It’s a really natural fit for Brec Bassinger to play the role of Courtney Whitmore and Stargirl in Geoff Johns’ DC’s Stargirl, because Bassinger is a star in the making. In our phone interview, the down-to-Earth actress was a great ambassador in terms of the series, for her own personal YouTube channel, but also for JDRF, as she has Type 1 diabetes. But really we were happy and a bit lucky to talk to Bassinger about DC’s Stargirl because I don’t think we’ve ever seen a series like this before.
We spoke to Bassinger from her quarantine home in Los Angeles and she was such a kind person to chat with, and, like us, a Gemini. Of course. The following is a condensed and edited version of a fun phone conversation with Brec Bassinger of DC’s Stargirl.
Brief Take: This series focuses on the idea of destiny. You don’t choose the Cosmic Staff, the Cosmic Staff chooses you. How does playing Courtney Whitmore and playing Stargirl feel like destiny to you?
Brec Bassinger: I don’t believe in coincidences, I think that everything happens for a reason. The number of connections that I have with Stargirl on a personal level is insane. Such as (creator) Geoff (Johns) emailed me a week after I booked the role and said: “Oh my gosh, the first time that Stargirl was ever in a comic was May 1999. Brec, you were born in May 1999”. I was like: “Oh my gosh, that’s crazy!”. It’s little things such as that, that I’m in the right place and I’m doing the right thing: destiny!
BT: How has this fairly lengthy process been in terms of booking the role until the series finally debuting?
BB: Kind of like how you mentioned, it’s been really long. In August, I will have been attached to Stargirl for two years. We’d been done filming for almost eight months and I’m beyond ready for the world to see it. Even for the cast starting to film, that was a six month wait. They had everyone else cast and they had to make my Super-Suit. It’s little things such as the making of my Super-Suit and starting filming, of course that has brought me into this moment. I am really ready for the world to see the hard work that we’ve all put into this.
BT: What was your favourite scene to film, or the episode that you’re most excited to show to the world?
BB: Ooooh! One of my favourite moments of filming that popped into my head was the very first scene I filmed with Yvette (Monreal), or Yolanda Montez, becoming Wildcat. Because this was at the very start of the recruiting of the Justice Society of America, which is the arc of this first season, I feel as though the beginning episodes have lots of information and are action-packed, and this fourth episode really introduces the JSA and sort of begins the legacy on which Courtney is set.
BT: What does it mean to you to be a leader, playing a teenage girl that leads the Justice Society?
BB: Oh my goodness, well I said this before, but I grew up loving superhero movies, absolutely loved them. And the one to which I most related, even though it is really recent, was Spider-Man: Homecoming. Because he was in high school and because he was balancing high school as well as being a superhero, this one was the one to which I most related, but I still felt that I couldn’t be Spider-Man. And I feel that with Stargirl…she’s a girl and she’s in high school and she’s a superhero, it’s that perspective and a new interpretation to which more people can connect. Whether it’s to Beth Chapel (Angelika Washington) or to Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), there’s a diversity that I think is really special and important and new. And I hope that even through Pat (Luke Wilson) and Barbara (Amy Smart) there is someone in this show to whom everyone can relate.
BT: You present differently as Courtney Whitmore and as Stargirl. How did you build the characters for both roles?
BB: Yeah, well I feel that whenever I would have on my Super-Suit [laughs], my posture would naturally change, and actually, my Mom, who’s always a stickler for my posture, would like this. But I actually listened to her when it came to Stargirl because, yes, Stargirl would have really good posture and she would have a very confident walk. It was simple things such as this that I would try to change in order to differentiate the two characters.
BT: There is a sort of an awkwardness to Courtney. Into what did you lean when playing that character?
BB: Yeah, I hate to steal your answer, but I have to say ‘awkwardness’, as I feel as though Stargirl is in no way awkward, she’s very confident, very sure of herself. Whereas Courtney, while she is sure of herself and is still this empowered young woman, she does have this awkwardness that naturally comes in that time of many people’s lives.
BT: Geoff Johns mentioned how you are special to him and you feel the same way about him. What do you like best about him?
BB: Oh my gosh, well, first of all: his inclusiveness. I think that what makes him special is the way that he makes everyone else feel special. I know that every cast member, he would sit down, he would call them and he would tell them about their story arc and how important their character is. I feel as though…okay, it’s a funny thing, but it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. And I feel that Geoff kind of fits well in that vein. But something that I really admire about Geoff as well is his sureness. He knows exactly what he wants and he’s not afraid to say it, but he does it in such a [laughs] kind way, it almost makes you feel as though you thought of it, even though he was the one that thought of it.
BT: How do you feel that you are playing a character that is based on his late sister?
BB: I’m honoured that he trusts me with such an important role and an important part of his life. Every day that I walked onto set, I wanted to do well. Of course I always want to do my best when I go to set, but I always want to do well for him because I know what it means to him. And he’s told me about Courtney, his sister, and it sounds as if she was such a lovely amazing person the way he talks about her. Any way I can continue her legacy is an honour.
BT: You identify as a nerd but necessarily as a comics nerd. What was the process for you of figuring this stuff out?
BB: I’m still figuring it out, man, as it is filled with depth – there’s a lot of levels to DC Comics. When I first booked the show, I read volume one and two of Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. just to get a background of Courtney and S.T.R.I.P.E. and Stargirl, but also to understand how comics work because I had never before read a comic book, I had to learn how to read them. They’re laid out differently than an average book. Also, I feel that throughout the season I learned very much about the Justice Society. I mean look at Luke Wilson, he would give TED Talks, as in TED Talk monologues [laughs] in his scenes about the history of the JSA, such as Ted Knight and the Seven Soldiers of Victory and through the episodes, I feel that I have learned very much about the JSA and DC.
