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‘Batwoman’s Rachel Skarsten On Alice’s ‘Underlying Motivation’ With Kate, What’s Next & More

‘Batwoman’ is just getting started. HL spoke EXCLUSIVELY with Rachel Skarsten about that game-changing premiere reveal, peeling back the layers on Alice, and more.

Batwoman kicked off with one heck of a premiere. The series brought Kate Kane to the forefront, as well as the other characters in her life. One of those characters is Alice, whose dynamic with Kate is way more than meets the eye. Alice is not your typical villain wanting to take down a hero. She’s Kate’s long lost sister, Beth.

HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Rachel Skarsten about where Alice’s journey is headed after that shocking premiere twist. She revealed that fans are going to find out “exactly what happened between that car crash at 13 and then when we meet Alice again in the pilot.” Rachel also discussed Alice’s “ultimate desire” and “underlying motivation” when it comes to Kate and her father, Jacob. Alice’s Wonderland gang will also be explored and Rachel teased that Alice has “very specific reasons” for choosing her gang members. Check out our full Q&A below.

What was your reaction to the big reveal that Alice is actually Beth, Kate’s sister who was presumed dead?
Rachel Skarsten:
Well for me, it’s so nice that it is finally public knowledge that she is, in fact, Beth Kane. It’s been this secret that I’ve had to keep them for months and months and months now. I think it’s actually one of the things I really liked about how it starts because shows nowadays, especially network shows that are competing with cable shows, they need to be bold, they need to take risks and put things on the line. I like that fearlessness in the writing. We have so many wonderful ideas and so many things coming up in this season that we can give you this massive thing and it’s not going to be our sort of home run of the season. It’s just kind of the first base. That was really exciting and really interesting to me that the writers would choose to do that. But it also opens up for me and my character so much more to work with because right away the audience understands the motivation for why she does so much of what she does. Going forward in the episodes, I can openly play with all of those emotions. So I was actually really, really happy about it, to be honest.

We saw Beth right before she was in that car accident and now we see her as Alice in the present day. There are a lot of years between the past and the present. Will we get more of Alice/Beth’s backstory as the season goes on?
Rachel Skarsten: We’ve actually already started to dive into Beth’s and Alice’s pasts and we’re going to understand exactly what happened between that car crash at 13 and then when we meet Alice again in the pilot. So through flashbacks and through storytelling, Alice will tell the story from her perspective. We also have two young characters who were in the pilot as well who play young Beth and young Kate, and we’ll flashback to even pre-accident as well. I think that’s also really interesting. I’ve talked to Ava [Sleeth], the girl who plays Beth in the pilot. I’ve actually watched her on set because, for me, she’s the one who’s creating Beth, and I’ve created Alice, so when I go back to kind of tell the story of that, it was really important to me to pick up on her mannerisms and how she plays Beth. She’s done such a brilliant job. She’s like a 12-year-old and she’s amazing.

What’s it like for you to explore two very different sides to this one person?
Rachel Skarsten: I love playing the bad guy, but I also truly believe that most people don’t wake up one day and are spontaneously evil human beings. I feel that those people have gotten to that place because of so much hurt and so much brokenness in their own life, and it has sort of molded and shaped them into what they are in the present day. I think it is really interesting to go back and explore what all those things were that made them into the person. But then also from the perspective of playing any character, I find there’s a redeemable quality to a bad guy in a show when you understand how they got there or you understand their motivation for doing something evil because of their path. Having that redeemable quality, I think gives a likability to that character. I always liken it to Walt Whitman in Breaking Bad. He was so brilliant in making you root for him. Despite the fact that he was doing all these horrific things, you were rooting for him.

