There's something different about The CW's latest superhero series, Stargirl.
While set in the Arrowverse (on an alternate Earth that survived the mega Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover), Stargirl follows Courtney Whitmore, a high schooler with "childlike optimism," series star Brec Bassinger described. "Sometimes it gets her into trouble, but I also think it's her most heroic trait," she said.
Bassinger plays the title character, Courtney Whitmore aka Stargirl, a high schooler who happens upon some superhero artifacts her step-father Pat (Luke Wilson), a former sidekick to the superhero Starman, kept around since the family's move from California to Nebraska.
"I feel like there's this really young aspect—I mean, she's a teenage girl balancing high school as well as being a superhero—and I love that dynamic. I always grew up like loving the coming of age movies, and so I feel like getting to be a part of that as well as being a superhero, it was so exciting. And the scripts, they're well-written, there's a good story," Bassinger said. "I feel like so many times movies and TV shows nowadays can get lost in the action and shock value, but they forget there needs to be a good story. And every single script just kept me on my toes and built upon each other."
The series is based on the DC Comics character Geoff Johns, who also serves as executive producer, TV series creator and co-showrunner, introduced in comic series Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. in the late 1990s. The character was inspired by and based on his sister Courtney Johns, who died at the age of 18 in the TWA flight 800 disaster. "It is her spirit and optimistic energy that I wanted to put back in the world with Stargirl. It is celebratory, forward-looking and positive," Johns said in a letter to press about the series. "I've written a lot of superhero stories in my career, but this is by far the most personal on every level."
Bassinger said she was well aware with how personal the project was for Johns.
"He told me about [Courtney], he told me about her essence…I remember him saying he wanted, because she wasn't able to continually put her light, he wanted to make this legacy so her light could shine on. And it's truly just an honor that he trusts me to do that. And he's been so complimentary, so any pressures I feel towards that, he eases them—truly," she said.
Production created a photo of Bassinger and Courtney Johns together. It was only seen on screen for a short period of time, but Bassinger shared the image on her social media platforms. "I posted on my Instagram, and as I wrote the caption, I got so emotional, just like—[Pauses.] Of course, every single day I went to set, it was a reminder of why we were there," she said. "Geoff being there and feeling his passion, it was a constant reminder, but I get so emotional even thinking about it. Sorry. OK, I'm done. But like, yeah."
Bassinger previously starred in Nickelodeon's Bella and the Bulldogs, The Haunted Hathaways and School of Rock. She's used to being on shows that develop a following, especially ones that skew younger, but being a superhero hasn't added any extra pressure, she said.
"I'm very proud of the person I am. [Laughs.] I really am...I was talking about this yesterday, it's like you're forced upon this responsibility as a role model. I chose to be an actor and I'm very honored that I get to play this role and can be a role model, but also, I'm just an actor. So, I saw this as almost just an added bonus to give me this voice...like I'm able to be a role model. For me, it's not pressure, but just an added benefit," she said.
Viewers will see Bassinger suit up as Stargirl for the first time in the Tuesday, May 26 episode of the series on The CW and she said she vividly remembers shooting the moment back in 2019.
"The first time I saw myself in a costume probably wasn't when we were filming the scene, but that's when I most remember it. It was chilly and we were filming the fight scene against Brainwave that's going to be in the second episode, and it was so surreal. I feel like just putting it on for the first time, I truly felt like a superhero. I felt like this couldn't be taken away from me. It was me. It was mine. So, it was such a surreal feeling," she said.
Sure, Stargirl ended up premiering during the coronavirus pandemic while friends and family members are social distancing, but Bassinger said she hopes the show still brings people together.
"From the very beginning, [Johns] said he wanted to create a show that brought people together. A show that you can sit down and watch with your whole family. A show that your grandma can enjoy, a show that your kids can enjoy," she said. "And clearly right now at the time where social distancing is so important, so even if it's virtually, I still hope that like it can bring people together."
Stargirl airs Tuesdays, 8 p.m. on The CW.