[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for Stargirl.]
In the next episode of The CW series Stargirl, entitled “Shiv Part Two,” Courtney (Brec Bassinger) is recovering after getting in over her head in a fight as Stargirl, leading her friends, Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), Beth (Anjelika Washington) and Rick (Cameron Gellman) to investigate one of their fellow classmates. At the same time, town mean girl Cindy Burman (Meg DeLacy) is tired of trying to prove to her father that she’s ready to step up and decides to take matters into her own hands.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Meg DeLacy talked about getting to explore the different sides of Cindy Burman, seeing past the mean girl, how much she learned about her character’s arc prior to shooting anything, the secretive audition process, getting to play a villain on a superhero show, getting her own supervillain suit as Shiv, the unusual family dynamic, Cindy’s goals, and how she thinks fans will react about Cindy’s journey, by the end of the season.
Collider: I love Cindy Burman. She shakes things up, in the most fun way.
MEG DeLACY: Thank you. Thank you so much. She’s so fun.
Up until this two-part story, with “Shiv Part One” and “Shiv Part Two,” she’s really just been the mean girls. What’s it like to get to explore her a bit deeper, and show the audience why she is the way she is?
DeLACY: I’m so excited that the world has finally been able to see the actual underbelly of Cindy. She is your typical mean girl, for the first five or six episodes, and just says really crude, rude things to people with no apologies. It was like, “Okay, so she’s genuinely a bad person.” But getting prepared for this role, and understanding her origin story and her relationship with her father and why she does the things that she does and why she always has to have the last word, it was really amazing to dive into that side. The show did such a perfect job with weaving the elements and revealing it slowly, and it’s really cool to see everyone’s reaction. They’re like, “Whoa, what’s going on with her mom? What’s going on with her dad? How did she get these blades?” It’s nice because every person has more to them than just the surface level.
Did you know any of that, in the beginning, or was that something that you also had to learn?
DeLACY: Geoff Johns was on set, pretty much every day, if any of us had questions. He’s obviously the sole creator of all of these characters, from day one, so any questions that we had, we can just go ask him. I remember talking to him, a couple of times before I shot really anything, about her origin story, and why and how she got here, and her dad. He was super collaborative, too. I was like, “I have some ideas about this. What do you think?” And he’d be like, “Yes, let’s do that.” But I did have most of the information, before we started shooting. There were only a few things that they changed in the writing, maybe a little last minute, or a few weeks prior to actually shooting, that maybe skewed the character a little bit, for a second, but she always had her goal. I always knew the integrity.
When you were in the audition phase of this show, did you know what the show was and who the character was, or was it a very secretive process?
DeLACY: They kept everything super under wraps. When I auditioned for Cindy, there was a lin in the audition scripts, or the sides, that mentioned something about a Dragon King, so that gave it away, just a little, but the names were different. My name for this was Kylie because it sounds like a mean girl name. So, I looked up Dragon King and, by then, I knew that I was playing his daughter, so I was able to connect the dots, but they really didn’t expect you to do that. I was just like, “I have no idea what I’m doing. Let me just see if I can pick out information.” They really didn’t give anything else away. It was a little bit of detective work.
DeLACY: Oh, my god, it’s so fun. I love playing mean characters. In real life, we all have those thoughts, but with her, and with mean characters, in general, you say what you actually think and there are no apologies. You can just walk away and be like, “Okay, bye.” It’s so much fun and so free to put myself away and pretend to be someone else. That’s the most drastic flip. But the suits are insane. The process of tailoring the suit to your body and putting on all of the extra gadgets, my suit is really intricate. It took weeks and weeks and weeks. I was shooting in Atlanta, and I had to fly back, for a couple of days at a time, maybe five or six times, during the whole eight month period, to perfect the suit even more. That was really cool. And then, I had to train in the suit and get comfortable with my body in this tight suit. Getting it on, it took three or four people to help me, every day, and to get it off, too. That was really cool. You really feel like you are in a production. You don’t feel like this is real life, which is unusual. With jobs, you wanna make it feel natural and organic, but this is insanity. There’s nothing natural or realistic about this. It’s just colorful and so not normal. It was cool to jump into that world. The DC Universe is so huge, and it’s such an honor to be part of such a family.
Does it feel very surreal, when you’re doing scenes and you’re in a supersuit, and you’re working opposite a member of the Injustice Society, who’s also your father, and he’s in costume, and you’re both in an evil lair? Is that just very weird?
DeLACY: It’s pretty crazy. You legit feel like you’re in a dream, or in some cool nightmare. That lair is super dark and really, really spooky and cool. The costumes make it even more unbelievable, but more believable. You’re like, “Okay, we’re playing right now. This is ridiculous. You have a hood on. I can’t see your face, but I can hear your voice. You’re sweating, and I’m sweating. I’m walking around and just acting like it’s normal.” It’s so easy to give into the make believe of it all because it’s so surreal.
