On Friday, The CW unveiled our first look at Mary as Gotham's new Poison Ivy, red hair and all. Kang will debut this startling new look in the superhero drama's midseason finale airing Wednesday.
In a recent interview with EW, Kang opened up about her character's villainous transformation and teased Mary's dark new relationships with Alice (Rachel Skarsten) and the original Poison Ivy (Bridget Regan), who will be introduced in the new year.
"I was really emotional. I burst into tears," said Kang, recalling the first time she put on the full Poison Ivy costume. "It has given me purpose and drive, and ultimately, I'm really proud of how Poison Ivy came out. What I'm most proud of is that it is rooted in history, both comic and fashion history. And it is culturally conscious. And then I am what's inside of it, what's filling it. And as a Korean girl, that when it all came together."
Justina Mintz/The CW Nicole Kang as the new Poison Ivy, Mary Hamilton, on 'Batwoman'
She continued: "Everybody, I think, has been wanting Mary to [become a superhero because there's] the expectation that everybody suits up and for us to subvert that expectation — We have a Black Batwoman, we have Batwing, and an Asian Poison Ivy — it's so cool. It's really exciting for me to create a fully fledged Asian villain. I think sometimes Asian villains are not explained, right? Their humanity is sometimes lost when in telling a story about a hero. And I think it's super brilliant. I give [showrunner] Caroline Dries all the props of creating a hero, and then turning her into a villain. I am very thrilled."
"I created this costume to reflect Mary's desire to be seen and heard by those closest to her, while maintaining her unique eye for fun and fanciful fashion; a strong shoulder and a corset to symbolize a trellis guiding her alter ego upwards," said costume designer Maya Mani in a statement.
"I envisioned her character being intrinsically powerful, alluring and seductive, but also dangerous if pushed too far. It was the combination of beautiful glowy skin, with colors selected to enhance and celebrate Nicole's complexion and structure," said makeup department head Cory Roberts. Hair department head Ashley Young added: "Nicole and I tried multiple wigs in different shades of red till we found the perfect one so that we didn't lose 'Mary' in all the glamour but could reflect her and bring out her Poison Ivy alter ego."
The road to this transformation began at the end of episode 3 when Mary was first pricked and infected by one of Poison Ivy's vines. Then in this week's installment, two victims of plant-based attacks led the Bat Team to discover that Mary blacks out whenever the sun is out and her new Poison Ivy persona takes over. Whereas Mary is typically selfless and caring, the Poison Ivy side of her is pernicious, feeds off Mary's anger over being undervalued and ignored by Ryan (Javicia Leslie) and Luke (Camrus Johnson), and "express her most deeply buried opinions and desires — regardless of who or what may be in her way," according to the official character description. Episode 6, titled "How Does Your Garden Grow?" climaxed with Mary attacking her allies with her newfound ability to control plants before fleeing Gotham City with Alice (Rachel Skarsten).
In a statement, Dries explained why they decided to take Mary, the heart of the Bat Team, in this dark direction: "As we've watched the fallout of Batman's Rogues' weapons this season, we wanted to make a few of these 'trophies' personal to our Bat Team, and Mary felt like the ideal character to go through a major 'photosynthesis,'" said Dries. "The fun part of making each villain's powers transferable is that we get to do our own spin on the character — this one through the lens of what Mary would create: something heightened, playful, fashion-forward, and sexy. It was so exciting to work alongside Nicole as we picked hair color, eye color and, of course, the clothing itself. But it wasn't until Nicole showed up on set and absolutely killed her performance that the character of Poison Ivy Mary was complete."
Kang was surprised when Dries first told her about this twist at the beginning of the season. "I was like, 'Are you sure?'" said Kang. "Pamela Isley traditionally turns into Poison Ivy in the comic. So truthfully, it came out of left field."
After getting over the initial shock, though, Kang was fully onboard, especially because it her explore Mary's relationship with Alice in a new way. The two sisters hit the road together in next week's episode, titled "Pick Your Poison."
"[Alice] finally gets to be the big sister that she's always really wanted, which is kind of dark and twisted. But creating and deepening that bond is something that me and Rachel have been wanting this season, since we got cast in the show," said Kang. "I've read every comic that I could get my hands on, and especially homed in on the Harley Quinn-Poison Ivy adventures, because I really feel like that relationship has been inside of the Poison Ivy-Alice relationship. We've taken and begged, borrowed, and definitely made our own. But we've taken a ton of inspiration from the two of them." (Ahead of Mary's heel turn, Kang was inspired by Harley and Ivy and drew the following sketch of Mary and Alice.)
Courtesy of Nicole Kang Inspired by her research, Nicole Kang started sketching Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, but turned it into a drawing of Alice as Harley and Poison Ivy Mary.
Given Mary's powers and entirely anger-driven persona, it might not be all smooth-sailing for this new partnership.
"Alice needs Mary to be at her best for Alice to pull off leaving and going toe to toe with Batwoman, toe to toe with Renee. Knowing what Mary is becoming, I think Alice has a lot handed to her to think that even she can wield this new weapon," said Kang. "Who's in charge? Alice has always been stronger, smarter, and quicker. She's always five steps ahead of the Bat Team. She knew Mary was Poison Ivy. But now she's definitely going to be tested, as well as their relationship, because Mary as Poison Ivy is going to use it against Alice, as well. So they're speeding away, but in the same sense, they're on a rollercoaster."
But how far gone is Mary once she goes full Poison Ivy? "What I fear for Mary is that she doesn't know her power," said Kang. "[It's a situation where] when you're sleeping or you're awake, you're a completely weaponized person and a danger to everyone. That's not something Mary is ready for at all. And it's not something that Alice has ever been concerned with. So, I'm worried about Mary's moral standards and her as a person, but the truth is that they are one and the same. And how far is too far is, I think, Mary's question."
That being said, it won't be long until we meet the original Poison Ivy, a.k.a. Pamela Isley, who has been buried in Gotham for years. Per the character description for Poison Mary, "her powers bloomed to give life to another... Gotham's long lost and most infamous botanist."
"There will be a tug of war for sure, but mostly it'll be like this mother-sporeling relationship," said Kang, teasing Mary's dynamic with Pamela. "The vengeance of the OG Poison Ivy is coming."
Sooner than you think, in fact, because Regan's Ivy debuts in episode 8, Batwoman's first one of the new year.
Batwoman airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW.