There’s a new Joker in town, and this time around he’s a Black man.
After months of teasing, Nick Creegan made his debut as Marquis Jet during the mid-season premiere of CW’s “Batwoman.” The son of powerful businesswoman Jada Jet and estranged brother of Ryan Wilder (Batwoman), Marquis suffered an extreme personality change after an unfortunate encounter with the original Joker as a child. While on a field trip the supervillain hijacked his school bus and placed an electric joy buzzer on his head, sending a jolt through Marquis’ brain.
Gradually, the child began to exhibit the qualities of a sociopath, causing terror and finding pleasure in others being harmed. He eventually reinvented himself as the new version of the Joker — the first Black Joker in the history of the DC Universe.
Nearly a year after Javicia Leslie made headlines for becoming the first Black Batwoman, Creegan is making history as well. REVOLT spoke to him about his groundbreaking role, the support he’s received from the Black community and more. Check out our conversation below.
How does it feel to accomplish the milestone of becoming the first Black Joker?
It feels amazing, but at the same time it feels very collaborative. It feels like I’m a piece of the puzzle, and the puzzle is not finished yet. I’m just happy to be in the same category of legends that have been firsts of things of that nature — like Sidney Poitier, rest in peace, being the first Black man to win an Oscar. He started the journey for all of us. I’m just happy to be a part of the journey, and I know that young Black and brown kids will look at this and be like, ‘Oh I can play any role I want’ or ‘I can accomplish anything I want. It doesn’t have to be acting or entertainment.’ It’s just a testament to what happens when we continue to let our voices be heard.
Was there any pressure that came along with the role and having to fill the big shoes that came before you?
Outside of being the first Black Joker, I was just very taken aback initially because of the legendary actors who have portrayed different versions of the Joker. When I was told about the role, the first thing that popped into my mind was Joaquin Phoenix, Jared Leto, Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson … I was just like, ‘Whoa. This is gonna be crazy to even put my feet in these shoes.’ Then I thought about it and I’m like, ‘No. This is the first of its kind, and I’m gonna be able to add a sauce to it that none of them were able to add.’ I was gonna be able to put my own spin on it, and I knew that my community was gonna be really excited and ready for this. I didn’t feel pressure from me being a person of color doing this — I felt more supported than anything.
As soon as my friends found out this was a thing, they all went to social media and started promoting it. I mean, you know how Black people are whenever we’re able to do something really dope — we’re gonna support each other, so that’s all I really felt. I was ready to make it my own and put on for the culture.
What do you bring to the role that we haven’t seen before?
One of the best parts about this was that [the Joker’s] hairstyle was going to be completely different than every other Joker. I worked with the hair department, and they were very adamant about making this unapologetically Black. They were like, ‘What type of hair would you want?’ I’m like, ‘Well I think it would be very dope to have variations of different loc patterns and braids.’ So, we put purple dye in my hair and some extensions, and we did different hairstyles with loc patterns. The [Feb. 2] episode is like an ode to Killmonger and what Michael B. Jordan did in Black Panther, and then you’ll see other twists and patterns later on. I think that was one of the most evident parts of this being a Joker of color — the hairstyles. Aside from that, just the way that he’s able to talk to different people on the cast. He’s just adding a little more of a different kind of swag. I put a little bit of New York in it as well and yeah, I think it’s just a brand new fresh version.
In addition to getting the character’s hair right, how else did you prepare for the role?
I worked with my acting coach Ted Slerberski. He’s one of the best in the business. We worked together at least a couple hours before I would film each episode. I also did some self-work and dove into my own story to see what pieces of Marquis Jet might relate to my life … certain pieces of loss in my life and heartache that I was gonna be able to inject into the role. I did kind of a self-reflection through therapy and meditation before I did the role, along with watching how other people played the Joker.
The first day that I found out that I booked the role and I was going to be the Joker, I decided to watch ‘The Dark Knight.’ I saw how Heath did it. I watched how Jared did it. Other than that, I just tried to make sure that I saw myself … envisioned myself having a lot of fun and not making it about pressure. I more so [thought of it] like I’m getting a chance to play, which is every actor’s dream. All of that went into it.
What should fans expect from Joker this season?
