In the next episode of The CW series Stargirl, entitled “Shining Knight,” Courtney (Brec Bassinger) finds her world turned upside as she unexpectedly has to come to terms with her past, in a way that could seriously affect her new superhero team and their mission to uncover the supervillains that are hiding in plain sight in their small town of Blue Valley. At the same time, Pat (Luke Wilson) discovers new information about the Injustice Society’s evil plan, which brings the two teams dangerously close to an inevitable showdown.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Luke Wilson talked about the fun of getting to be the sidekick to a teenage superhero, getting to be a part of the bigger DC-TV universe, the parallel life and career paths that both he and show creator Geoff Johns have been on, how Han Solo inspired his performance, what it’s like to shoot the scenes where he’s supposed to be inside of S.T.R.I.P.E., finding the Courtney-Pat dynamic with co-star Brec Bassinger, and how he thinks fans will react to the season finale. He also talked about learning that Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor were writing the script for Legally Blonde 3, and how he hopes to reprise his role.
Collider: I absolutely love this show and just how thoroughly delightful it is.
LUKE WILSON: Yeah, I do too. Some stuff that I’m in, I just don’t even watch ‘cause I don’t wanna see myself doing certain things. But this, to me, I can really watch it, like I’m not in it. I’ve also never been in something that really ramps up like this does, so that’s really fun, too.
Originally, this show was only going to be on the DC Universe streaming service, but now it’s also on The CW, and you’re a part of the bigger Arrow-verse and the DC-TV universe. Is it just really cool to be a part of all of that?
WILSON: Yeah, for sure. For me, I’m 48, and I grew up reading MAD magazine. The extent of the superhero stuff was the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, which I saw, and The Incredible Hulk was on TV. I never went into a comic book store before I moved to L.A. I, of course, would have seen them, here and there, and flipped through them, and always thought the artwork and graphics were cool, and the pop art aspect of it appealed to me. I went one time with Mike Judge to Comic Con in New York, where he’d asked me to be the interviewer in a Q & A session with him, and it was overwhelming. It blew me away, just how dedicated those fans are. I’ve always just liked when people are really knowledgeable about something, whether it’s the Yankees or movies or fly fishing. But when someone is totally immersed in something, I know that feeling ‘cause I feel that way about the movies and about Bob Dylan. I’ve read everything that I can get my hands on about him, and I go see him whenever I can, and I watch documentaries, so I know what it’s like to have that thing where your palms sweat when you get something new. Even if it’s something that I’m not into, I can always appreciate when people are so dedicated to something.
Did you know that Geoff Johns had seen Bottle Rocket, was a huge fan of yours, and had written this character with you in mind?
WILSON: No, I didn’t know who Geoff was before. Then, I was like, “Oh, okay, this guy did both of the Wonder Woman movies, he wrote Aquaman, he ran DC, he produced Shazam!, and he’s a legend in the comic book world.” I didn’t know what to expect when I met him. And then, when I met him, we had this really funny lunch. I’m a few years older than he is, but we both moved to L.A., at the same time and in the same way. He’d driven out from Chicago with friends, and I’d come out from Texas with my brothers and friends. And then, he’d gone to work for Dick Donner, and we’d gone to work for James L. Brooks. We were on parallel paths, and laughed about how similar they were, and what it was like being in L.A. when you don’t know anybody and you’re just trying to find your way and being a little overwhelmed. And then, I really liked his writing. I learned that he was one of those guys that’s totally immersed in this comic book world, and he told me the story about when he was supposed to be going to this summer camp, and he would skip it. He’d get dropped off there and go to this comic book store, every day, and I could totally identify with that. He’s like Mike Judge, where they’re these quiet, thoughtful guys, but they’ve got this very rebellious, defiant spirit, to where they’re doing something that they found when they were kids. You can get discouraged about your dreams and get told, “Hey, you’ve gotta grow up. You’re 18 now. Enough with the comic books. You’ve gotta figure out where you’re gonna go to college and what you’re gonna do for a real job.” These guys didn’t give up on it. My brother Owen had it, and Wes Anderson had it. They had a very rebellious streak, where they were like, “Actually, no, I’m not gonna grow out of this.” And Geoff had that. As nice and thoughtful as he is, I definitely sensed that he had that spirit in him.
If you’re going to play a character in a superhero show, it seems like you’d want to have powers. But if you don’t get to have powers, a 17-foot-tall robot is a fun replacement for that.
WILSON: Yeah, exactly. And that still makes him just a regular guy. I did have a funny conversation with Geoff Johns, at the beginning, where we were in his office and I said, “Is Pat Dugan a superhero?” And he was like, “Well, you don’t personally have superpowers. But you have S.T.R.I.P.E.” And I was like, “Right, yeah. So, am I a superhero?” And he was like, “Well, do you consider Iron Man a superhero?” And I was like, “Yeah, I do.” And he was like, “Okay, there’s your answer.” But he had to walk me through it. Back when Pat was working for the Justice Society, I’ve always likened him to being like their equipment manager. He really did take care of like the suits and the cars and probably feeding them. He was like a personal assistant to Starman and the other guys. But now, years later, he actually has built this robot through being a great mechanic. To me, that’s pretty cool.
What’s it like to do the scenes when you’re supposed to be inside of S.T.R.I.P.E.? How is it to gauge what all of that is like?
