In the next episode of The CW series Stargirl, entitled “The Justice Society,” Courtney (Brec Bassinger), Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), Beth (Anjelika Washington) and Rick (Cameron Gellman) prepare for their first major mission as the new JSA. But when you’re a teenage superhero, it can be hard to tell whether it’s the supervillains that are more dangerous or high school.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Anjelika Washington talked about playing an overachiever like Beth Chapel, how cool it is to get to be a part of a superhero TV show, what it’s like to get your own supersuit, dealing with life or death stakes, her favorite character dynamics, working with the visual effects, and finding their own team dynamics as actors.
Collider: Beth Chapel is the overachiever that we all knew, but never thought about what their home life was like, or what they might be going through, while they’re being the overachiever that we see them as. What do you hope people see in a character like this?
ANJELIKA WASHINGTON: I hope that people see the depth and the light of an overachiever. I would agree that sometimes we have this idea of what an overachiever does and we think that they’re just an overachiever in every area of their life. To be honest, that’s probably very true, but I’m excited for people to see her relationship with her parents and her family and her friends, and see how her world starts to change, once she joins the JSA.
How cool is it to be a part of a show like this, where it’s a superhero show, there’s these teenage characters, it’s a part of the Arrow-verse, and it’s a part of the bigger DC-TV Universe? Is it just cool on top of cool, with a cherry of awesome on top?
WASHINGTON: It is definitely cool on cool with awesome. Overall, it’s a blessing, but I’m also very proud of it. I don’t take any of it for granted, and I wear it with pride, honestly. Not every actor gets to have a job like this, so I’m really, really grateful that I do, and I hope that I get to keep doing it for many seasons. Even having a supersuit is so special. Everything is so heightened and so exciting. I can’t wait to go to Comic-Cons, in real life, and meet the fans. That’s what I’m so excited for.
What was it like to get to go through the process of getting fitted for the suit and getting to work in the suit, but then also see the poster of yourself in the suit?
WASHINGTON: All of that, honestly, feels very surreal. My first fittings were really, really fun, but they were just fittings. It’s just all of this stuff on your body. But the day that I actually put on the suit, with all of it together, was so magical. It really was a surreal feeling. That was the moment where I was like, “Oh, wow, yeah, I’m playing a superhero.” There’s a lot of layers, with the cowl and the boots, and everything, and it’s really hot and heavy. I don’t think we realized, at the beginning, that these supersuits are hot and heavy, but overall, it’s really great. And the he day that I saw the poster, I just got really emotional. I walked into the Stargirl office and I saw my poster hanging on the wall, next to all the other castmates’ posters. Honestly I wanted to just take it off the wall and give it to my mom, right then and there. I just got really speechless. I didn’t really say anything. I just looked at it and was like, “Wow, this is real.” It’s really special.
We’re getting to see the origin of this new JSA team, and your character throws herself into all of this without really stopping to think about what that means. Is she going to start to wonder what she’s gotten herself into?
WASHINGTON: Yes, absolutely. Beth has no idea what she’s doing. She just jumps in, headfirst. She’s gonna learn a lot about being a superhero, and a lot about who the Justice Society is and what their history is, and also the ISA. It’s all fun and games, until it gets serious. That’s really where Beth is like, “Oh, shoot, this is life or death. I didn’t realize that.” That’s gonna be really fun to watch her navigate, and it’s gonna be scary and terrifying. And then, people are also gonna be really proud of her. None of them really know what they’re in for, which is gonna be fun for people to see.
Were there character and relationship dynamics that you particularly enjoyed getting to explore, as this group gets in deeper with each other and has to rely on each other?
WASHINGTON: Yeah, I did. I don’t actually remember the episode, but later in the season, I get to do some scenes with just me and Pat Dugan, played by Luke Wilson, and that’s gonna be really fun. I don’t think people will really be expecting that, and those scenes are gonna be really cool for people to see how I balance with him and how he balances with me. And just, as a whole, I’m excited for the dynamic of people seeing Pat Dugan with all of these teenagers. I don’t think any grown man is gonna enjoy taking orders from 15-year-olds, so that’s gonna be a whole new thing to explore, when they start working together, as a team.
You also can’t be a part of a superhero show without stunts and visual effects. How has that been to do? What is that aspect of it like?
WASHINGTON: It is all your imagination. If you envision it and you get to play, then they will make it real in post. That has been the most exciting thing for me, to see everything come to life. I can speak for me, particularly with my goggles, I was literally just wearing goggles and looking basically in the air and placing things in my mind, as if I could really see those things. And so, it’s been really fun to see how they’ve been able to make my goggles see exactly what I’ve been seeing. When I was on set, I was like, “I hope they can see what I’m seeing,” ‘cause I make everything up in my head and portray it through my facial expressions. So far, I feel like I did a good job.
This team is getting to know each other, at the same time that you guys, as a cast, are getting to know each other. What has it been like to work with this cast, figure out how everybody works, and develop your own dynamic, apart from your character dynamics?
WASHINGTON: From the start, because Brec [Bassinger] is Stargirl, she sets the tone for the entire set, and thank god it’s her because she is a really great human being, in real life. She’s kind, she’s generous, and she’s caring and compassionate, so it allows everyone else to also be those things. We all really, really believe in the story we’re telling, as a whole, so it makes us work really well together. We learned how to work with each other, really, really quickly, which has been really great. We also hang out a lot, outside of set, but together, as a cast. I probably hung out with Cameron [Gellman], three times in the last week. We all live really close, within 10 minutes of each other, and we go to each other’s houses. We filmed this over a year ago, and thankfully we like each other, in real life and as real people. I really think that also shows on camera because we trust each other. I trust them because I know them as people. I know that I can trust them in scenes and I can really rely on them, as a scene partner.
We saw that Beth had a hard time telling Rick about what happened to his parents and how they really died, and that’s just relaying information. How much harder is it going to be for her to really get put into life and death situations and possibly have to save somebody’s life? Is that going to be hard for her to step up and do, or is it something that she’s been waiting for her whole life to do?
WASHINGTON: You’re right, it’s definitely difficult for Beth. She really doesn’t understand what she’s getting herself into, and taking on this journey is a lot of boldness and courage for her. Through the season, you’ll really see how Beth learns to make the decisions, and how her goggles also help guide her to do so. It’s gonna be really fun. You want her to be a part of it, but you’re afraid for her, at the same time. It will definitely have you on the edge of your seat. You’ll be scared for her, but also like excited for her. It’s gonna be fun to watch.
Stargirl airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.