Stargirl's Anjelika Washington on the importance of debuting a Black female superhero now
In the first four episodes of the CW and DC Universe's new superhero series DC's Stargirl, Beth Chapel (Anjelika Washington) hasn't done much that screams "future superhero." She sits at the self-proclaimed "loser table" at lunch, she calls her parents her best friends (and they do not reciprocate those feelings… yikes), and despite her unwavering optimism, she hasn't made any connections with any of her peers at school. But as this week's episode, "Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite," promises, she'll begin her journey toward becoming one of the new Justice Society of America members as a superhero in her own right — and maybe finally make some friends with people who aren't her parents.
And Beth's transformation into the new Dr. Mid-Nite couldn't have come at a more timely moment, as comic book fans everywhere will watch a young Black woman suit up as a superhero on TV while protests and rallies for the Black Lives Matter movement continue across the globe. The importance of seeing that kind of representation on screen, especially in a genre that has historically lacked diversity, is not lost on Washington.
"I feel very blessed that I get to have the platform like the CW for young Black girls to see that, because when I was their age I did not," Washington tells EW. "When I was a kid, Black Lightning wasn't around [on TV], so I wasn't able to see Black superheroes at all, ever. I think the only one I ever saw was Halle Berry as Catwoman. I know there's so many little Black girls who look like me, including my own nieces, and it's so important for them to see someone who looks like them who is a superhero and is in a world like the DC universe."
Washington wishes she could have seen someone like Beth Chapel on TV when she was younger. "Because I think we see things and it's like, if it's not Wonder Woman or if it's not Supergirl, you feel like you can't be a part of that," she says. "I take it with a lot of pride because I know that it's important, and I know that every little Black and brown girl will be able to relate to Beth in some way. I really hope that everyone gets to see it and gets to see her in a light that is positive, and is excited, and so intelligent, and self-aware. She is just a really, really special character, and I'm really grateful I get to play her [while I'm] out here fighting the good fight in real life, like we do in the Justice Society of America."
Below, EW talks with Washington about auditioning for the role that was so top-secret that she didn't even know she was going to play a superhero, what fans can expect to see from her this season, and more. Plus, check out an exclusive sneak peek from "Hourman and Dr. Mid-Nite" above.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This week's episode feels like Beth's big superhero coming-out moment as she discovers the Dr. Mid-Nite glasses.
ANJELIKA WASHINGTON: Yeah, it 100 percent is, which is super-exciting for people to finally see it.
How much did you know about the Stargirl comics or this character before you landed this role?
Oh, I knew nothing, absolutely nothing at all. I actually didn't even know when I was auditioning that I was auditioning for a superhero! It was so under wraps. I mean, the character's name was Rachel. And I just thought that she was like Courtney's [Brec Bassinger] best friend. Then I finally realized that I was auditioning for Stargirl the series and not Stargirl the movie because the Disney movie was auditioning at the same time and I has just auditioned for that, so I was confused about why I was going in for Stargirl again. When I realized that it was the series, and then I realized it's a comic series, I went online and I was able to read the first eight comics. I just could not figure out who I was. She has a friend in the actual comics and I thought maybe I was her. But I wasn't sure because there's no Rachel anywhere. When I finally found out, I think it was literally the day before I tested for Beth Chapel that I found out that I was Beth Chapel, so I had absolutely no clue. And I didn't really read about Beth Chapel because I didn't want to change what I had been doing in all of the auditions. I wanted to keep doing what I've been doing and not get confused by reading about Beth Chapel in the comics with her superpowers and all that stuff. So all that was so new to me, I had no clue.
When you finally did realize you were playing Beth Chapel instead of an unknown friend character, what was your reaction?
That first day, I did look her up immediately. I was like, "Wait, I'm not in shape enough to be a superhero. I don't look like a superhero." I had instant insecurities and a little doubt because I look at myself and I'm just like, "I'm a 5-foot Black girl with 4C hair and glasses, I'm not a superhero." That's what's so special about Stargirl in general, because it's not about the people who you would naturally assume could be a superhero. It really is: Anyone can be a superhero. We take that into our day-to-day lives, especially right now with the Black Lives Matter movement, it's such a powerful reminder that anyone can do good. Anyone can be a part of it. You just have to be willing to step up and be courageous and do the work.
Beth also feels so revolutionary because of her unflinching enthusiasm. No matter what, she's excited about everything, which feels so perfectly teenage girl. What has it been like bringing that kind of energy to the team?
It's really fun to be that excited all the time. It also takes a lot of green tea to be that excited all the time. But she really is a lot like me; I'm naturally excited just about everything. I think passion is really the heart of it. I'm passionate about my family, I'm passionate about my friends, I'm passionate about acting, I'm passionate about being an awesome Black woman, I'm passionate about Black Lives Matter, I'm passionate about food, everything. It takes a lot of energy to be Beth Chapel, I will admit — she is like Angelika times 10. So it's just like a new level of me. I love that people are getting to see that because we don't get to see extremely positive, excited superheroes. She will come to think things through as people will come to see during the season, she just doesn't in the beginning. She just goes for it, she's fearless, and I love that about her.
We haven't seen Beth in any action scenes yet, unlike Courtney or Yolanda [Yvette Monreal]. What are we going to see from you in that regard this season?
I can say that you will see Beth in really huge action scenes, but not exactly in the way you think you'll see her in them. You'll see Beth develop a love for her goggles and the love for the JSA like none other. Right now she's kind of out of place. She doesn't really have a friend group, she doesn't have best friends right now, they're her parents and already her parents are like, "You need to go find friends." People will get to see how a part of the JSA she becomes and how important it is to her. And then there'll be lots of fun twists along the way.
DC's Stargirl releases new episodes Mondays on DC Universe and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.
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