Despite making it through the rigmarole of the audition process, waiting, and finally booking the part, Brec Bassinger says she didn’t really feel like she was Stargirl — DC’s latest live-action TV superhero — until her first costume fitting for the character’s crime-fighting ensemble known as a supersuit.
During a recent phone interview from her home in Los Angeles, Bassinger thinks back to that day and gushes over her first meeting with Laura Jean “LJ” Shannon, the designer of supersuits not just for Stargirl, but also other DC properties like Doom Patrol, Titans, and Black Lightning.
“At that point, I literally tried on like a sports bra and long Spanx that they’d cut off and, so, at that point, it didn’t look anything like it does today” she says of the early iteration of what would become a patriotic blue crop top and shorts emblazon with white five-point stars and a red belt and gloves.
Bassinger recalls that she had an epiphany during that fitting and thought, Oh wait, they’re custom-making this Stargirl super suit for me. I guess I am Stargirl.
She felt a similar surge when she saw a version of the Cosmic Staff, her character’s weapon of choice that allows her to fight villains through such powers as flying and manipulating energy. Bassinger says now that the design details are “so intricate and beautiful.” She also describes the device as “like Thor and his hammer — it only works for him.”
But being Stargirl isn’t just about cool accessories. The series, which is created by comic book writer and The Flash co-creator Geoff Johns, delves into heavy subject matter like feelings of abandonment, distrust of outsiders, and slut-shaming. All of this is centered in the world of young adults where Stargirl’s regular-girl alter ego, Courtney Whitmore, struggles to fit in at a new school after her mom and step-dad (Amy Smart’s Barbara and Luke Wilson’s Pat) move her and her step-brother Mike (Trae Romano) from Los Angeles to the small and insular Nebraska town of Blue Valley.
“Geoff didn’t want any of that messaging to be in-your-face, and I think Stargirl does a great job of making it very subliminal but still getting the point across,” Bassinger says. “I feel like this is the most effective way to do it because, I feel like, sometimes if it’s so in-your-face, it can make people turn away. But just by throwing it in there in glimpses and also having comedy and heart, I think it creates a really great balance.”
Still, Stargirl does come with its share of (sometimes unexpected) violence and death, and Bassinger is quick to point out that “no one is safe on this show.”
The show opens with a massive good-versus-evil battle involving Starman (Joel McHale) and other members of the Justice Society of America. The scene not only sets up the plot for the series, but also gives a taste into the deep-seated mythology of the DC characters associated with it.
Wilson’s Pat, who was there for the bloodbath, spends a good deal of that and other subsequent early episodes lecturing Courtney — and any audience members who are not experts on this world — on the Society and its roots; for example, warning his step-daughter not to underestimate the power of the Cosmic Staff because it was designed by Ted Knight, Starman’s real name.
Off screen, Bassinger says she’d often run to Johns with her own questions and that executive producer Greg Beeman was her “go-to person” when it came to what she describes as the Stargirl’s frequent “immaculate and crazy” nods to other shows and movies, such as when she glides down Blue Valley’s main street on the Cosmic Staff in a scene that pays homage to the moves made famous by Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movies.
And while Bassinger does have a background in gymnastics and would have loved to have been allowed to do more stunts, she acknowledges that it was safer to let her stunt double, Kristina Baskett, handle most of the heavy lifting. Bassinger admits that she did enjoy the days when she got to be harnessed into wires, such as a scene when she slides across the Staff in an early episode.
But there were some things Bassinger purposefully avoided in an effort to make this Stargirl her own, such as opting not to watch Britt Irvin portrayal of the character on Smallville or Sarah Grey’s on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Both of those shows featured an older version of the character who was not the lead, while this iteration allows Bassinger to devote more time to developing Stargirl’s backstory.
“I feel like playing younger characters is just more fun and, Courtney specifically, is like a optimistic funny character,” says Bassinger, who until now was mostly known for Nickelodeon shows like Bella and the Bulldogs and that network’s TV adaptation of School of Rock. “While a good dramatic scene is fun every once in a while, it’s nice just to be more lighthearted, I feel like, on a day-to-day basis.”
Although Stargirl isn’t officially part of The CW’s “Arrowverse” collection of shows that include The Flash and Supergirl, fans did get a glimpse of some of these characters during the network’s elaborate “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover episodes, which aired this past winter and famously feature the heroes from other programs. Bassinger says there were talks of other crossover opportunities before the coronavirus pandemic shut down Hollywood this spring, but she doesn’t know how it will happen now – especially since her show’s chronology might not match up with the others’ (these programs rely on a multiverse theory, or the concept that infinite universes exist, and while Stargirl is part of Earth-1, not every character is).
There’s also the issue with the title of her character. These shows run for years (The Flash, for example, is in its sixth season). Eventually, her character will grow up and leave high school. Does that mean her name may ever be changed to Starwoman?
“I think she’ll always be Stargirl,” Bassinger says. “Like, even in the comics when she ages, she’s always Stargirl.”