(Photo by Matt Sayles/The CW)
After what seems like ages, but has actually only been a little less than a year, Stargirl returns to The CW on August 10. And though fans keenly felt those months between seasons, for since Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) and her friends in the Justice Society of America, only a few weeks have passed since they effectively ended the threat of an older generation of supervillains in season 1’s conclusion. Her greatest challenge now is surviving summer school. The decision to pick up so shortly after season 1 was just one of the few things Rotten Tomatoes learned during a press day with Bassinger, fellow stars Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Amy Smart, Luke Wilson, and executive producer Geoff Johns. We’ve rounded up the key details to know (or recall) before you sit down to watch the season 2 premiere.
Summer school will be big part of Courtney’s plight in the new season. So much so that the second year is even subtitled “Summer School” – a choice Johns joked was part of changing the episodic naming convention.
“[In] the first season, every episode was named after one of the characters, one of our cast. I think we would have run out of characters by episode four or five [this season] or strained to do that,” Johns said. “And we wanted to shake it up. I wanted to do a subtitle like this with the Stargirl movie — like, the sequel to Stargirl.”
As it happens, Johns was developing a feature with the character — one of his own contributions to the DC Comics library — for quite some time before the opportunity to make a series appeared.
“It’s also is a lot easier to name the episodes once we decide on a subtitle,” he said. So, instead of individual episode titles, each is a chapter of the “Summer School” story. “We’re telling a serialized story — 13 chapters, rather than single episodes,” Johns explained.
For Courtney’s part, that story begins with her eagerness to be Stargirl.
“It gets her into trouble sometimes, like, how non-reluctant she is,” Bassinger said. “From the very beginning, she is looking for villains — looking for trouble — even though there are none, because she just loves being a superhero so freaking much. And it’s fun to have that. Just as an actor, it’s fun to play such a positive person, because I feel like it brings positivity to me, too, personally.”
Courtney will need that positivity as her eagerness leads to summer school and, of course, those villains she hoped to find.
(Photo by The CW)
In lieu of the Injustice Society, the majority of whom were defeated last year, Courtney and the JSA will face a darker form of villainy via two characters literally shrouded in darkness: Eclipso and The Shade (pictured). The latter, a shadow wielding Flash villain created by Gardner Fox and Harold Wilson Sharp in 1942, was a favorite of Stargirl producer James Dale Robinson – so much so, in fact, he spent much of the 1990s writing him as a sort of “anti-villain” in the pages of DC’s Starman comic book. Johns also said he pitched the character on the first day they began discussing the Stargirl TV series.
“We never had plans to bring him into season 1, clearly, but we planted him in that mural with all the ISA. We wanted to elevate The Shade and make him feel special because he is a special character,” Johns said. “James took him in the ’90s and the 2000s and really gave him a personality and made him an interesting, complex character.”
Johns was also pleased to find the character in the form of actor Jonathan Cake, who he said really “highlights” the layers of the character as developed by Robinson two-plus decades ago.
(Photo by Tina Rowden/The CW )
The other villain, Eclipso, is, “a demonic force in the same vein as a Freddy Krueger or a Pennywise,” according to Johns.
The character, created by Bob Haney and Lee Elias in the 1963, evolved over the decades from petty villain into a force of darkness and evil who uses people’s own regrets and doubts to control them. He also famously slaughtered an entire Justice League team. But for the purposes of Stargirl, at least as the season begins, he is a far more subtle presence voiced by Nick Tarabay. Although, both actor and character will eventually be seen in what Wilson described as a “really cool” costume (seen above in this first-look image).
“When he finally does set foot in Blue Valley for real, and you see him manifest, it felt deserved, it felt scary, and it felt like everything had changed,” Johns added.
The decision to focus on villains powered by darkness was a purposeful choice on the part of the production. As Johns explained, “it was all about darkness versus light, which is very perfect for somebody like Stargirl.” In terms of the characters, he felt it was important to “go up against something like that this season — something that gets inside their heads and tries to expose their fears and their regrets and their guilt and use it against them — and see if these heroes can rise up and stop it.”
