The newest addition to The CW's Arrowverse is Camrus Johnson's Luke Fox on Batwoman, the sometimes reluctant tech-wiz behind Kate Kane's cowl.
In real life, Camrus grew up in Georgia where he had plans to go into the military. When he realized, at around age 15, that the military wasn't the career he wanted, his mother imparted some words of wisdom that he's never forgotten.
Describing those early years over the phone, he took a moment to get the words exactly right.
"Her words were... What did she say? She said, 'You like to be loud and obnoxious. Try acting.' So, I did."
"Loud and obnoxious" couldn't be farther from the mark as Johnson was warm and relaxed as he shared freely about his path from high school drama classes to Batwoman and the role of Luke Fox.
"I was in Acting for a year, fell in love with it, and joined Advanced Drama in my senior year. I wasn't sure I was going to go for acting as a career. So then I auditioned for 17 colleges, and I got 14 callbacks. From there, I was like, 'Oh, snap, ok. I can do this.'"
Skipping the college scene altogether, Johnson moved to New York City at 17 and lived with an aunt while he made the jump directly into acting professionally.
His audition for Batwoman took place in New York, but they flew him to L.A. for the screen test, and the next thing he knew, he was settling into Vancouver, Canada, in his biggest role yet.
Initially, he had no idea Vancouver's film and television scene was as busy as it is.
Vancouver's weather might not be as warm as it is in L.A., but at least the winters are nothing like his winters in New York City.
"I quickly got over the New York cold because I'm from Georgia, and it doesn't really get cold in Georgia. So spending seven years in New York and living through blizzards and things -- having to wear puffy coats every winter -- was not great for me."
Like castmate Brendon Zub, Johnson has enjoyed exploring and experiencing West Coast life during his downtime from shooting.
"I've been able to get out of the city -- go to Whistler and go kayaking in Deep Cove -- and I've been able to get out quite a bit. In New York, I don't really do that very often. I don't really go Upstate or anything, so it's been nice. I almost feel the need to go see all the nature and the beautiful sights here, so that's been great."
The cast of Batwoman has even used Vancouver's natural splendor as a bonding experience.
I've heard that, as a cast, you all went whale-watching?
We did! Yeah, we went whale-watching with [Batwoman Season 1 Episode 5's director] Carl Seaton and [Episode 5's writer] Jerry Shandy. It was actually Jerry's idea.
I was on set with Jerry and Nicole Kang, and Jerry said something about, "Yeah, I'm going to go whale-watching with a friend of mine," and me and Nicole were like, "Cool, we'll be there!"
He went, "Oh, okay." So we sort of invited ourselves, and then Jerry was like, "Y'know, if anyone else wants to come, it's an open invitation."
So we invited the whole cast, and we all went. It was amazing.
Did you actually catch sight of some whales?
We did! It was awesome! The captain of the ship even said we were there on a really good day. We saw humpback whales, I believe, jumping out of the water which was insane.
I think we were supposed to see the orcas. The orcas we did see, but they weren't nearly as exciting as any of us thought. They were like "killler" whales, and we did see them, but they weren't really doing anything.
But the humpbacks were completely jumping out of the water, splashing on the water. You know when you see something amazing so many times, it's not even that cool anymore? We got to see it so many times.
Those humpback whales were really showing off. After the seventh time, we were like, "We get it. Let's go home."
Now, getting down to the business of talking Batwoman, let me ask you about Luke Fox.
The fandom knows Lucius Fox really well through film and TV. Luke is less well-known except for the really hard-core comic fans. Are you one of those comic canon aficionados? Did you know the histories of Batwoman and Luke?
I only started reading comic books a couple of years ago because I had made the decision to start writing my own, and I didn't want to write my own comic book without really having a knowledge of them.
I've now read a 150, 200 comics or so. Actually, much more than that because I'm counting a trade book as one comic even though a trade is like ten or something.
So I'd read quite a bit, but I hadn't read the Batwoman comics until I booked this show. I started reading the one that our show is mostly based off of -- Batwoman: Elegy -- and then, of course, I had to read the Batwing comics just in case Luke Fox does turn into him one day. The comics are AMAZING.
I've read so many DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, and Image comics. A couple of indie comics here and there. But the Batwoman comics came after I booked the part.
