Speaking with TVLine in the Q&A below, Wilson shares how a terrific first meeting with Johns (who based the Courtney Whitmore comic book character on his late sister) — coupled with Pat Dugan’s role as the hapless “equipment manager” for a team of Golden Age heroes — drew him to the freshman series, which recently got renewed for Season 2.
Before we get to that second season, Courtney (played by Brec Bassinger), her mom Barbara (Amy Smart) and stepdad Pat will have to navigate the “pop quiz” that is about to rock everyone’s world — and in turn possibly derail Stargirl‘s heroic mission — in the 11th of this season’s 13 episodes, titled “Shining Knight” and premiering Monday on DC Universe/Tuesday on The CW.
Here is what Wilson had to say about that imminent blast from the past, next month’s finale and much more.
TVLINE | When I spoke to Geoff Johns ahead of the season, he went on about how vested you were, from go, in both the show and the character.
Well, I was really invested first and foremost with Geoff. I just liked him so much when he and I initially met to talk about doing it. We kind of have similar stories — we had come out to L.A. at the same time, like around ’94; he’d driven out from Chicago with a couple of friends, and I’d driven out with my brothers and a couple friends. We were kind of laughing about being “old gunslingers.”
TVLINE | And what about the character spoke to you and drew you in?
Reading it, I was thinking, like, yeah, OK, I like the idea of Pat Dugan, a father and a stepfather who is also not a superhero but kind of “worked for” these superheroes as kind of like the equipment manager, you know?
TVLINE | He’s jogging behind them, lugging a duffle bag of their gadgets.
Yeah! That’s always the way I thought of it because even back in high school, I always would find myself kind of like looking at the equipment managers, thinking, “This is great, this guy’s found a way to be right in the thick of it and a member of the team.”
I wasn’t into comic books. As I’ve told Geoff, I grew up reading MAD Magazine. That’s what I was really into. And if you were backed into a corner, you’d read Cracked. And yet I’ve always gone into comic book stores because I like the vibe, I always got a kick out of the guys that were in there, and I always thought comic book art was really cool. That Roy Lichtenstein kind of pop art thing I always found to be cool-looking. So I liked the idea of going to work for somebody like Geoff who was an expert in this, something that I didn’t know anything about.
This is the first time my nephews have ever watched something I’ve done, and that’s been really fun. Like Geoff said at the beginning, he wanted to make something that had a good feeling, that whole families could watch. And I just thought, “Gosh, I really like that idea.” And sure enough, that, to me, is exactly what he’s delivered.
TVLINE | Have you recommended any needle drops beyond Johnny Cash in Episode 2? [It was Wilson who suggested “One Piece at a Time” for Pat’s corn field training montage as S.T.R.I.P.E.]
[Laughs] I made a lot of suggestions, and it’s always really, really fun when someone takes an idea and actually uses it. You can get used to those guys who are like, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a good idea,” and they never use anything.
TVLINE | No, that song choice was perfect.
That was a song I’d found on some Johnny Cash compilation back in the early ’90s, that I always thought was really funny. Yeah, Geoff’s been great about especially listening, also with the scenes with myself and Trae Romano, who plays my son. When we were in Atlanta shooting, we’d go to basketball games, and I’d go to dinner with Trae and his dad, and we’d kind of come up with ideas here and there. In the last episode, there’s a little scene where Trae says he’s going to come to the garage and spend the night with Pat when he’s having problems with Barbara, and I had that thing where I start to tell Mike that I love him, and he says, “OK, don’t get all shaky on me, big guy!” It takes a certain kind of person to think that that’s funny, like Geoff does and the director did. I love stuff like that, where you have something where like, “OK, this guy’s going to tell his son how much he likes him, and then you’ve got the son saying, ‘Hey, hey, take it easy, big guy.'”
TVLINE | Speaking of Barbara, how are things for the two of them heading into this episode? You were pretty deep into the doghouse for a hot minute there.
Yeah, majorly into the doghouse. I think as things get more serious and as Barb learns more, there’s almost not time to be mad at Pat. She’s got to figure out what her game plan is — getting out of Blue Valley and taking care of Courtney and Mike, and so I feel like we kind of band together, if anything.
TVLINE | The promo for this week reveals that Sam Kurtis (played by Enlisted’s Geoff Stults) shows up in Blue Valley after replying to Barbara’s email. And one of the results, I noticed, is that this is a different kind of episode. There’s a lot of character work going on.
