The Stargirl season two finale is here and for Courtney and the new Justice Society, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Eclipso has his grip on Blue Valley, Courtney seems to be in danger of corruption and god only knows what Cindy Burman’s plans are. Fortunately, the JSA won’t be going it entirely alone, having picked up some new allies over the course of the season.
The most recent of these is Jakeem Williams, the new wielder of the Thunderbolt, whose heart seems to be in the right place, even if he’s yet to fully master his newfound responsibility.
“My audition was like any other audition, but it wasn’t for Jakeem,” shares actor Alkoya Brunson, who plays Jakeem. “The role was hidden behind another character that had similarities. I didn’t know who I was auditioning for, but I knew it was for DC, which was cool.”
Once he got the role, showrunner Geoff Johns gave him the rundown. “Geoff called me, and described Jakeem as a normal kid,” Brunson says. “He stays in his lane. He’s being pushed into all this stuff. It’s a new world he knows nothing about. He’s honestly just a normal nerdy kid.”
Jakeem is brought to the JSA by Mike Dugan, who briefly gained possession of the Thunderbolt before erroneously wishing it away. While Mike wants the best for Courtney, his father and the JSA, it’s safe to say that his feelings towards Jakeem and the Thunderbolt are complicated.
“Mike is horrified,” Brunson explains. “He’s very protective and nervous. We’re both nervous. We’re both panicking!”
In addition to Jakeem, the Justice Society recently gained a surprising return recruit—Charles McNider, the original Doctor Mid-Nite.
“My relationship with Charles McNider has been such a dream come true for Beth,” Anjelika Washington, who plays the new iteration of Dr. Mid-Nite, shares. “To see him in the flesh and realize he’s alive, it changes the world for Beth. Chuck was her best friend through the AI in her goggles and now she’s meeting this person in real life. I played it like falling in love with a best friend over social media, and finally meeting them in person.”
Not all of the Justice Society’s allies have been as trustworthy. This season introduced Richard Swift, a character that can best be described as…shady. When Jonathan Cake was offered the role of the Shade, he was encouraged to make it his own.
“I was told that he was an English Victorian immortal,” Cake recalls. “He was morally complex. I didn’t know the comic books. It wasn’t something I grew up with. But even though I was prepared to take the plunge in, Geoff Johns and (co-executive producer) James Dale Robinson felt like I had an instinct for the character. They wanted to give me the freedom to make it my own.”
Both onscreen and behind the scenes, a team’s success depends on how well they work together, and Stargirl’s cast clearly has plenty of chemistry.
“Trae (Romano) is really an incredible human being, and I’m glad I get to work with him,” Brunson enthuses. “The majority of the scenes I do are with Mike. We really bonded on set and we have some really great scenes. All of them were incredible. Trae is such an amazing actor, and it was so fun to build that relationship as best friends.”
“To have Amy Smart as a dance partner on set is so much fun, because she’s good,” Cake says. “She’s so decent, down to Earth, and fun to work with. I always look forward to their scenes together. There’s something very mysterious about her that I love.”
“I loved watching Jonathan Cake work his magic,” Trae Romano recalls. “During our scenes, I was so invested in hearing Jonathan speak. That's how amazing and in a trance he puts the audience in. Cameron Gellman and I were actually just talking about this, how infectious Jonathan's work is, and how we both just literally sat there in awe listening.”
Even Eclipso is part of the family—at least his young, childlike form. Played by Milo Stein, he may be creepy onscreen, but according to Washington, he’s an utter joy on set.
“I loved working with Milo,” she shares. “He’s an incredible young actor and such a great human. His parents are doing a great job raising him. He was having a very difficult time saying the really racist lines from Eclipso. He didn’t want to say them at all, so I had a conversation with him and shared my experiences. I had the opportunity of working with Steve Harper, the writer, and Geoff Johns, our showrunner, in making sure the lines that were said to Beth were real phrases and sentences that have been said to me personally. I wanted it to be real for Beth. I needed Milo to understand that it was important for him to say those words, and for me to react the way I reacted, to make the story truthful.
“He didn’t want people to hate him. I told him that people were going to understand that it was his character and not him. Once we had that conversation, he was more comfortable and understood that nobody was going to judge him personally.”
Washington actually had more scenes opposite Stein and Nick E. Tarabay, who plays the adult Eclipso, than many of her costars, and found her character growing and developing a lot this year as a result. “Summer School: Chapter Eight” ended with Beth finally overcoming Eclipso, a moment which proved to be a huge turning point for her.
“When her other castmates have fallen to their biggest fears, Beth is the only one who was able to withstand that storm,” Washington explains. “I think she also proved how tough and how strong she really is. Beth has really learned how to be her own person and how to stand in her own power and remind herself that she is powerful. I think it’s very easy for people to write off Beth as a superhero, but I’ve learned in playing her that a lot of our strength comes from our mental and emotional strength. Strength doesn’t always look like being the strongest, being the fastest, or hitting the hardest.”
The shadow of Eclipso has loomed over Blue Valley throughout the season, and each actor had their thoughts on how it affected their character.
“I really enjoyed the Shade’s encounter with Eclipso,” Cake laughs. “That was an exciting and fun scene to film. Even though I got thrown into the Fruit Loop dispenser at the cafeteria, it was still extremely enjoyable.”
Eclipso also struck at Mike Dugan by channeling Cameron Mahkent and playing at Mike’s insecurities over being unwanted by his mother.
“I think that there was actually going to be more of Mike's mother in this season before Corona,” Romano reveals. “Mike's mother has never been in the picture. It's always just been him and Pat. I don't even really know if Mike wants to know his mother at this point in his life. That's something that's probably going to be explored and that's just going to add more stress to Mike. Whatever Geoff wants to do with that, he will, but I'm assuming that Mike's probably not going to deal with it very well because he doesn't really know how to deal with emotions very well in the first place. Having someone like that come back into your life after a while will probably put it into a little bit of a tailspin.”
Another big plot twist this season was the Shade’s betrayal at the end of “Summer School: Chapter Ten,” leaving Courtney at the mercy of Eclipso.
“I don’t see anybody with unspeakable power in our world that is wielding it entirely for good,” Cake says when asked about the Shade’s moral ambiguity. “The temptation to use that power for your own end, or to get what you want at the expense of others is so enormous. He’s over two hundred years old. He’s endured so much, seen so much, has lost so many significant people in his life, while he’s continued. He’s desperate for new experiences. He’s addicted to unpredictability. I think it’s the only way he feels like he’s alive after all these years.”
In the end, Barbara convinces the Shade to rescue Courtney from the Shadowlands.
“Their relationship wasn’t something I originally understood,” Cake admits. “I don’t think Shade truly understood it himself. I think she’s a very interesting piece of music to him that he is drawn to, that reminds him of something, but he can’t quite understand why. There is something about her that opens up an emotional and spiritual portal into a better world and a person from his past from that world which he has long since left.”
So, what can we expect from tonight’s finale? The cast gave us some small teases about how Stargirl’s sophomore season wraps up.
“In the season finale, you guys will get some really fun explorations of Beth’s relationship with Charles McNider,” Washington shares. “Just seeing how she really feels when she’s alone with him and exploring their friendship that way.”
But lest you think it’s all laughs and cute bonding moments, Brunson has a simple warning that, by this point, probably should be too surprising to Stargirl fans.
“Don’t get comfortable,” he says, ominously.
Stargirl's season two finale airs tonight at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on The CW. Looking for more on Courtney and the JSA? Visit our official DC's Stargirl series page!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.