The series is streaming now on Netflix.
There are probably few things cooler than being twenty-something and getting the opportunity to play a superhero on screen.
This sentiment is echoed by Brec Bassinger, who portrays Stargirl in the eponymous television series based on the DC Comics character created by Geoff Johns and artist Lee Moder in the 90s.
The vibrant young American actress (Bella and the Bulldogs, The Haunted Hathaways) told City Times in a Zoom conversation how she felt when she first got the role, and what playing Stargirl means to her.
“It’s extremely surreal! I’ve been acting professionally since I was 13 - so ten years now - and I don’t think in my wildest dreams I thought I’d get to be a superhero and be part of such a huge universe that’s been around for decades. So firstly, it’s been an honour, because they entrust you to play this comic book character that’s been around for years, and secondly, it’s been truly dream-fulfilling!”
Courtney Whitmore (Brec), a teenager whose dream life in Los Angeles is upended by a move to Nebraska, discovers a cosmic staff, a powerful weapon that kickstarts her journey to becoming the superhero Stargirl, who inspires a new generation of superheroes to form the new Justice Society of America. Together they battle a slew of daunting villains from the Injustice Society of America. She also has to contend with DC supervillain Eclipso, a former ISA member, who is a regular in Season 2 of Stargirl, dropping August 15 on STARZPLAY.
A teenage superhero
Brec admitted that while she knew of other DC Universe comics, she wasn’t familiar with Stargirl or the JSA which is “very involved in our show”, but all that changed when she bagged the lead role in the series. “I went on a hunt for all the JSA/Stargirl comics I could find and dove in - you can see my comic book collection right there (points to a stack of comics behind where she is sitting).”
Stargirl has in past on-screen representations been portrayed by Britt Irvin (Smallville) and Sarah Grey (Legends of Tomorrow) and made her animated debut in 2004’s Justice League Unlimited. Brec’s Stargirl, she explained, is someone who is getting to grips with being a teenager apart from honing her superpowers.
“Something I love about Stargirl or Courtney specifically is that she’s in high school. So not only is she balancing, like, having a crush, and fitting into a new school, but she’s also trying to figure out how to be a superhero at the ripe old age of 15! So that’s actually one of my favourite dynamics - her learning who she is while also learning who Stargirl is.”
Brec believes one of Stargirl’s strengths, aside from her superpowers, is “her ability to see the light in everyone”.
“Throughout Season 2, she has these realizations but continues to believe that there is good in everyone. You have to sometimes dig really deep, but it’s there.”
Season 2 (called Summer School), she said, takes on a darker tone as compared to Stargirl's first season.
“Something I love about our show is that each season has a different tone. So the first season was very coming-of-age, 80s; one of our inspirations was Karate Kid, (also) Back to the Future; and then going into Season 2, we took inspiration from It and Nightmare on Elm Street, so it’s much darker! Our villain is the epitome of evil, which is a very interesting thing for Courtney to witness because she wants to find the good in everyone, and Eclipso might be the one individual - if you can even call him that - to prove her wrong.”
‘I overthink everything’
How much of herself does she see in her character? How similar is Brec to Courtney/Stargirl?
“I have to say I can totally be the devil’s advocate sometimes in real life, which Courtney can do! I would say we’re different in that she’s very impulsive, which, as a superhero can at times not be the best, because you don’t have a game plan and it can go terribly wrong. But I’m, like, the opposite of the spectrum - I overthink everything - I’m a Gemini through and through; she must not be a Gemini (laughs).”
She has some illustrious Hollywood co-stars in Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde, My Super Ex-Girlfriend) and Amy Smart (The Butterfly Effect, Just Friends) who play her step-father Pat and mother Barbara on the show.
Brec said working with them was a learning experience. “They’ve exceeded my expectations truly because walking into it they both have such impressive resumes; I was a bit intimidated. But they are not only talented and wonderful actors but so humble, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from both of them in not just how to balance a successful career, but staying true to your character and your morals.”
The advent of OTT has seen a spurt in the number of shows that feature comic-book superheroes and audiences, it seems, cannot get enough of them. Superhero franchises and spin-offs are flourishing. Brec shared her thoughts on why she relates to the idea of superheroes and their ever-expanding appeal.
“My answer for this question has probably changed in the past couple of months, and it’s because I’ve gotten to go to conventions; it’s made me realize why I connect to superheroes as well - because superheroes have this secret identity. I feel like a lot of times what I present to other people is not necessarily how I am truly feeling, so I think it’s fun to watch people trying to balance figuring out who they are while also keeping this other side of things secret but not wanting to, and struggling with that battle.
“So I personally just relate to that, you know? Being an actor and having to put on a certain personality sometimes, whether it’s a character, or if I’m in a bad mood but I can’t be because I have to go work all day… I think a lot of people have different scenarios where they might have to feel that way as well.”
Brec, who grew up in Saginaw, Texas, landed her first role at 13 on Nickelodeon show The Haunted Hathaways. Since then she’s worked consistently, on television shows and podcast series as well as films. Is it challenging at times to balance her work life and personal life?
“Yes! And I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. I truly love acting; I hope I get to do it for the rest of my life. I give myself permission to change my mind. As of now, I want to act! But it has surprised me in how challenging it is, how mentally and physically taxing it can be! I’ve worked 20-hour days which is astronomical - I’ve showed up to work at, like, 7am and then wrapped at 3am the next day.
“And so it has been very challenging, and when I’m on hiatus and not filming, I’m doing interviews and auditions, so I have struggled to find time to just rest and relax. But I am very much working towards a more balanced life!”
The future looks bright for Brec, who expressed gratefulness for what she’s achieved so far. She commented on how she was “blessed for work to be consistent so far” in her career, and hopes “God willing, to continue to consistently get work”.
Ending our chat with a shout out to UAE fans, Brec said, “Thank you for watching Stargirl; I know that seems a bit on the nose but, truly, our whole cast and crew have worked so hard on the show and it just fills my love tank to the top when I know people are actually watching it.”
The series is streaming now on Netflix.
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