The CW series Stargirl, the latest addition to the DC-TV family and the Arrow-verse, is a delightfully charming story of self-discovery for the teenage Courtney (Brec Bassinger), whose seemingly perfect life in Los Angeles becomes very different when she has to move with her mother Barbara (Amy Smart), stepfather Pat (Luke Wilson) and stepbrother Mike (Trae Romano) to the small town of Blue Valley, Nebraska. But once they’re there, Courtney discovers that Pat has been hiding a superhero-sized secret that inspires her to form a new generation of superheroes to defeat the bad guys.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Brec Bassinger talked about the pressure that comes with taking on the lead role in a superhero series, how cool it is to get to be a part of the Arrow-verse, how excited her family and friends are that she’s playing this role, the audition process she went through, what the first day on set felt like, getting to have her own supersuit, working with the cosmic staff, how viewers should watch out for one of her favorite villains and fight scenes in the eighth episode, and what she hopes people take from watching this show.
Collider: How cool is it to lead a superhero TV series, as this teenage character? What does it feel like to get to take on a character like this?
BREC BASSINGER: I definitely feel like there’s some pressure, especially because comic book fans are so intense. It’s a great fan base, and I’m happy that I’m getting to enter it, but there’s definitely some pressure. I give a lot of props to Geoff Johns, the creator of Stargirl and our showrunner. Any pressure that I had, he dissipated with his love and kindness and passion.
Does it help to have someone like Geoff Johns there, who is so knowledgeable about comics because he is also such a part of them?
BASSINGER: Yeah, he’s been writing them for years. Not only that, but with his work on the big DC films, like Shazam and Wonder Woman, he brought that knowledge onto this set, and I personally feel like it shows in the final product.
Is it also cool to get to be a part of the Arrow-verse and to know that your character shares the same universe as The Flash and Supergirl, and that you could interact with them at any point?
BASSINGER: Yes. At the beginning, we didn’t know we were going on The CW, so while we’re part of like the DC universe, I didn’t know we were gonna be connected to that. The Arrow-verse is huge. I remember filming in Canada, Vancouver, where most of those shows are, probably four years ago, and on the elevator was Stephen Amell. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, he’s here filming Arrow.” I remember fan girling, so now, to be a part of it is so surreal. I didn’t know what we were gonna be a part of, at the beginning, so it was the icing on the cake.
Who would you say, among your own family and friends, is most excited that you’re doing this TV series and playing this character?
BASSINGER: Oh, my goodness, I have such a supportive family. Most of my work before this has been on Nickelodeon, which was such a blast, but they weren’t quite the demographic for those shows, so this is exciting to all of them. We actually have a family friend, who was a math teacher at the high school I went to my freshman year, and he became a really close family friend, through my brother going to that school, and he is the biggest comic book fan. He has been subscribed to the DC Universe streaming app, since the day opened. He’s watched every episode of Titans twice. Awhile back, I got to the first two episodes to watch and show my family, and I invited him over. He knows every single villain there is. He’s read every comic book. So, I feel like he is, by far, the most excited. And I’ve gotten a couple of texts from people who were like, “Oh, I saw you on the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ crossover.” And I was like, “I didn’t know you watched Arrow or The Flash.” And they were like, “I’ve seen every single episode, ever, and I will never miss one.”
What was the process like, for getting a role like this? Did you have to do a whole long audition process? What was the journey like, to getting this role?
BASSINGER: This was actually one of the more simple audition processes that I’ve been through. I had my first audition and, at that point, it was pretty secretive. And then, I had a callback. And then, I had a mix and match. And then, I had a screen test. The same day of the screen test, I actually had a trip to the Bahamas planned. I was supposed to leave on Thursday, and the screen test was on Friday. At that point, I had just been up for a really big show and I had gotten rejected, so I said to my agents and managers, “Can you just ask them if I should actually come in? If I’m not the top choice, I don’t wanna come in. I don’t wanna change my Bahamas trip.” And they were like, “Brec, this is such a big opportunity. You need to.” So, I was like, “Okay, fine.” I changed my Bahamas trip. My three friends that I was going with left without me, and I changed it to Friday night, after the screen test. When I got out, I was on my way to the airport, I was at LAX, my mom was dropping me off, and I got a random call. I didn’t have the number saved, but it was Los Angeles, so I was like, “Okay, I should probably answer it.” And it was Geoff Johns and he was like, “Hey, I wanted to let you know before you went on vacation that you’re our Stargirl.” I instantly started balling. I had not let myself fully get excited because I was scared of rejection, as most actors are, and I finally let myself be excited. So, that vacation was like the best vacation, ever. I was going around like, “I’m gonna be a superhero!”
