With each new episode, Titans has introduced new characters and aspects of the wider DC comic canon, whether it’s the Doom Patrol or Hawk & Dove. This week’s episode is all about Donna Troy (Conor Leslie), otherwise known as Wonder Girl.
Donna is one of the few characters on the show who’s been in the superhero game for as long as Dick Grayson (Brenton Thwaites); they met when they were both orphaned children being raised as sidekicks for Batman and Wonder Woman. These days, however, Donna has been able to accomplish something Dick has not: Separate her superhero identity from her regular life. In the wake of the last few episodes, Dick is in the midst of a powerful identity crisis. He’s been replaced as Robin, and is worried about the violent tendencies he’s inherited from Batman, but he also doesn’t know what else to do with himself.
“Dick has been very serious for most of this season so far, and for good reason. He’s got a lot going on, and has been thrown into this whirlwind with Raven. I think by the time he shows up at Donna’s door, it’s a moment where his hands are up, he doesn’t know where else to go or what else to do,” Leslie tells EW. “Dick and Donna have such an incredible friendship, so that won’t be new to fans, but how he comes to her is really interesting, because he needs answers. She was able to create a life for herself outside her identity as Wonder Girl, and that’s what Dick wants. He wants to be something other than Robin, so naturally he’s going to turn to someone he’s known since childhood. Her role in Dick’s life is obviously that of a friend, but it’s nice he’s just going to her for guidance, and not have his guard up for a change like he has with every other character in the show.”
Dick’s friendship with Donna is a rather unique one in his life. So far, Titans has faithfully adapted the aspect of Dick Grayson’s personality that seems to make every female character he interacts with fall in love with him, as seen in his hook-up with Kory (Anna Diop) a few weeks ago and his various other flirtations around that. But Dick and Donna are just friends, as they are in the comics, and this allows them to support each other in a powerful way.
“The thing that’s incredible is that, whether it’s comics or TV, we always see two characters who are friendly and single like this hook up at some point. So I think what’s great about Dick and Donna’s friendship is that it is a friendship, a brother-sister friendship,” Leslie says. “Dick and Donna understand each other in a way no one else ever will. I think they both bond from that place of having these parental role models that aren’t their blood parents. I think that’s where that brother-sister bond forms. I love that dynamic they have, and Brenton and I worked so well together. It was easy for us to roast each other and give each other crap, and that’s good for the characters. With a character who is infamous for sleeping with every female character, it’s nice to have one that’s just his sister and best friend.”
As with the Doom Patrol and Jason Todd, the Titans version of Donna Troy will be the first time the character has been adapted for the screen. As anyone familiar with DC comics knows, Donna has a complicated backstory (or rather, backstories). Leslie says she prepared by focusing on the elements from the comics that the show’s producers specifically wanted to focus on.
“Once I heard from them the backstory we were gonna go with Donna, then I was able to take the comic research I did and use it to find common character traits that people like about Donna, such as her strength and her ability to operate not from a place of fear and just create a character based on that,” Leslie says. “When you portray someone so beloved for the first time, it’s definitely a lot of pressure, but I tried to honor everything that is loved about her, and then still bring my own version of her to the screen as best as I could.”
Speaking to EW at the show’s New York Comic Con premiere back in October, executive producer Geoff Johns said, among other things, that Titans would be drawing on Donna’s depiction in the classic ‘80s New Teen Titans comics by writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez.
“Her demeanor in the Perez/Wolfman run was so great,” Johns says. “She was always a maternal figure, the yin to Dick Grayson’s yang, and that’s how we portray her in the show as well.”
The new episode of Titans, titled “Donna Troy,” hits the DC Universe streaming platform this Friday.