It means the show will shift in tone a bit, but Johns assured everyone Stargirl is still “the same show with the same characters that love each other and want to help each other at their core and want to be good and do good and love and be loved and still have humor and heart and all of that.”
(Photo by The CW)
Since Eclipso preys on fear and regret, some of the personal stories only teased in the first season will get examined across the “Summer School” story.
For Monreal’s character, Yolanda, there’s still all the weight of her actions before Courtney came to town. Add to that the consequences of killing Brainwave last season and a new dimension from which to examine it: her faith.
“From the very start, Yolanda’s just really huge on her Catholicism,” Monreal explained. And with that background, the guilt she continues to feel can be interpreted as mortal sins — something which could make her susceptible to certain influences. “There’s all this judgment that she feels, especially after the mistake that she made and then after she killed Brainwave. It adds a psychological factor. And it’s like, ‘do or die.’ She has to escape this psychological factor.”
(Photo by Bob Mahoney/The CW)
Meanwhile, Beth (Washington), still faces a strained relationship with her parents — based on their appearances in season 1, they don’t seem to like their energetic daughter very much. But Washington teased Beth’s parents will “learn a lot about Beth in the best ways.” She also said the most exciting element she cannot wait for viewers to see is the way Beth “learns what is her light and how she contributes to her team.”
Rick (Gellman) still has a hard time feeling at ease in Blue Valley, but he may have bonded with a certain character from season 1 that will prove surprising. Oh, and that’s not a tease about a possible relationship between Rick and Beth. Although Johns said their friendship (or otherwise) is “very deep,” he also said “the slow developing romance[s] in the show is just part of the show. It’s the show’s storytelling.”
It also proved an asset as the show went back into production amid COVID-19 lockdowns and safety protocols. Even the more casual intimacy had to be carefully coordinated to protect the actors. “We needed a rapid test right before a hug,” Smart said.
“Now we fist bump and you just try and put that same emotion into it. I think we did OK,” Wilson quipped.
Gellman felt the emphasis on ideas other than teen romance is one of the show’s strengths: “[We] dig into everybody’s individual mission and challenge. [That might] get lost on the show if we were constantly looking at dating and breakups and feelings hurt and all of that.”
(Photo by The CW)
As viewers will recall from the end of season 1, Joel McHale’s character, Starman Sylvester Pemberton, is seemingly not as dead as he appeared to be in the pilot. McHale will be seen in season 2, but Johns warned those in attendance that his appearances will be a part of a slow-burning storyline.
“In the best comic books, I always loved the long brewing subplots. And the return of Starman, Sylvester Pemberton, is one of those,” he explained. Part of the brewing process is a flashback in episode 209 which features a “Justice Society flashback with the original members, with Luke and Joel and the other JSA founders.” This episode will also feature John Wesley Shipp as the Jay Garrick of Courtney’s Earth (aka “Earth-2” per the conclusion of the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event) — a version of the character he currently plays on The Flash.
Shipp’s appearance is the first acknowledgement of just how close Stargirl is to the Arrowverse.
“To have John play Jay Garrick, The Flash, in Stargirl connects our universe directly with the other shows and also shows that we’re part of a grander universe,” Johns said. He also noted that maintaining the casting across the two programs also “opens up the door to opportunities for us to eventually interact with those characters. And that was important. Just like the comics.” From his comments on the matter, it was clear he is interested in continuing the Arrowverse crossover tradition — although he added, “when we eventually do do it, we’ll do it in a hopefully very special Stargirl way.”
As for McHale? Johns teased there will be more of him in “the latter half of the season.”
(Photo by The CW)
Now that Stargirl is firmly a CW show — its first season was originally produced for the now-defunct DC Universe streaming service — it enjoys one of the network’s great benefits in an early season 3 renewal. As with “Summer School,” it will get a subtitle. Johns even said, “You’ll see by the end of season 2 what that is.”
According to Johns, the writing team is hard at work on the scripts. “We got picked up almost immediately for the third season. We didn’t have to wait for it to air. I think everybody’s super excited. And it’s helped us jump right back into it,” he said. “For me personally, there’s nothing else I’d rather do more than this.”