredible mock ups of what Leslie might look like as Batgirl. “I really dig this casting and I’m pretty sure she will turn out to be the best Batgirl of all time,” Twitter user TheCapedArtist wrote, alongside a beautiful, original depiction.
However, others took issue with the casting, citing Leslie’s race with some calling the choice an attempt to “pander” to people of color and complaining about the departure from the traditional comic book version of Barbara Gordon who is White and has red hair. Many also cited the apparent snub to actors with red hair in general.
WB saw Zoey and thought she could play the exact copy of the comic batgirl and said Nawh we’ll go with pandering
— Nathaniel Rostenkowsky Wayne (@Well______smhh) July 21, 2021
“WB saw Zoey and thought she could play the exact copy of the comic batgirl and said Nawh we’ll go with pandering,” wrote Twitter user Nat referring to actress Zoey Deutch, who many say would have been the better aesthetic match. Still, DC has a history of not choosing actors based on their race, ethnicity or appearance. In fact, the Cassandra Cain iteration of Batgirl was Asian and Afro-Latina actress Rosario Dawson who voiced Lego Batgirl in the animated films.
Batgirl is Afro Latina, y’all https://t.co/icTDfmpPuR
— Rosy Cordero (@SocialRosy) July 21, 2021
But yeah, bottom line is…”Batgirl is Afro-Latina, y’all,” and we are here for it, and happy to see film studios continue to focus on representation. When our kids see faces that look like theirs on TV and movie theater screens it empowers them regardless of how or why it happens.