Wednesday’s midseason finale made for a wild hour as the Bat team tracked down Alice and Mary, who took on the Poison Ivy character after being infected by one of Pam Isley’s vines. Batwoman offered Mary an antidote, and the new villain refused, not wanting to be saved. In fact, she’s enjoying this new identity that she thinks is hers true yourself. Mary is no longer a sidekick.
Meanwhile, Jada Jet’s attempt to freeze her son as a way to prevent him from becoming the Joker has failed. Midway through the freezing process, Marquis escaped, killed a guard with a fancy pen, and confronted Ryan for betraying him by secretly working with Jada. After demanding and securing Ryan’s resignation as CEO of Wayne Enterprises, Marquis publicly announced that he would take over. He also debuted with a fresh new look: purple dreads, a fit orange suit and a devilish smile.
With the Arrowverse series taking a short hiatus, TVLine spoke with Nick Creegan, who plays Marquis, aka the new Joker, to discuss his take on the fan-favorite villain. Read our interview with the actor below.
TVLINE | When did you find out you would be playing the Joker?
I thought it was just [auditioning for] Marquis Jet, this sexy playboy who was arrogant and gets everything he needs from his mom. Funnily enough, I wore a purple shirt during my audition. Two weeks before flying to Vancouver [where Batwoman films], I had a FaceTime meeting with [showrunner] Caroline Dries, and she said, “Hey, Nick… There’s really no other way to say this, but you’re going to be the next Joker.” My face was frozen and my mouth literally dropped open. I was immediately shocked, excited, scared, intimidated. I had all the feelings at once. So I knew right before flying to Vancouver to start shooting.
TVLINE | Did you think about previous versions of the Joker while playing your version of the character?
I immediately thought of Joaquin Phoenix, because that was the last version of the Joker I saw. Even though Joaquin Phoenix is legendary [and] won the Oscar for the role, the late Heath Ledger – everyone loved his portrayal of the Joker too…I realized that in a way this would be the first of its kind, because there’s never been a person of color who once played this role before, and I tried to approach everything with an individual mind.
So while I respect every Joker that’s come before me, I wanted to make this a very original piece of what I saw as this character. I use a lot of my own life experiences, the loss of loved ones and things like that to inject the pain and grief and misunderstanding of Marquis. Since this is the first black woman and lesbian superhero show, I realized that I would be the first black man to play a role that kids can dress up as one day like Halloween. They can see his purple locks and say, “I want purple locks” and “I want to dress up as Marquis and be the Joker.” So I took it as something completely new, even though I was thinking about the other Jokers. But I realized that this was the first of its kind.
TVLINE | How would you describe your view of the Joker?
Marquis has a way with his words. He is very charismatic and charming. I think he draws people in with the way he can speak to an audience. In episode 7, you see when he gives that speech at the end and asks certain questions that make you wonder, ‘Is he crazy? Or could I understand why someone feels the way they feel?’ In later episodes, people will definitely be able to empathize with some of the things he says. I don’t condone evil on other people, but in terms of his philosophy about treating people with mental illness fairly and not just as a pariah, I think people will agree with that part. Marquis is one of the most complicated characters in the series. I feel that my portrayal of him indicates that people are thinking more deeply about mental health and awareness, and how we treat people with mental health problems.
TVLINE | What was it like for you to tackle mental health through this character?
I think the most eye-opening thing is that we have so many people in our own lives who may not feel seen, or may not feel like they have the ability to emote in a healthy way. Men are often told, “Don’t cry. That’s for a girl,” otherwise it’s said that women should be more ladylike. In reality, we should be able to express ourselves in a healthy way from the start, so that we never get to a point like Marquis Jet. With Marquis, the truth is that he never felt completely loved and understood by his family. He feels like an outsider. He always felt like he wasn’t enough for his mother, and he always felt like he didn’t really have anyone else to lean on.
The other part of it is that he’s leaning on the fact that this isn’t his fault. He hasn’t asked the Joker to zap him with a joy buzzer and change his brain makeup, so he doesn’t feel like he should be punished for being the way he is. I think that’s a metaphor for people in our own lives who were born with certain characteristics or disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, things of that nature that they didn’t ask for. We should not treat them as if they were second class citizens. I think it just made me a lot more aware of the attention we give to our loved ones and people who might be having bad days and we write them off. I just feel like we need to be more empathetic to people with certain kinds of illnesses.
TVLINE | Something to tease you about the journey ahead?
Fans have a lot to look forward to in terms of classic Joker memories. There will be certain situations, items, stories brought into the mix that the original Joker from the comic books has always had a hand on. Marquis will tap into certain things that will remind people of the original Joker. You can also look forward to him really giving the Bat team a run for their money. The first episode after the mid-season finale will be very intense and insane, and they’ll get a full dose of what Marquis has to offer. By the time we get to the end of the season, I think some people’s hair will be gray. It’s going to be a stressful season for those who love the good ones.
TVLINE | Both Mary and Marquis seem to have a similar point of view in terms of feeling underestimated and undervalued. Did you also find similarities between them?
First off, I’m so happy that Nicole Kang, who now plays Poison Ivy, got this opportunity too. She is also the first Asian-American woman to portray this role. She and I have talked to each other this season and supported each other throughout this entire journey, and we are so excited for each other, so we have similarities. And in the actual show, I agree that there is a lot of overlap in the characteristics of both Mary and Marquis. Who knows? Maybe at some point fans will be able to see these two in the same place at the same time.