Neil Jackson breaks down his villainous debut as Icicle on DC's Stargirl: 'Daddy's home'
Warning: This article contains spoilers from episode 2 of DC's Stargirl, now streaming on DC Universe.
"So which one of the bad guys is next?"
As Courtney (Brec Bassinger) officially chooses her stepfather, Pat (Luke Wilson), as her sidekick on DC's Stargirl, making them the duo of Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E., she excitedly wonders which villain they'll take on after their successful showdown against Brainwave (Christopher James Baker). But Courtney, be careful what you wish for.
Episode 2, "S.T.R.I.P.E.," ended on quite the foreboding tease as businessman Jordan Mahkent (Neil Jackson) returned to Blue Valley, Neb., in the dead of night, pulling up in a fancy car and expensive threads, all set to the tune of "The Man," by The Killers. He descended into a secret lair beneath the small town's biggest office, smiled as he passed a gigantic cell holding something massive (and angry), and got up to speed on what happened to Brainwave without showing any worry, because as he confidently says, "I killed one Starman. I can kill another." Ladies and gents, meet the Injustice Society's leader: Icicle.
Jordan, a.k.a. Icicle, is Stargirl's main supervillain, and if Courtney thought Brainwave was scary, she hasn't seen anything yet. Icicle is so ruthless and terrifying that even Jackson was worried the character wouldn't fit into the fun, cheerful world of the new CW and DC Universe series.
"When I was talking with Geoff Johns, the creator of the show, one of the things we were constantly talking about was the tone," Jackson tells EW. "He had his touchstones with '80s classics — Back to the Future, E.T., that kind of stuff — and I kept saying to him, 'You've got two sides of this show.' There's the very fun, lighthearted, colorful Riverdale high school drama, all the stuff with the family. And I felt like at times I was in a completely different show because the stuff that Jordan is a part of is brooding and menacing and sinister."
Jackson remembers constantly telling Johns during filming that he didn't know how the show's two tones would work together. "And when he had episode 2, he took me in his office and sat me down and showed me it on his computer, and like 15 minutes in I was grinning," he says. "I was like, 'Oh, you've done it perfectly.' Then when he finally showed me that bit where Jordan arrives to the tune of 'The Man,' I was laughing out loud. He did a great job marrying these worlds together. S—'s about to get real. [Laughs] Daddy's home."
This isn't Jackson's first time portraying a villain on a comic book series, and it's not even his first time taking on such a role in a Johns series. "We did a TV show 15 years ago called Blade: The Series, which was an adaptation of a Marvel comic," Jackson recalls. "And I knew of Stargirl, but I wasn't a big comic book fan. As a boy growing up in Luton, in England, comic books weren't a big thing back then for us. There weren't comic book stores; the most that my brothers and I knew about comic books were when the cartoons came out of the comic book characters, and obviously the Richard Donner Superman, that kind of stuff."
So when Johns called Jackson in January 2019 about joining Stargirl in the main villain role, he hesitated.
"I got a call from Geoff just saying, 'We're doing this live-action version of Stargirl and I'd love you to come on board and play the main antagonist character of Jordan/Icicle,' and when he told me that the character's name was Icicle, I was like, 'What is this, a Nickelodeon show?'" Jackson says with a laugh. "Because there's nothing about the name Icicle that really kind of instilled a sense of dread. Then he pitched it to me and he told me about this gorgeous backstory that we see in episode 3."
While fans only get a tease of Jordan is at the end of episode 2, it's the next episode that details exactly who Jordan is, how he became Icicle, and what his plans are. "It's the pain of him losing his wife and how that galvanized him into wanting to make sure that nobody suffered the same injustice again, it set him on this righteous path to try to eradicate all the people that led to his wife's death but also to make sure that the community and society is better as a result of that," Jackson explains. "When he pitched it to me, I got it: This guy's not a villain, he's a hero."
Well, not quite. "In his own mind, he sees himself as the only person with the strength of character to make the really difficult decisions to make sure that society thrives," Jackson says. "If it wasn't for these pesky kids [Courtney recruits as heroes], he'd achieve it. That was my in towards the character."
While Jackson did the necessary research and looked up all the different versions of Jordan/Icicle that have existed in the comic books and on TV in the past, he "quickly realized that none of them really applied" to the role he'd been cast to play. "Geoff has created a brand-new version of this with the TV show, and so we concentrated on what this version of Icicle and Jordan is," he says. "What we settled on was his despair. It would be very easy to play him as this menacing, vitriolic, angry person. But I actually said, talking in colors, instead of painting him with a red hue, I think it would be more interesting if we painted him with a blue hue. There's a deep sadness in him. And instead of making him angry, making him incredibly sad, so that all of his actions are laced with his sadness."
In Jordan's mind, "He wishes he didn't have to do this, that society would thrive without his having to make these changes," Jackson says. "But his is the necessary evil that the world needs… in his own opinion."
Jackson can't wait for people to see episode 3, which he says "is a real turning point for me."
"I've played a lot of villains," he says. "Playing the Headless Horseman on Sleepy Hollow was a real gift, and we talked a lot about how to humanize him and how to make it justifiable, and it was a lot of work that we did to understand his perspective on why he was justified in what he was doing. The idea of the sort of Michael Myers, Halloween-esque just juggernaut baddie that doesn't have any redeemable qualities isn't as interesting to me. In this one it was all on the page. Geoff created a character that the moment I read it, I was like, "Yeah!" If I lost the person I loved because somebody else lied and effectively caused them to get sick, I would want vengeance. And not only would I want vengeance, I would want to stop other people from ever having the opportunity to do this to anybody else again."
But Jordan's mission is hardly consequence-free. "In episode 3, there's some dastardly stuff, but there's a lot more to come," Jackson warns. "He does a lot of things where you're like, 'That is dark.' But put through the prism of who he is, it felt justifiable. It was really fun to lean into this stuff and feel righteous in doing it, as opposed to just being evil."
DC's Stargirl releases new episodes Mondays on DC Universe and airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the CW.