They should expect him to do everything that no normal person would do. He does a lot of madness, he goes crazy, he goes nuts. He really wants to end the Bat Team’s existence, and I think they’re gonna see Marquis Jet do everything he can to fulfill the original Joker’s plans on doing that. It’s been a lot of fun to just cause havoc and have fun with everybody on the cast, especially people who I’m really close with. Being able to be on set and act completely different than I really act with them in real life was fun, so I think fans are going to be able to look forward to a lot of havoc and crazy things happening.
You mentioned wanting to find similarities between you and Joker’s life. Were there any?
I feel like every version of the Joker is an explanation of mental health at its core. With Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, you were able to see what happens when society does not see somebody and it pushes them to a limit of mental break. Then he became the Joker. I’m not saying that anybody thought what he did was right, but I’m sure they can empathize and see what could cause somebody to go that far off the deep end.
With my life, I’ve had bouts of anxiety and depression, and there were times when I felt like I wasn’t being seen or heard. Luckily, I have a great support system and I was able to get into therapy and do the things that were necessary to save myself from self-harm. I feel like Marquis Jet just didn’t get that chance. He had an absentee mother, his father wasn’t around. So, I kind of just imagined what it would be like if Nick Creegan never got help? How would he handle these types of situations? And, I try to just inject parts of my past into the story.
I didn’t have the best relationship with my father growing up. We’re very close [now], but I did think about aspects of abandonment from when I was a kid that I was able to inject into this role. So, it was therapy for me. I think a lot of people think of Heath Ledger’s Joker and other versions of Joker and they say, ‘Oh, it’s kind of scary to go that deep into a role.’ For me, it was actually a benefit to dive in and explore dark parts of myself, inject that into art and use that as an outlet.
How does your version of the character further the mental health conversations that Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker sparked?
I believe people will also be able to empathize with Marquis. You can see what it was like, or imagine what it was like, growing up in a household with Jada Jet as a mother — you have this high-powered mother who cares a lot about work. She loves her son but didn’t necessarily feel the need to ever get him any help before — and now she’s trying to do it her way. It’s kind of like, no, this isn’t what he needs. Maybe he just needed an actual mother to talk to and not do these unconventional methods like trying to freeze him. So, I think this will show people that empathy is a big deal. I think they’ll be able to see how Marquis could have gotten to that point.
Marquis is the flashy guy. He seems like he has it all together in the beginning, and then you realize he doesn’t. There are a lot of people in our lives who seem like that. Recently, this woman who won Miss USA in 2019 (Cheslie Kryst) committed suicide, and on the surface, maybe people thought that she had it all. Nobody ever knows what somebody is going through. I hope that this show pushes the conversations further into checking on people and knowing that mental health is not something to joke about. It should be taken seriously.
Is there anything you see differently after playing the Joker?
There were times when I would doubt that I’d be having conversations about this. I was auditioning for a long time with no traction. Eventually in 2021, I had an explosion of career success. It was after two years of really nothing, so I think this just cemented the fact that we all have a story that’s gonna unfold. We don’t know how or when its gonna unfold, but if we actually continue to pluck away at something, then eventually it will happen.
When it comes to Marquis Jet you’re gonna see that even though he was doing things that I personally don’t agree with, he had a will and he wanted certain things to happen. You get to see what happens when somebody puts their mind to something and what can happen if you don’t put that to good use: you can cause a lot of havoc. If you were to reverse that and put your mind into positive things, then positive things will happen. So, I think it’s just a testament to the fact that our thoughts can easily become reality, and we have to make the choice of whether that’s gonna be something good or bad for our lives.
How has “Batwoman” been received so far?
It’s been great. I’ve been loving tuning in to Twitter every week to see how fans feel. I usually do the live tweeting on Wednesday nights and for the most part, I’ve been very surprised about how many new fans are starting to watch ‘Batwoman.’ It especially feels good to know people are talking about there being the first-ever Black Joker. People are like, ‘Oh, I need to check out Batwoman. Oh, she’s Black too, that’s awesome’ and ‘Oh this character is an LGBTQ person’ and ‘Oh, we have the first Asian Poison Ivy.’ I think people are seeing our show as a time capsule of what can happen whenever representation truly matters with a production company and on set. I think people have been championing this show for all the diverse audiences that it’s been bringing in, so seeing that unfold on social media has been very exciting.
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