Science-fiction fans are used to the reluctant superhero, someone longing for an ordinary life.
Then there’s the opposite. Courtney Whitmore transforms into Stargirl – eagerly.
“She is so looking for villains, looking for trouble, even (when) there is none,” said Brec Bassinger (shown here), the star of “Stargirl,” which starts its second season Tuesday (Aug. 10) on CW. “She just loves being a superhero.”
To Geoff Johns, who created the character and produces the show, that’s logical. “If you’ve got superpowers, I would think that you’d really enjoy it and you’d leap into things,” he said. At least, that’s the way he might approach it … and, more importantly, the way his late sister would.
Courtney Johns was a regional tennis champion and high school honors student who also spent a week each summer doing such things as building wheelchair ramps.
“She was fearless,” Johns said. “She was always ready to go and always ready to jump into stuff. (She) got into trouble for it a lot, but ultimately, her heart was always in the right place.”
She died at 18 in a plane crash, en route to visit a former exchange student in France. That was in the summer of 1996, shortly before she would have been a freshman tennis player at Villanova.
Three years later, Johns launched his DC Comics character: Back in 1941, DC had a Nazi-fighting hero called the Star-Spangled Kid. In Johns’ new version, teen Courtney moved to the home town of her step-dad. In his basement, she found the “cosmic staff,” that the late Star-Spangled Kid used. The staff doesn’t respond to Pat (the Kid’s former sidekick), but does to Courtney.
That staff brightens Courtney’s life … and complicates things for the actress playing her.
“I’m 5-foot-2 and that thing is six-foot,” Bassinger said. “So I was always, like, tripping over it. The amount of cameras I hit with it, the amount of people I hit with it in the first season …”
By the end of that season, she had mastered it. By the delayed start of the second, she said, the suit was a bigger problem. “It didn’t fit …. I said, ‘I just came from a pandemic.’ I had that quarantine 15.”
Well, it might not have been 15 pounds and the pandemic wasn’t the reason for the between-seasons wait. “COVID didn’t have anything to do with the delay …. It was just our airdate,” Johns said.
He had finished filming the 13-episode first season by September of 2019 … then had to wait. A half-year later, Hollywood was shut down by the pandemic. Two months after that – May of 2020 – “Stargirl” finally debuted; it got a go-ahead for a second season in July and started shooting in October.
The return, after a 13-month layoff, came with COVID protocols. “We needed a rapid test right before a hug,” said Amy Smart, who plays Courtney’s mom. “That threw a real wrench in the romance.”
That seemed minor, the actors say, when their friends were unemployed. “There was such a great gift of normalcy,” said Cameron Gellman, who plays Rick, one of Courtney’s teen-superhero colleagues.
Luke Wilson, who plays the step-dad, agreed. “Everybody was so glad to be kind of out of the house and working that you kind of dealt with the COVID protocol.”
Johns had liked Wilson’s work ever since seeing his debut film (the 1996 “Bottle Rocket”) in a theater. He talked him into doing his second TV series (after “Enlightened”) and first sci-fi show.
As it happened, Owen Wilson (Luke’s older brother) was filming his first sci-fi series (Marvel’s“Loki”) at the same time, in the same city (Atlanta).
“We actually did live together for a little over a month; it was really fun,” Luke said, adding, tongue-in-cheek: “I don’t know if you’ve ever lived with anybody in the Marvel Universe, but odd people – very, very odd people …. I never did understand the plot of ‘Loki.’ I had it explained to me a number of times. Never got the plot of it.”
As opposed to a logical plot about a teen whose stepdad has a giant robot and a magic staff that responds only to her, in a town filled with old villains and new teen superheroes who ….
Well, never mind. It’s a fun show.