Leslie Grace is home to the US after spending months abroad filming “Batgirl,” the upcoming HBO Max film adaptation of the iconic crime fighter. She plays Barbara Gordon / Batgirl in the film, co-directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, with a cast that includes JK Simmons as Commissioner Jim Gordon’s father and Brendan Fraser as Firefly villain. Michael Keaton returns as Batman 30 years after his first appearance as Caped Crusader.
Talk turned to “Batgirl” when I spoke to Grace earlier today about her new collaboration with the Häagen-Dazs. Helps promote City Sweets, the company’s new ice cream flavor collection that incorporates street food desserts such as churros, street vendor buns and black and white cookies. Brooklyn-based artist Jade Purple Brown designed the colorful packaging of the ice cream.
“I ate Häagen-Dazs since I was in my mom’s womb because it was like her main craving,” says Grace, who grew up in the Bronx. “There is this flavor, Vanilla Swiss Almond, with which I would put my dad to fill the fridge.”
City Sweets is a branch of Häagen-Dazs’s #ThatsDazs campaign, which has committed $ 1.5 million to creative in marginalized communities.
Grace talked about matching brand collaborations, wearing the Batgirl costume for the first time, seeing Keaton on set and more.
How important is it for you when you make a branded partnership to have a charitable element in it?
It’s so important. It is the main thing I look for in all my collaborations with the brand. I never want to align myself with a brand just because there is a big dollar sign attached to it. People feel this and it just is not. It’s not just “Okay, we’ll give that money.” They actually put their money where they are and bring it creatively from the community to build a relationship for years to come. This is what really counts. This is what really makes the difference.
Let’s talk about these new flavors. Ice cream with crunchy churros and caramel!
I just tried one crunchy churros the other day and thought I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I like churros. As if it were my favorite street food.
I imagine eating ice cream was not part of your “Batgirl” workout.
I just went out to Glasgow [to shoot “Batgirl], we had already talked about this collaboration. I think internally they may have just decided, “Yes, do not send her free ice cream”, because I just might not fit in my suit for long. This skin would only have a bust.
What was it like to put on the “Batgirl” costume and look at yourself in the mirror for the first time?
I think that was the first real moment I said, ‘Oh, wow, we’re here. I do this. Like, I’m really a Batgirl. “It’s still hard for me to say that. But, yes, it was a surreal experience.
When we spoke at the MTV VMAs in September, you hadn’t started filming yet, but you told me your Batgirl would be “bad.” Did the bad taste meet what you expected?
It definitely goes beyond what I thought. I had to gather some things inside me that I did not even know existed. It was an incredible learning experience to be on set with also action veterans like Brendan Fraser, and to enjoy it all. It was so hard because he’s our bad guy and I’m not supposed to like him, but he’m such a huge teddy bear. He is one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. In the sequences of our races, the way he just hit the marks came from all his experience. You can not improvise such an experience. There are some crazy things happening. It has a lot of fire because as everyone knows by now, it plays Firefly. There is a crazy fire. There are crazy stunts, crazy drops. She is a cyclist chick, so you will see her doing a lot of mischief.
Were there nights when you came home and suffered a lot from all the acrobatics and chores?
My God, there were a lot of night shootings. There were many great days, but it was worth it. But, my God, I have never in my life been so painful or exhausted. There were some days when I would come home and think, “Do I want to eat or will I just fall asleep?”
What was it like to see Michael Keaton walking on set?
It was wild for everyone. Our directors were like two small children. They are Batman’s open nerds. It’s Batman, man! I could not even believe that I was sharing space with Batman. I want to say more, but I can not. It was crazy, surreal, unbelievable. It was indeed a dream. And JK Simmons plays my dad. This is my pop. I was so nervous because all I could hear in my head was his voice on “Whiplash”. Like what would he do and say if I did not understand something correctly? [Laughs]. Then we became best friends. And he just told me all his wonderful stories about starting and being a waiter and working on a pizza and trying to become an actor and into the theater.
Have you approached other actors posing as superheroes such as Gal Gadot or even Alicia Silverstone?
I have not. Probably should. It’s almost a bit overwhelming and difficult for your brain to cover the size of what you are doing, which almost looks like it is happening in a vacuum. I would say, ‘Oh, man, I hope to do that. Am I in the club? I almost felt like I had a scammer syndrome all the time. You want to win your place. But now that you mention it, I’ll go over a few DMs and ask “Hi, what was your experience?” I contacted Sasha Calle, who is Supergirl on “The Flash”. I hope to meet you soon because we are part of the new generation. I approached our Xolo Maridueña, our Blue Beetle. He is terribly awesome. I’m so happy for him.
When do you start shooting “Batgirl 2”?
[Laughs] We must first see this first. But there are definitely some debates about what it could be. I’ve seen some of what we’ve been shooting, obviously in playback and stuff like that, and it’s crazy. We have already talked about where we get this from here because there is so much going on in this movie. There are many different issues in the plot that we address. It’s not just action. There is a love story. There is this father-daughter relationship. We look at the world through a lens that is not only black and white and we see the color and the spectrum between things.