BT: What is something that you can tease about the show’s Justice Society?
BB: Oh my gosh! [laughs] It’s a group of misfits that fit perfectly together, as in the most unexpected group of people make the perfect superhero group.
BT: You had said that you knew Luke Wilson from the movie Legally Blonde, but had you had a chance to work with anyone in the show previously?
BB: The only person I actually knew before filming was Jake Austin Walker who plays Henry, because we had mutual friends. Other than that, I had mutual friends with people or Amy (Smart), we went to dinner before, Luke and I met through Geoff when we went to go see S.T.R.I.P.E. for the first time. So by the time that I started filming, I had met everyone. But, okay, here’s a really cool story going back to the whole idea of destiny. Angelika Washington who plays Dr. Mid-Nite or Beth Chapel, she was my roommate in Atlanta, we lived together.
One of my best friends, her name is Sammi Hanratty, she’s an actress as well. And I had told her that I booked Stargirl and she went to church the next day and she was talking to Anjelika Washington at church, and Sammi told Angelika and she said that I have this friend who was up for this one role and she thought it would change her life, and then she didn’t get it and it made her really sad. But then she just booked this HUGE role and it’s going to be SO exciting and I’m SO happy for her and it’s Stargirl. And Angelika, she had no idea who she was talking about and she said “Sammi, you’re not going to believe this, I have a screen test for Stargirl tomorrow“.
And Sammi was saying: “Oh my gosh, my friend from church…” and at that point there were still three people up for that role. Angelika is amazing and of course she booked it, but it could have gone to anyone. Once again, it must be that coincidences are not a thing, come on! I did, I knew Angelika before, because Sammi introduced us and we were like: “Let’s move in together. Let’s be roommates”.
BT: Did you hold onto anything from the set?
BB: Well, Geoff gave me the Cosmic Staff. [laughs] That was pretty awesome.
BT: Do you have the Cosmic Staff with you?
BB: I do! Yeah! It’s very cool! [laughs] I’m hoping one day to put it into one of those glass boxes. I haven’t gotten it done yet, but eventually.
BT: You talk about how you started your YouTube channel to explore the other side of the camera. Who are a few of your directorial inspirations and specifically on this series?
BB: Oh my gosh! Literally every single director that we had on Stargirl was amazing. I mean that, we simply did not have a single bad apple. Lea Thompson, from Back to the Future, who did episode seven, she was great. I feel that she had this control of the set which was cool because she didn’t yell, she didn’t yell once, and people just listened to her. She was also extremely well organized, as with her acting background, she was good at communicating with other actors and telling us what she wanted from the scene. And then Michael Nankin, he did episode three, he possessed this really special quality from a director that I hadn’t yet seen. Every single take it is just: “Do something different. Do this. Try that”, and because of this, it kept me on my toes and it really pushed me as an actor. I think that if I were to direct one day, I would want to do this with my actors because you get different performances with each take.
BT: What do you think of the idea of trying to fight injustice in your real life, as well as on the series?
BB: Yeah, well I definitely live by “kill ’em with kindness”, I find that the best way to move someone is to treat them well. That’s how I tend to go about finding justice. [chuckles] Sometimes my boyfriend gets annoyed because I’m often playing devil’s advocate. I think that it’s interesting in episode five how the character Hourman (Cameron Gellman) says: “I’m not looking for justice, I’m looking for revenge.” And I think that a lot of people can have that perspective, but I definitely think that you don’t have to have revenge to have justice. I choose to stand by that.
BT: How do you feel as though you are fighting on the side of justice by your work with the JDRF?
BB: Yeah, oh my gosh, I want a cure—selfishly and just for everyone else having to deal with it. It’s annoying, it’s such a burden, it takes time every day and health-wise it has a lot of effects. I want to be an advocate strictly for a cure purpose but also for the community. I remember when I got diagnosed, hearing about how Nick Jonas has diabetes and seeing that, it was like: “Oh, I can still be an actor, it’s possible”. Even if I can get through to one kid out there who wants to be an actor, who wants to do something that may seem too big for a diabetic. Diabetes doesn’t stop you from doing anything. I hope that I can be an example of that, just how Nick Jonas was for me.
BT: Will perhaps one day having a crossover with The Flash or Supergirl be of interest to you?
BB: Oh my God! That would be so cool. They are seasoned pros, so getting to be on set with them and learn from them and seeing them do their thing would be such a great learning experience. It would also be really freakin’ cool to be like: “Yeah, I worked along The Flash, no big deal!”
BT: What do you want to give back to your fans and people who support you at this time?
BB: If there’s one thing that I will take away from this quarantine and the pandemic, it’s how relationships are important. Just simply by being there for someone, hugging someone, I was never a hugger ever. But the fact that I can’t hug- when my Mom comes to town, I won’t be able to hug her. Also, it’s about being kind to the people in your life, because you never know when you are going to see them or talk to them again. Don’t take anyone for granted, be there for them.
BT: What would coming back to this series mean to you?
BB: Ah! I sure hope that we come back. Before I started filming Stargirl, I had a Nickelodeon show (Bella and the Bulldogs). And I remember on the Nickelodeon show, I would complain that I was too tired, I was very tired. And then I went about a year without work. And I complained that I wasn’t working. And I was like: “Brec, you can’t do that! You can’t complain when you’re working that you’re too tired, and then you can’t complain when you’re not working that you’re not working”. So, going on to the first season of DC’s Stargirl, I was like: “Brec, you’re going to be tired. But just remember those times when you weren’t working, when this was all you wanted.” Sitting here now, while I go over every moment of DC’s Stargirl, I think that I could have appreciated it more. I think that going back for a season 2, I would be able to do that even more.
Stargirl premiers on DC Universe tonight and The CW tomorrow night