WILSON: It’s funny you ask that ‘cause I read it and didn’t think twice about it, and then I remember going to Geoff and I was like, “Gosh, it makes me think how good those people are, like Harrison Ford playing Han Solo on the Millennium Falcon, delivering all of this outlandish dialogue that those guys make just totally believable.” It hit me when I was in the cockpit. I had that feeling go through my body like, “That doesn’t sound believable. You’ve really gotta get behind it and deliver it well.” And then, Geoff and I went back and actually watched some Han Solo scenes, and a couple of other things, and it definitely hit me. It shows how good those people are, when they make that stuff believable. It took me a minute to figure out a way to do it. You’re sitting there in a cockpit that’s on the ground, on a sound stage, and there are people standing around and going, “Okay, Brainwave is throwing a bus at you.” You have to just ignore that part of yourself that’s like, “How am I possibly gonna react to that?” It’s so far from doing drama or an emotional scene, but I found it really fun to do. I would just remind myself that this is a different world. It’s like when Owen [Wilson], my brother, went to do a Marvel show (Loki for Disney+), after I’d done Stargirl, and he was just asking me, did I enjoy it? Did I like it? And I said, “Yeah, but I had to change my thinking, and that took the pressure off.” I would think about it like panels in a comic book. That really helped me.
In order for this show to work, you not only have to root for Stargirl, but you also have to really care about the relationship between your characters. What was it like to find that dynamic with Brec Bassinger?
WILSON: Yeah, that was one of those things where it was on the page, but I certainly found myself wondering, “Who’s gonna be playing Stargirl? How old will she be? I’m 47. How am I gonna be working with some kid who’s on Instagram while I’m reading the newspaper?” But that was another thing where Brec was and is so great. I couldn’t believe how hard working and focused she was, to where I would come in and work, here and there, but she was always there. She was either in a scene, or stunt training, or up in a harness, doing green screen stuff. It really made me wanna hit the ground running because she’s one of those people who knows her lines and she knows your lines. She’s really focused and dedicated, and really funny, too. As we got to know each other, doing these scenes, I always thought it was a funny idea that you’ve got this guy, who’s trying to be a father and trying to be a stepfather, and he’s got his relationship with his son while he’s trying to find his way with his stepdaughter, but then he winds up becoming her sidekick. And Brec was so funny about that shift in power and giving Pat orders and telling me what to do, and me being exasperated, where we really had fun doing that stuff.
The fun thing about a show with superheroes is that you can’t have superheroes without supervillains. What can you say about the danger of going up against these villains, and do you feel like it adds a fun extra layer for your character to have this history and connection, when it comes to the Injustice Society?
WILSON: Yeah, I definitely think it’s cool. What I like is that there’s the family stuff, which is funny, and then Brec’s stuff at high school, which is good, funny high school stuff. But then, some of these villains are genuinely scary. I remember first seeing the sketches for Dragon King on Geoff’s wall and being like, “God, who is this guy, with the scalpels and a bloody leather apron?” I think it is cool. Here I am, trying to take care of my stepdaughter, but then, as she recruits her friends, I’m trying to take care of them. And knowing how dangerous the villains are and that they wiped out my crew, 10 years ago, hopefully there’s some real tension there when people watch it.
Without giving away any spoilers, what was your reaction when you read how the season would wrap up and learned about how these characters would be left, and how do you think viewers will feel about it?
WILSON: To me, the end is not the end. It’s kind of like a cliffhanger. I’ll never forget, one time that I was in Geoff’s office and I was just sitting there. He wasn’t even in there, and he had this big writing board on the wall with all of this stuff on there. I was like, “What is all this stuff? Who are these characters?” It was filled with notes and numbers, and this name, and that plot point. I was getting scared and wondering, “Do I not know about this? Am I missing something? How am I gonna learn this? What is this?” And Geoff walked in and was like, “Oh, that’s Season 2.” I was like, “you’re already working on Season 2?” And he was like, “Yeah, I just had some ideas and started putting them down.” Over the course of these episodes, the story just keeps building, and there is a climax, but they’re still right in the thick of things in Blue Valley, with what the villains have set up, as they emerge, and who they are, in real life. When it ends, in Season 2, they’ll still be in that town and so are the villains. It’s not over.
Now that it’s been announced that Mindy Kaling and Dan Goor are going to be writing the Legally Blonde 3 script, and that Reese Witherspoon is returning, has anyone reached out to tell you anything? Are you game to return to that world, as well?
WILSON: Yeah, I’m definitely up for it. Who knows what they’ll be doing. I was always just in the background for Reese’s character, who’s such a force of nature. But yeah, I would certainly be up for another Legally Blonde. I’ve never had the experience where now, women who were kids when it came out, have children of their own that they’re showing the movie to. I’ve never really had that experience before, so that’s really funny. I’ll never forget making that movie, and going back to Texas and having these little girls come up to me. The first time it happened, a little cluster of them came up saying, “Are you Emmett?” I didn’t even know what they were talking about ‘cause I’d forgotten my character’s name. I thought, “Are these kids looking for their dad or their brother? What’s going on?” But yeah, I’d definitely be up for it. Of course, I’m familiar with Mindy Kaling, and somebody told me that Dan guy is a Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer [Editor’s note: Dan Goor is the showrunner of Brooklyn Nine-Nine], so I’m sure they’ll come up with something that’s really funny.
Stargirl airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.