You talked about it all being very secretive. Did you know, from the beginning, what you were auditioning for, or did you have no idea what it was?
BASSINGER: I had absolutely no idea what it was. To be honest, I had auditioned for the Disney+ Stargirl, a few months before. I was like, “I auditioned for this, forever ago. Why are they bringing this back around?” They were like, “It’s a new Stargirl.” And I had also auditioned for Starlight on The Boys, so I was like, “Is it this?” And they were like, “No, it’s not that. It’s a different superhero.” So, at that point, I was so confused. For my character, they did give the real name. It was Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl. But for almost every other superhero on the show, it was all fake names.
What was it like to walk onto set, the first day of shooting the pilot? Were there a lot of nerves? Was it a lot of excitement? What did that first day feel like?
BASSINGER: Adrenaline, for sure. I’m a very nervous person. Even now, if I go into a meeting with someone, I’ll be shaking. It’s something that I haven’t overcome yet. So, I had a lot of nerves. Our first director, Glen Winter, did a great job preparing me. We had talked a lot and we had a couple of table reads, so I felt prepared, but I just felt nervous. But once I got started, any nerves went away, and it was all excitement.
Obviously, there can’t be superheroes without villains. What would you say to tease the danger and the villains that your character will face this season?
BASSINGER: Oh, my goodness. The ISA has so many iconic villains. One of my favorite villains and action fight scenes is in the eighth episode, and it’s very different because it’s not someone who’s in the ISA.
Courtney is so excited and all-in about becoming Stargirl. Do the villains become more than she bargained for?
BASSINGER: Oh, for sure. At the very beginning, Geoff told me that one of Courtney’s biggest strengths and weaknesses is her passion because she goes into everything full-force, and sometimes without thinking about it, which of course can get her into some tough positions. She takes it seriously, always, because of the personal connection she has to the staff and the JSA, but I don’t think she fully understands how dangerous these people are until certain things happen.
Is there fun in getting to play someone who is so excited about the possibility of being a superhero, as opposed to some of the other superhero characters, who are just so broody and angsty about it?
BASSINGER: It is fun because I get the balance. She’s an angsty teenager, but then also a super excitable superhero. I get to do both.
You also can’t have a superhero show without a supersuit. What was it like to put on the costume, for the first time, and how does it feel to wear it and work in it?
BASSINGER: The first time that I put on the full finished costume was in Los Angeles with the whole supersuit team who, at that point, I’d been working with for six months to perfect the suit. I had over 15 fittings and I had body scans. That thing is intricate. There are so many details that you don’t even see, on screen. The actual blue fabrics are all different intricate star patterns. There are things like that, that make it so special and personal. It’s not only Stargirl, but it’s so fitted to me, that it’s personal to Brec, as well. I have to say, every time I put on that supersuit, I do feel more like a superhero. My posture changes, and I feel more confident. It was a great acting tool to have with me.
I love how pro-active the character is, making her own suit. She doesn’t wait around for somebody to make a suit for her.
BASSINGER: Oh, I know. The suit is so intricate that it took 20-plus people to make it, and we’re supposed to get the audience to believe that Courtney did this herself? Absolutely not! And then, when I watched it, I was like, “Okay, I buy it. She did that.”
How is it to work with the cosmic staff? What’s it like to do scenes with it?
BASSINGER: It was definitely a learning experience. It’s six feet tall. It’s a big staff. It was not only a learning experience for the technical part of it because they handed me a staff that’s supposed to light up when I pick it up. We had some difficulties figuring out what was the best way to do that, and it ended up where, every time I hold the staff, I’m really just holding a light beam and it’s all visual effects, after the fact. But then, there was also the transition of figuring out its personality because it’s a character, in itself. They had to figure out different ways to give it emotions. And I have to say, watching it back, I think the staff is one of my favorite characters. One of our crew members got the designated staff role, where anytime it was supposed to be floating, he would just be laying on the ground, holding it and making it float, off screen.