Now, you've already mentioned Batwing. The Luke Fox in the comics was determined NOT to follow in Lucius' footsteps. Has anyone shared with you this Luke's backstory, beyond Lucius' murder? Do you have any suspicions about how [Luke] got his job?
I do have my suspicions. The only backstory I really knew ahead of time was that Lucius had died. 'Cause I had the same questions during the pilot of, "Where is my pops?"
It's interesting because this Luke is so different because, in the comics, Luke is usually a little bit older. At least for the ones where he is military and a boxer and things. And in that one, he tends to stay away from his father's path.
In our show, he's pretty much the new Lucius. But it's different because, in the comics, he's also working directly under Batman and sort of learning and training through him and with him.
But, in the show, Luke doesn't have a Batman anymore. He doesn't have a Bruce Wayne around. So, without Batman, there is no Batwing really. At least, as far as I know, not yet.
In our show, if Luke is to become Batwing, I think he would have to become Batwing on his own accord. It would have to be his decision, his idea.
From the comic books, it was very much Batwing was already a superhero before and then put the suit down. And then Batman sort of gave it to Luke Fox and let him become the new Batwing. But that simply wouldn't work in our world anymore.
So, yeah, as far as the backstory, all I know is that his dad's death has been a huge toll on him, and he has only been able to talk about it that one time in that one episode, but, as you can tell, it has been weighing on him for a very long time, and he doesn't talk about it very often.
I think he tries to close that chapter and sort of move on and grow from it even though no one really can grow from the death of a parent that easily. But I think Luke tries his best to shut himself off when he can.
I wonder how long it'll take for the wound to open again because we know it's not healed, and we know the story's not over yet. I wonder how long it'll take for that to open all up again and see what Luke does next about his dad's story.
Regarding relationships within the show, obviously Luke and Kate spend the most time together. How is that for you and Ruby (Rose)?
We have some good times. It's fun to be on set with Ruby all the time because we get to just sort of play ourselves. We even did a scene last night where it's just more of me telling her not to do something and her doing it.
It's a fun Luke and Kate dynamic because there's no stress. We get to just show up, crack jokes, be funny, and then, in the scene, we get to crack jokes, and be funny. So it's just happy-go-lucky and light all day.
I think that's what makes the more serious scenes between us a little more powerful and a little more electric because we're always having fun, we're always talking, being so chill with each other on set, that whenever we do have to flip the switch, and I have to really get onto her about something, about how, "Batman wouldn't do this," "Stop being so hard on yourself," or "Focus," I think it really does switch because we're not talking like that in real life.
So whenever the camera's rolling, and I have to get on her, I think it's both a shock for me and a shock for her. And I think that's why it reads well on camera because of that.
Are you keeping a running tally of how many times Luke thinks Kate is dead?
Thinks Kate's dead? Oh, too many times! I yell, "Kate? Kate, are you there?" way too many times. But, thankfully, she always knows what she's doing and gets away.
There have been many stand-out scenes this season so far, but on Batwoman Season 1 Episode 5 when Mary shows up at Wayne Tower drunk... you and Nicole had to have had a really good time with that.
Oh, we had so much fun. You know what's crazy is that I've known Nicole for a couple of years now because we're both New-York-based.
I wrote this horror movie, and the way I met Nicole [is that] my co-writer on the horror movie invited her to come read for the lead of our movie when we were just doing this table reading, hear it out loud, for a rewrite.
And that's how I met her. She was reading the lead of my film.
And then we both had a screen test for [Batwoman], and then we were in line together before the audition, then we saw each other at the audition, and we learned that we booked the part sitting beside each other on the plane back to New York.
So there's all this early Luke/Mary history. So to finally do a scene together was a lot of fun.
And Nicole is hilarious. We laugh so much every time we see one another. And I think, again, it's because of that history that we've had for so long.
Those scenes were a lot of fun. Also, our characters are polar opposites. We're kind of opposites in life too. I have a lot of energy, but I'm pretty chill in general, and Nicole is high energy all the time, and that's Mary and Luke, for sure.
It was so funny because we were on set, and at the beginning of our second scene of that episode -- when she just pours herself a drink -- I don't know how she did it, but she broke a glass. Twice.
