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Leslie Grace on her role as Batgirl in the upcoming HBO Max superhero movie

Leslie Grace is at home in the US after spending months abroad filming ‘Batgirl,’ the upcoming HBO Max film adaptation of the legendary 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 JK Simmons as her father, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Brendan Fraser as the villain Firefly. Michael Keaton returns as Batman, 30 years after his first appearance as the Caped Crusader.

The conversation turned to Batgirl while I was chatting with Grace about her new collaboration with Häagen-Dazs today. She helps promote City Sweets, the company’s new collection of ice cream flavors that feature street food desserts 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 mother’s womb because it was her biggest craving,” says Grace, who grew up in the Bronx. “There’s this one flavor, Vanilla Swiss Almond, that she would have my dad stocking the fridge with.”

City Sweets is an offshoot of Häagen-Dazs’ #ThatsDazs campaign, which has raised $1.5 million for creatives in marginalized communities.

Grace talked about giving back brand partnerships, donning the Batgirl suit for the first time, seeing Keaton on set and more.

How important is it to you that a brand partnership also has a charitable component?

It is so important. This is the number one thing I look for in all of my brand partnerships. I never want to affiliate with a brand just because it has a big dollar sign attached to it. People feel that and that’s just not my point. It’s not just, “Okay, we’re going to give this money away.” It’s about putting their money where their mouths are and engaging creatives from the community to build a relationship for years to come. That’s what really counts. That really makes a difference.

Let’s talk about these new flavors. Ice cream with crispy churros and caramel!

I just tried the crunchy churros the other day and thought I could just have this for breakfast lunch and dinner because I love churros. As if that were my favorite street food.

I imagine eating ice cream wasn’t part of your Batgirl fitness routine.

When I came to Glasgow [to shoot “Batgirl], we had already talked about this collaboration. I think internally they might have just decided, “yeah, don’t send her free ice cream” because I might not fit in my suit for very long. The leather would have just broken.

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 I was like, ‘Oh wow, we’re here. I’ll do it. I really am Batgirl.” It’s still hard for me to say. But yes, it was a surreal experience.

When we chatted at the MTV VMAs in September, you hadn’t even started filming, but you told me your Batgirl was going to be a badass. Did the badassery live up to what you expected?

She definitely exceeds what I thought. I had to conjure up some things that I didn’t even know were there. It was an incredible learning experience to be on set with action veterans like Brendan Fraser and soak it all up. It was so hard because he’s our villain and I wasn’t supposed to like it, but he’s such a giant teddy bear. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. The way he just hit the mark in our fight sequences came from all his experience. Such experiences cannot be improvised. Some crazy things are happening. There’s a lot of fire, because as everyone knows by now, he’s playing Firefly. There is crazy fire. There are crazy stunts, crazy drops. She’s a biker girl, so you’ll see her doing a lot of badassery.

Were there nights when you came home just in a lot of pain from all the stunts and combat work?

Oh my god, there were a lot of night shots. It was a long, long day, but it was worth it. But, oh my god, I’ve never been so sore or so exhausted in my life. Some days I would come home and think, “Do I want to eat something or am I just falling asleep?”

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What was it like seeing Michael Keaton on set?

It was wild for everyone. Our directors were like two little children. They are obviously real Batman nerds. He’s Batman, man! I couldn’t even believe I was sharing the room with Batman. I want to say more, but I can’t. It was crazy, surreal, unbelievable. It really was the stuff of dreams. And JK Simmons plays my father. this is my pop I was so nervous because all I could hear in my head was his voice on Whiplash. What would he do and say if I didn’t do something right? [Laughs]. Then we became best friends. And he told me all his great stories, how he started out as a waiter and worked in a pizza shop and tried to be an actor and do theater.

Have you reached out to other actors playing superheroes like Gal Gadot or even Alicia Silverstone?

I did not. I probably should have. It’s almost a little overwhelming and hard for your brain to grasp the magnitude of what you’re doing that it almost feels like it’s happening in a vacuum. I was like, “Oh man, I hope I can do this. Am I in the club?” I felt like I had imposter syndrome almost the entire time. You want to earn your place. But now that you mention it, I’m going to throw in a few direct messages and ask, “Hey, what was your experience?” I reached out to Sasha Calle, who is Supergirl on The Flash. I hope that we will meet soon because we are part of the new generation. I turned to Xolo Maridueña, our Blue Beetle. He’s amazing. I’m so happy for him.

When do you start filming Batgirl 2?

[Laughs] We need to see that first one first. But there’s definitely some talk about what it could be. I’ve seen some of what we shot, obviously in playback and stuff, and it’s crazy. We’ve already talked about where we’re taking that from here because there’s so much going on in this movie. There are many different themes in the plot that we address. It’s not just the action. There is a love story. There’s that father-daughter relationship. You see the world through a lens that isn’t just black and white, and you see the color and spectrum between things.

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https://variety.com/2022/film/columns/leslie-grace-batgirl-haagen-dazs-1235232986/ Leslie Grace on her role as Batgirl in the upcoming HBO Max superhero movie

Charles Jones

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