Courtney is a young woman whose life gets uprooted and she ends up with a family that she didn’t really ask for, so she’s clearly not happy about having a stepfather. But as she learns more about his history and his secrets, they’re really able to bond, in a different way. What do you enjoy about that dynamic between Courtney and Pat?
BASSINGER: I think it’s hilarious. I like it. I personally think that dynamic between Pat and Courtney is hilarious because, even though she’s angsty and, at the beginning, maybe there isn’t love behind it, just a few minutes in, you can tell that she knows that he’s a good guy. She just can’t let him off the hook. She has to mess with him.
How have you taken to doing the stunts and working with visual effects? How physical do things get for you? Do you have to do a lot of training for the show?
BASSINGER: Yeah. I had a week of intensive stunt training, where we w we split the days between gymnastics training, combat training, and bo staff. I have a gymnastics background, so we didn’t focus too much on that. I’ve actually had different fight and combat training, as well. I’ve taken kickboxing and boxing, and my brothers were wrestlers. So, the main stuff that we had to work on was the bo staff because I had zero experience in that, and it did not come naturally to me. I actually went down to Atlanta, where we filmed, two weeks early, and trained every single morning with our stunt coordinator and my stunt double, Kristina [Baskett]. She is absolutely talented. She’s this amazing gymnast, but she can do everything. We are the perfect match for each other. There would be times that I would look on the screen and be like, “Oh, are they doing playback?” And they’d be like, “Oh, no, that’s Kristina out there.” And I’d be like, “Oh, my god, I literally thought that was me.” As the season went on, they loosened the reigns on what I was able to do because I got more skilled and more confident with it. By the end, it was so fun. They would just throw some different choreography at me, on the day of, and I’d get out there and get to do some fake fighting with different parts of the stunt team. It was such an adrenaline rush. It felt really cool.
Is it hard to adjust to doing things with visual effects, that look really cool later on, when they’re added, but can make things feel silly, when they’re not there? Have there been moments that have been particularly funny or fun, involving the effects?
BASSINGER: I wish you could see what it looks like when I’m riding on S.T.R.I.P.E. On the show, it looks very extravagant, but in reality, we’re in this big green screen room and it almost looks like a gymnastics vault. It has two things that I can hold onto and there are different men in green suits, shaking it, so that it looks like I’m riding it. That was fine. And I’m just looking at a tennis ball, a lot of the time, because S.T.R.I.P.E. is not really there for a lot of it. I definitely got well acquainted with the tennis ball. One of the reasons that I hope we get a Season 2 is that, now that I’ve seen how the visual effects look, I personally feel like I could put more into it ‘cause I know what I’m looking at.
What do you think would most surprise people about what it takes to make a show like this?
BASSINGER: The amount of people that it takes. I remember my dad, the first time he came to set with me, that’s just what he couldn’t get over. There are hundreds of people on our crew, and every single person was always busy and always doing things. It’s not like people are just sitting around. It takes the crew to make it.
Courtney immediately has herself convinced that she has a personal connection to Starman, but we don’t know if that’s actually true or not. Will that continue to be a question, this season? Will we get answers, as to whether they’re really connected, like she thinks they are?
BASSINGER: Yes, there’ll definitely be clarity in that.
What can you say about how her friendships will continue to grow?
BASSINGER: They’re the misfits, 100%, and the misfits come together and create the coolest dynamic superhero group. They’re all so different, and I think that’s what makes them work. It’s four completely different brains, coming together to create this awesome team.
Are there things that you’ve grown to love and appreciate about this character, the longer that you’ve played her, that you didn’t necessarily know were there, in the beginning?
BASSINGER: Yeah, probably her childlike optimism, throughout the season. No matter what, she wants to see the best in people. Even when people tell her, “No, don’t trust them, they’re bad.,” she refuses to see it. She wants to see the good in people, and I think that’s such a special quality.
This show has so many elements that can appeal to so many different people. What do you hope people take from watching the show and seeing a superhero like Stargirl?
BASSINGER: I hope a lot of young girls take empowerment from it. People that are coming of age right now, I feel like because of the diversity of the friend group, there’s someone that everyone can relate to. I hope people are able to see themselves in these characters. I also hope that they take away a good laugh or two. There’s some fun humor in it, that I hope people enjoy.
Stargirl airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.