Leslie Grace is home in the U.S. after spending months overseas shooting “Batgirl,” the upcoming HBO Max film adaptation of the iconic crime fighter. She takes on the role of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in the film, co-directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, with a cast that includes J.K. Simmons as her father Commissioner Jim Gordon and Brendan Fraser as villain Firefly. Michael Keaton makes his return as Batman 30 years after his first appearance as the Caped Crusader.
Talk turned to “Batgirl” when I caught up with Grace earlier today about her new collaboration with Häagen-Dazs. She’s helping promote City Sweets, the company’s new collection of ice cream flavors that incorporate street food deserts, including churros, street vendor pretzels and black-and-white cookies. Brooklyn-based artist Jade Purple Brown designed the ice cream’s colorful packaging.
“I’ve been eating Häagen-Dazs since I was in my mom’s belly because it was like her main craving,” the Bronx-raised Grace says. “There’s this one flavor, Vanilla Swiss Almond, that she would have my dad fill the fridge with.”
City Sweets is an offshoot of Häagen-Dazs’ #ThatsDazs campaign, which has committed $1.5 million to creatives in marginalized communities.
Grace talked brand partnerships that give back, putting on the Batgirl suit for the first time, seeing Keaton on set and more.
How important is it to you that when you do a brand partnership that there is a charitable component to it, too?
It’s so important. It’s main thing that I look for in all my brand partnerships. I never want to align with a brand just because there’s a big dollar sign attached to it. People feel that and that’s just not what I’m about. It’s not just, “Okay, we’re going give away this money.” It’s actually putting their money where their mouth is and bringing in creatives from the community to create a relationship for years to come. That’s what really counts. That’s what really makes a difference.
Let’s talk about these new flavors. Ice cream with crispy churros and caramel!
I just tasted the crispy churros one the other day and I was like I think I might just have this for breakfast, lunch and dinner because I love churros. Like that’s my favorite street food.
I imagine eating ice cream wasn’t part of your fitness training for “Batgirl.”
Once I got out to Glasgow [to shoot “Batgirl], we had already been talking about this collaboration. I think internally they might have just decided like, “Yeah, don’t send her free ice cream,” because I just might not fit in my suit for very long. That leather would have just bust.
What was it like putting on the “Batgirl” suit and looking at yourself in the mirror for the first time?
I think that was the first real moment where I was like, “Oh, wow, we’re here. I’m doing this. Like, I am really Batgirl.” It’s still hard for me to say that. But, yeah, it was a surreal experience.
When we talked in September at the MTV VMAs you hadn’t started shooting yet, but you told me that your Batgirl was going to be a “badass.” Did the badassery live up to what you were expecting?
She definitely exceeds what I thought. I had to summon up some things in me that I didn’t even know were there. It was an incredible learning experience to be on set with also action veterans like Brendan Fraser, and soak up it all up. It was so hard because he’s our villain and I’m not supposed to like him but he’s such a huge teddy bear. He is one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. In our fight sequences the way he would just hit marks, it came from all of his experience. You can’t improvise that kind of experience. There’s some crazy stuff that happens. There’s lots of fire because as everyone knows by now, he plays Firefly. There’s crazy fire. There’s crazy stunts, crazy drops. She’s a biker chick, so you’re going to see her do a bunch of badassery.
Were there nights you got home and you were just in a lot of pain from all the stunts and fight work?
Oh my god, there were a lot of night shoots. There were a lot of long days, but it was so worth it. But, oh my gosh, never in my life have I’ve been so sore or depleted. There were some days I would get home and I would think, “Do I want to eat or am I just going to fall asleep?”
What was it like seeing Michael Keaton walk on set?
It was wild for everyone. Our directors were like two little kids. They’re legit Batman nerds openly. He’s Batman, man! I couldn’t even believe that I was sharing space with Batman. I want to say more, but I can’t. It was insane, surreal, incredible. It was the stuff of dreams really. And J.K. Simmons playing my dad. That’s my pop. I was so nervous because all I could hear in my head was his voice in “Whiplash.” Like what would he do and say if I didn’t get something right? [Laughs]. Then we became the best of friends. And just he told me all his great stories of starting out and being a waiter and working in a pizza shop and trying to be an actor and doing theater.
Have you reached out to other actors who play superheroes like Gal Gadot or even Alicia Silverstone?
I haven’t. I probably should have. It’s like almost a little overwhelming and hard for your brain to catch up to the magnitude of what it is that you’re doing that it almost feels like it’s happening in a vacuum. I was just like, “Oh, man, I hope I can do this. Am I in the club?” I almost felt like the whole time I had some imposter syndrome. You want to earn your place. But now that you’re mentioning it, I’m going to slip in a few DMs and ask “Hey, what was your experience?” I did reach out to Sasha Calle, who is Supergirl in “The Flash.” I’m hoping that we get to meet soon because we’re part of the new gen. I did reach out to Xolo Maridueña, our Blue Beetle. He is freaking awesome. I’m so happy for him.
When do you start shooting “Batgirl 2”?
[Laughs] We got to see this first one first. But there’s definitely some talks about what it could be. I’ve seen some of what we’ve shot, obviously in the playback and stuff like that, and it’s insane. We’ve already been talking about where do we take this from here because there’s so much that happens in this film. There are a lot of different themes in the plot that we touch on. It’s not just the action. There’s a love story. There’s this father-daughter relationship. There’s looking at the world through a lens that isn’t just black and white and seeing the color and the spectrum between things.