One was during rehearsal, and one was during shooting, and it was so perfect because she was playing this annoying, drunk thing, and I was playing this annoyed, angry thing. And it worked so well.
I was about to say this line, and she breaks this glass, and I'm just, "argh." It was so funny. I can't wait to do more stuff with her in the future 'cause she is a riot.
That leads perfectly into my question about Team Batwoman. I've written in a review that Batwoman turns the Arrowverse formula on its head.
The other heroes arrive with super-powers or skills and quickly assemble their team where Batwoman, like Batman, is a lone figure even though she works with you and, separately, she works with Mary.
How do you feel the "team" works together when the nature of Batwoman is to be solitary?
I like what you said about turning the Arrowverse formula on its head 'cause I do like that a lot about Batwoman. I love that in [Batwoman Season 1 Episode 6] when Batwoman goes to the Executioner's place, you see that Kate and Luke don't have a plan.
She's like, "Um, it's just sort of sitting here on the table."
Luke's like, "Uh, I don't know what to do next."
I like that they're still figuring things out; they're so new to this. And it's very cool that we get to see everyone learning.
It's cool that Nicole's character, Mary, isn't quite part of the team because it seems like she's going to be going in that direction, but it's too soon. She doesn't know that Kate is Batwoman, and we don't necessarily need a doctor in the Batcave all the time.
We're fine to take the bad guys to her secret hideout and leave them there and keep her secret world away from my secret world. It's been very cool. I like how we are slowly getting into the game, but we're not forcing it. We're not there too soon.
It's a little bit uncomfortable, as a viewer, that we don't know what the formula is here.
I kind of like the fact that you don't know what's going to happen next.
That was one thing that I was impressed with, and I'm still impressed with -- reading every episode of this show -- is that I finish one episode, and I'm like, "I don't know what is about to happen in the next episode."
There's clearly a formula that's working. Caroline Dries, the showrunner, knows exactly what she's doing, but even as the actors, we never know what's about to happen.
It's always exciting when the cast of the show can't wait to read the next episode.
I'll have two or three episodes in my head already, and I'll have a fourth episode come in, and I shouldn't read it 'cause I don't want to get too confused, but I have to because I need to know what's going on.
So, yeah, I like that. It's like a secret formula that the writers have been using that is working, and whatever it is, I hope they keep doing it.
I really like that there's an element of comedy built into the show and the depth of the writing has shown a scope of different emotions in different contexts.
Yeah, it's nice to play Luke who gets to, thankfully, be one of the comedic reliefs of the show. Especially playing a role that doesn't really try to be funny or know that he's being funny.
So that's been a fun role where I don't have to throw an obvious joke to the audience. I can just live in the character's truth, and that often gets laughs from our viewers. So that's been really nice.
Beyond the awesomeness of Luke Fox, do you have a dream role?
I have so many. I have so, so many. I mean, I would love to play Static Shock who is another DC superhero character.
I would love to play The Mask, or a character like The Mask -- like the Genie in Aladdin -- someone who is just a ton of characters in one body. That would be a lot of fun.
I think a lot of actors want to play someone crazy, so playing a Joker-type character would always be really nice.
And then, finally, I would love to play a really dark, action sort of character... less hero, more maybe the bad guy. Like Idris Elba in the most recent Hobbs and Shaw movie. Yeah, to play a really cool BAD guy in an action film would be really hot.
Tell me in your own words, why our readers should stick with Batwoman.
Well, I honestly think, that out of the thirteen episodes I have read so far... we are nowhere NEAR the best episode I've read so far. We have some pretty fantastic episodes coming up, and I really wish I could even say what happens in them.
Even as soon as [Batwoman Season 1 Episode 8]. The next episode is pretty crazy... it's gonna be insane.
Then we have the Crisis episode which is going to be insane.
And then a couple episodes after Crisis are gonna blow your mind once again.
So, out of the the first seven episodes that you've seen, you haven't seen ANYTHING yet.
And, also, Luke Fox gets to do something pretty fun in [Batoman Season 1 Episode 12]. And that's all I'm gonna say.
Batwoman airs on The CW Sundays at 8/7c, and if you need to catch up, you can watch Batwoman online right here via TV Fanatic!
Diana Keng is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.