When Cindy puts the Shiv suit on, she doesn’t put a mask on, which makes it seem like she’s okay with people knowing who she is. Does she realize that might not be the best decision and that maybe she should get a mask to wear?
DeLACY: Completely. She overstepped a little bit, by grabbing her uniform and putting it on without permission. I’m sure that Dragon King was probably planning on some type of face covering, but she also sees through those little masks. She’s a smart girl and she’s not gonna pretend that she doesn’t know who anyone is. She’s smarter than she comes off, but she doesn’t think before she acts, when it comes to getting what she wants or fighting. All she wants to do is prove herself for the ISA. With her relationship with her father and constantly being experimented on, she’s intense.
What do you enjoy about getting to explore that family dynamic? Her home life is certain interesting, but it seems like she would need years and years of therapy. What’s it like to explore that relationship between her and her father and her stepmother?
DeLACY: My relationship with my dad, in the show, is obviously so different from my relationship with my own dad. It’s really interesting to jump toward the other side of things. It was really cool working with Nelson Lee, who plays Dragon King because he’s so great. Even though I couldn’t see his face, I could see his eyes in his little eye slits, and it was so much fun acting with him because the dynamic would change. He would get really intimating, and then I’d be like, “No, I’ve gotta stand up for myself because you taught me how to do that.” It was really cool to find that balance. Sometimes it would be on my end, and sometimes it would be on his side. That was really fun. And I was just so cruel to my stepmom. When I read that Cindy knocks all of the cookies out of her hand, I was like, “Are you serious? I’m gonna do that?” That was really fun. It was a challenge, but also fun because we could just laugh about it afterwards and be like, “Oh, my god, that was horrible.”
What would you say she wants, at this point? Does she want to impress her father, or does she want to make a name for herself?
DeLACY: Number one would be the acceptance of her dad, and just love, because he’s cold and never shows it. She feels like an experiment, and not a daughter. She’s never had a parent figure before, especially in this time of high school and teenage years. Number two would probably be the ISA. Her dad has been working for the ISA, so she’s like, “I wanna be part of something. I wanna be part of a team that is on par with myself.” At school, she’s bored. She’s like, “Everyone is scared of me. No one really wants to be my friend. That’s why I have to go after the new girl because she doesn’t really know who I am. I might as well just try.” And then, number three would be proving to herself that she has what it takes. Even though she’s super confident and she’s at the forefront of everything, she’s insecure, just like so many other people. That’s where her hurt and her issues are rooted from, which is so human of her. So, she has her human qualities too, even though she’s half. So, I think it would probably go in that order.
She has this relationship that she seems bored with. She tries to make friends with Courtney, but that seems more like an experiment. She just doesn’t seem to really know how to actually interact or have feelings about people. Do you think that’s how she’s been raised?
DeLACY: Yeah. She can’t be honest. She can’t be truthful. She can’t really show all of her cards. When her dad was experimenting on her, she thought, “Oh, this is how it’s supposed to be, so I can’t necessarily be myself completely because I’m not myself completely anymore.” It’s really sad.
She has such impeccable style. What’s it like to also get to have that wardrobe to wear?
DeLACY: It’s so much fun. I probably tried on every plaid skirt in Atlanta, no joke. How many plaid skirts I had on my rack, just to pick from on any given day, was insane. They did such an amazing job with my wardrobe, and they made me feel so prim and proper, but then also sassy. We played with patterns. I’m a huge fashion girl. It’s ironic that I like to thrift shop because I had that whole line of, “Oh, thrift store chic,” that’s literally my house. It’s cool to take on a whole other wardrobe. When you have those clothes on, you do feel like a different person. I do feel different, when I’m wearing a cool blazer. It’s a whole other kind of costume.
We always hear that villains are the hero of their own story. In what ways do you think Cindy sees herself as the hero in her own narrative? How does she feel that she’s doing the right thing?
DeLACY: Any decision that she makes, she knows it’s the right one. She just wants to see people go and get what they want, and just screw everyone else in their way. That drive is so forceful, and she wants to see that in everyone else. That’s why she wants to be in the ISA. Everyone else seems like they’re like that. Everyone that she knows in high school, or her life in general, is a little timid. She has that drive of wanting to see that from other people. Whether you’re a villain, or a hero, or a high schooler, or a teacher, or whatever, as long as you get what you want, at the end of the day, that’s her main goal.
These characters seem like they’re taking such a journey, this season. When you learned about where things would end up for Cindy, what was your reaction, and how do you think fans of the show will react?
DeLACY: I think that the audience will understand why what happens, happens. At the end of the season, she’s gonna try to grab her power and try to show everyone that she’s able. I’m not saying that it’s gonna all be successful because she doesn’t really think before she acts, but I think that the audience is gonna love it. Honestly, Geoff is super aware of how he wants these characters to be portrayed and where he wants them to end up.
Stargirl airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.