It is different. Since the show started, there’s been that whole thing with Courtney and the locket with the picture and thinking Starman’s her father, and getting told Starman’s not her father by me the whole time, and then Barb breaks it down for her and says, “Starman’s not your father, and Pat’s the only guy that’s ever been there for us.” And then Sam Kurtis shows up, and yeah, it was a really fun episode to do. And the actor, Geoff, did a really good job with it. To me, it was cool because Sam isn’t an over-the-top, sleazy villain, like James Woods in Casino. It’s like, “OK, is this guy a good guy or is he a bad guy?” He seems protective of Courtney, and then there’s this whole thing about the locket that he has that seems very believable and also really heartbreaking to me.
TVLINE | What’s brilliant about Stults’ casting is they did have this conundrum of, “How do you introduce Courtney’s father but he isn’t played by Joel McHale, and yet she’s got a picture that looks like Joel McHale in her locket?” And they solved it.
Oh, big time. I mean, I still look at that picture and I’m like, “Did they like computer blend Joel and the other guy…?”
TVLINE | What can you say about how’s Sam’s return affects Courtney?
It definitely throws her off, and that’s one thing that I’ve always liked about the show and working on the show. When I first signed on, I wondered what it was going to be like to work with all these millennials — actually, they might even be the group behind the millennials! I was like, “Are they going to be on their phone, are they going to be kind of distant?” But they’re all such great kids in real life. Brec played it so well. Her portrayal of Courtney and the thing with the father showing back up was very touching to me.
TVLINE | Also in this next episode, we get to finally spend some quality time with “Justin the janitor.”
Mark Ashworth is from Atlanta — I think he’s Scottish? — and he did a great job. It’s been cool how they laid him into all these previous episodes where you kind of see him at the high school, and you can’t tell if he’s mentally unstable, or really nice, or a villain.
TVLINE | Pat seems almost heartbroken to see this guy in this state, having known what and who he once was.
Yeah, it’s like seeing an old member of the team that seems kind of unstable and doesn’t even necessarily recognize Pat or anything like that.
TVLINE | What kind of a season finale are we going to get in a few weeks, on Aug. 11?
It has always been impressive to me how Geoff and James Dale Robinson, who’s a writer and a producer, have managed to ratchet it up. I don’t watch it on DC Universe; I’ve been waiting until each Tuesday night and watching it [on The CW], and it’s been really fun to do it that way. The table read is the only time I’d ever see the other scenes, so I really am seeing it for the first time, like everybody else, and hearing from, like, my mom and my aunt and her daughters and their kids, saying, “Gosh, this last episode was even better than the one before!” I think people are feeling that the suspense is building. And in terms of the finale…
TVLINE | Will there be cliffhangers? Will it tease a new Season 2 threat?
I think you’re going to learn a lot more about the Injustice Society’s plan — not just for Blue Valley, but for world domination. And there’s an epic battle at the end…. In the best way, it’s a mixture of a big finale and also some closure, but when you look at the overall picture, there’s still major turmoil underneath the surface.
I was kidding around with Brec this week about how, back when we didn’t know if there’d be a Season 2, we’d be watching these episodes, like, “Gosh, this is so great, I hope there’s a Season 2.” But then you always start to prepare yourself for it being just a one-off — “Well, we had a good time.” “We’re proud of the work we all did.” “It was great getting to work with Geoff….” Like, I’ve made movies before that were well-received but nobody saw them, so they were considered failures. So when this got renewed for a second season, I think Brec was like, “You mean I’ve got to start eating healthy again??” [Laughs] I had same feeling! I’ve been eating pizzas and burgers, putting on the COVID 20 pounds, so I was like, OK, I’ve got to get back in shape now. But yeah, I think it’s been really well set up for Season 2.
I remember when we were making the show, I’d go to Geoff Johns’ office and just kind of sit on the couch and read, and one day when I was in there, there was a big white board just sitting there. I looked up at the board, and there’s all this writing and all these plot points—
TVLINE | And you realized you were looking at Season 2?
Yeah! At the time I was already kind of overwhelmed with the Justice Society, the Injustice Society, the Seven Soldiers of Victory… remembering all these names… so I was like, “OK, what the hell is this? How am I going to learn all this [for Season 1]?” And then Geoff walked in, like, “Oh, that’s Season 2. We’re already breaking it down.” I was like, “Thank God!” So yeah, those guys have already got it all planned out. I don’t know what the plan is, but….
TVLINE | Do you know if the production is going to stay put in Georgia, even as a CW original for Season 2?
We’ll shoot it there again. We just don’t know, obviously, when.
TVLINE | So they’re not going to move you to Vancouver?
No, I don’t think so. Not that I know of. My brother, Owen, was two months into a Marvel show (Disney+’s Loki) and they had to hit pause on that, so I’m hoping that we’ll both go back to work in Atlanta at the same time. It’d be fun to live together, with him on a Marvel thing and me on a DC thing. Hopefully it all goes down!