Alice and Kate’s dynamic is now even more complicated. What can you say about what it’s going to be like for them going forward? What does Alice want from her? What is her main goal with Kate at this moment?
Rachel Skarsten: I think Alice’s ultimate desire is driven by love, albeit perverse love at this point. I think her underlying motivation is always her love of Kate and her desire to be reunited with her, in whatever capacity or what that looks like for Alice. I think ultimately that’s Kate’s goal too, and so you have these two women who are constantly trying to pull at one another. They want to pull the other to their side, you know? Because they both feel quite justified in the side they’re standing on. But they’re still very much entwined with one another. So it’s almost this ultimate battle of good and evil to see which one will win. As much as Alice has a vulnerability and a genuine side to her, and Beth still exists somewhere in that character, at least in my idea of Alice she definitely does, there is a darkness to Kate Kane and that exists in all the characters — Batman, Batwoman, all of them. I think it’s one of the things that makes that universe particularly delicious. The kind of duality in all the characters. So it’s not like some superheroes where you think, “Well, they’ll never be corrupted.” You know, you actually don’t know. Is Alice going to be able to get to Kate? Or is Kate going to get to Alice first?

There’s also Alice’s father. Will we see them come face-to-face this season or possibly tease what their first interaction might be like?
Rachel Skarsten: Without saying too much, I definitely think that all the characters will cross paths at some point during this season. The one between Alice and Jacob will be particularly loaded because there exists this duality in Alice. I think the grown-up version of Alice is incredibly angry at her father and wants a particular type of vengeance. I think the Beth that still exists within her is still this very scared, very alone 13-year-old, and just really wants to be loved by him. I think Jacob in some ways presents a similar problem for Alice that Kate does. You know, to be honest, it’s a similar problem that most family members at one time or another experience. It’s that idea of I’m so angry with you only because I love you so much. I always say that hate and love are just two sides of the same coin, indifference is actually the opposite of love. This rage that Alice feels towards Jacob is really just a deep disappointment stemming from how much she loves him. I will be as interested as you to see how it unfolds, but they’ll definitely cross paths.

You played Elizabeth on Reign and her look was so consuming and so striking. With Alice, you really get into character with the makeup and the costumes. What’s that like for you to be able to have that element to transform into a character in such a major way?
Rachel Skarsten: I think I actually quite prefer to chameleon into different roles. I always find it funny when actors get very tied to a hairstyle or hair color. I’ve never felt that way. I always wanted to dye my hair a different color, chop it all off, wear weird makeup, because that’s part of our job. That’s part of what we do. Of course, it’s also the delivery of how you say your lines and all of that. But to me, your physical appearance is one of the greatest tools in an actor’s arsenal. I’ve really loved that I’ve been able to have those things. The Reign cast and I, we were all very dear friends and we would go out for dinner or to the bowling alley or what have you, and people would always come up to us and ask to take a picture. They would always ask me to take the picture for them because they didn’t recognize me. But I love that people don’t recognize me. To me, that’s the greatest compliment. It’ll be interesting to see if people recognize me with Alice. But I actually really like that transformation. I think it makes my job so much easier.

Rachel Skarsten
Rachel Skarsten at HollywoodLife’s NYCC Portrait Studio. (Photographer: Paige Kindlick)
Rachel Skarsten
Rachel Skarsten plays Alice on the new CW series ‘Batwoman.’ (Photographer: Paige Kindlick)

What can we expect going forward from Alice and her Wonderland gang? What kind of tricks do they have up their sleeves?
Rachel Skarsten: One of the cool things about Alice is that her investment, ultimately, is in Kate and being reunited with Kate, and her vengeance against her father. But she also has this whole other life that she will create for herself, and we’ve actually started to delve into that. We’ll see her assembling her Wonderland gang, and she has very specific reasons for choosing the people that she chooses. There is one person who has been brought into the show who is a part of my gang who I can’t say, but this person is such a phenomenal character actor and I just love working with them. That’s really fun for me as well and makes me crazier and better. With Alice, the Wonderland gang is sort of in a f**ked up way her friends, you know? Yet they’re all scared of her, and so we’ll definitely see that’ll develop as well.

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