Stargirl's Brec Bassinger says 'everyone will see themselves' in new DC series
The newest DC TV superhero has arrived, and she's quite different from what comic book fans have seen before. DC's Stargirl stars Brec Bassinger as Courtney Whitmore, an ordinary teenager who, after accidentally discovering the glowing Cosmic Staff in her basement, unleashes her inner superhero — while also balancing homework and adjusting to life in a new place after her family relocates from Los Angeles to Blue Valley, Neb.
Bassinger knows that centering a comic book TV series on a teenage girl is something totally new — and long overdue. "It's about a teenage girl, that makes a huge difference," she tells EW with a laugh. "I remember when Spider-Man: Homecoming came out with Tom Holland, I thought it was so cool seeing this teenager go to high school and try to balance being a superhero. That being said, I never felt like I could be Spider-Man."
That's why Stargirl feels so revelatory. It's the first time that not only Bassinger, but also many other young people will be able to see themselves represented in a major live-action comic book adaptation. "All those people who loved that movie but felt like they couldn't be [Spider-Man], they'll find themselves in this, whether it's with Beth Chapel/Doctor Mid-Nite [Anjelika Washington] or Yolanda/Wildcat [Yvette Monreal] or Rick Tyler/Hourman [Cameron Gellman] or me being Stargirl," Bassinger says. "Everyone will see themselves in it, and not only enjoy that fun balance of high school and superheroism, but also be like, 'I can be them.'"
Stargirl opens with Courtney less than enthused about her mother, Barbara (Amy Smart), and stepfather, Pat (Luke Wilson), deciding to move the family to a small town. But when she finds the Cosmic Staff and photo evidence of Pat's past as sidekick to the superhero Starman (Joel McHale), it sets her on a path to discovering the truth about her late father, the Justice Society of America, and becoming a hero in her own right by reviving the JSA with a new generation of heroes.
Bassinger is playing the third live-action incarnation of Stargirl, following the character's appearances on Smallville and Legends of Tomorrow. But the CW and DC Universe's version is closest to showrunner and character creator Geoff Johns' heart. Johns, who based Courtney on his late sister, who was killed in a plane crash, told EW that he has dreamed of a Stargirl-centric show ever since she debuted in 1999's Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. comic. While previous live-action appearances depicted her as an adult, Stargirl is more faithful to Johns' original vision, following a teenage Courtney at the beginning of her superhero career.
"Comic books have this historic value, and so getting to be a part of that is such an honor," Bassinger says. "Someone told me this right when I booked it and it really resonated with me: 'You're now part of history. In 100 years when they go back and say, Who's everyone that played Stargirl? you'll forever be a part of that.' That's so special."
Knowing how important this character is to Johns, Bassinger felt even more of a responsibility to do it justice. "Geoff is very open and honest about it," she says. "From the very beginning, he was straightforward. I know it's such a sensitive subject, it's such a tragic thing, so sometimes I wouldn't know how to ask certain questions just because I want to be sensitive to him, but he's so great. This role does mean so much to him, so I feel like every day walking onto set, I wanted to do good for myself because I always like to do my best, but I always wanted to do good for him as well."
But she was grateful for how Johns alleviated any extra pressure on her when it came to taking on such a beloved role. "Any pressures that I felt towards that, his compliments and conversations that I would have with him eased any of that," Bassinger says. "Geoff from the very beginning told me it's definitely inspired by the comics, but it is a new interpretation of them, story-line-wise and also Courtney."
While she was given a lot of freedom to make this version her own, she "wanted to make sure to keep the integrity of the comics."
"She still has that attitude, she's sassy, and that's pretty consistent Stargirl, but then throughout the season, I really wanted to make sure she had the heroic traits," Bassinger says. "I wanted to focus on them specifically, like her optimism. Her determination is one of her best skills, as well as like one of her worst because it can get her into trouble because she does things before she thinks. So that impulsivity is one of the most special characteristics of Stargirl that's pretty similar to this version."
And Bassinger loves how they've translated Courtney and Pat's dynamic from the page to the screen as he becomes her sidekick. "Their story arc is really beautiful," she says. "At the beginning, it's a new family, she catches him in a lie so she doesn't trust him. Also she's a teenager, so she has to sass off her stepdad. Like, that's just a role of being a teenager. But as they get to know each other and she sees how freaking great of a dad he is, where the relationship goes is so special."
She laughs as she adds that one of the most hilarious parts of the series is the Cosmic Staff: "The Cosmic Staff has a mind of its own. It shows its personality. I'm really excited for people to see that."
When Bassinger found out she landed the lead role in Stargirl, she was on her way to the airport to go on vacation. And while she was gone, her mom, excited about her daughter's new role, got the jump-start on researching Courtney's past in the comics. "When I got back, my mom had gone to every comic book store and looked for Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. and JSA, she was able to find Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. vol. 1 and 2," she says with a laugh. "So instantly I read those, and then throughout the course of the season I was able to learn a lot more about the JSA and Ted Knight and just all things DC."
She laughs again as she praises her mom's enthusiasm. "My mom, I swear, her whole closet now is just straight-up stars," Bassinger adds. "There will not be an outfit where she doesn't have a star on it. I'm like, 'Mom, I love you but like when you come to California visit to me, you can't do that. People are going to think we're weird!' But she’s so supportive."
DC's Stargirl premieres Monday, May 18, on DC Universe and Tuesday, May 19, on the CW.