‘Stargirl’s Luke Wilson: Pat Is ‘Caught Between Being a Parent & a Sidekick’
DC’s newest superhero, Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl (Brec Bassinger), isn’t just inspiring the next generation of heroes. She’s also giving her stepfather, Pat Dugan (Luke Wilson), a boost of confidence.
On Stargirl, Courtney leaves Los Angeles behind for Nebraska with her mother, Barbara (Amy Smart), Pat, and Pat’s son Mike (Trae Romano). Once in Blue Valley, she discovers Pat’s Justice Society past; he was the sidekick to the Justice Society of America’s Starman (Joel McHale). She picks up the fallen hero’s Cosmic Staff just in time as it looks like the Injustice Society appears to be making its present-day return.
Here, Wilson takes us inside Pat’s head and teases what’s to come.
I love that Pat is proud to be a sidekick, but it had to hurt for Starman to be very adamant that he not be the one to carry the torch. How will we see both inform Pat’s decisions?
Luke Wilson: I always thought that was really funny how Pat does think when Starman dies the torch is going to be passed to him. Joel did such a great funny delivery on, “No, not you, anybody but you.”
Even though he is a sidekick, he’s also Courtney’s stepfather and he’s a husband and a father to Mike. As she enlists these other kids that don’t quite fit in at Blue Valley High School [and] puts this team together, Pat’s not just worried about his own kid, he’s worried about these other kids. There’s parental stuff that informs his decisions.
And yeah, he was proud to be a sidekick. With S.T.R.I.P.E., he’s now in the thick of things in a way he wasn’t when he was working for the Justice Society. He really did keep the car clean and took care of the uniforms. He was really an equipment manager from a high school basketball team and a personal assistant.
Courtney picking up the staff brings her and Pat closer together, and she really believes in him.
Yeah, there is that nice shift where he is just this uncool guy who’s married to her mom, then uproots the family to move from L.A. to Nebraska, taking her away from her home and her friends and her school. She then makes that switch to building Pat up. “You can do this. You can help me to accomplish these goals.” That’s where Brec was so good, because in reading the script, it’s on the page, but definitely maybe it was in the back of my mind, “Where are we going to find a kid this age that can be believable giving an adult orders and not only giving him orders but also being parental to me?” It took somebody special to make those scenes work, which Brec really does, and she makes it funny, too.
Courtney gets on Pat’s case about the name Stripesy. But then we get S.T.R.I.P.E.!
When Pat was working for the Justice Society 10 years ago, he didn’t have anything like that and when they’d go into battle, he was not there. Now because of being a great mechanic, he’s built this 17-foot-tall robot. He can help Courtney as they face these different problems and protect her and as they do battle and as they meet more of these villains in Blue Valley, who reveal themselves not only as regular citizens but the villains that they are.
[But] how do you conceal it? Where do you physically hide this thing? How do you operate it? Pat has built it from scratch from car parts that he’s gotten at junkyards. That’s what gives it its retro feel. How do you stay safe in it? And how do you not get caught operating it?
Courtney insists that her father had to be Starman. How does Pat deal with that?
Pat is trying to be fatherly to her and he realizes, “Here’s a kid like any other kid that wants her father and wants to know where he is and what happened and does he love her?” Somehow, she’s gotten it into her head her father is Starman. Pat’s very adamant that her father isn’t Starman. He tries to be gentle about it just because he knows he’s dealing with a kid and her emotions. Even if her father was Starman, he got killed by the villains a long time ago.
Pat and Courtney are keeping everything a secret from Barbara. How does that weigh on him while he’s also dealing with the pressure of keeping his family safe?
Pat is a really good guy and really loves Barbara and here they’ve put this family together with [Mike and Courtney]. She’s really intelligent, really attractive, and [he] feels very lucky to be with her. Pat wants her to know the truth and does not like the idea of her not knowing what’s going on. Probably in the past, while he’s been building S.T.R.I.P.E., he’s been waiting for a time to explain, “I have this history, and here’s what it is.”
Then they make this move to Blue Valley, and she’s from Blue Valley, and Pat’s also trying to figure out what happened in this town, where the trail of the villains went cold. He’s waiting for the right time to tell her and then everything ratchets up when Courtney discovers the staff and something within her makes it work for her.
There are a couple times where Pat goes, “I gotta tell your mother, this is not right,” and Courtney’s saying, “Just wait, we’ll tell her when the time’s right, but we can’t tell her right now.” He is caught in the middle and doesn’t know the right thing to do. He’s caught between being a parent and being a sidekick, and here he’s got another superhero giving him an order.
How long can they realistically keep it from Barbara? Isn’t she in danger being in the dark?
Yeah, that’s where it was funny doing those scenes with Amy, where she didn’t know what was going on. I would kid with her, “Barb just doesn’t know what the heck’s going on, does she?” And Amy would say, “I know, she doesn’t. When’s Barbara going to find out the truth?” Her and Mike, because Mike is a sharp little kid and it’s not right for him to not know what’s going on, too. Of course, probably Barb will know first, but eventually Mike will have to know.
Speaking of Mike, he’s such a funny character.
I can remember Geoff showing me [Trae’s] audition. It was just really funny and he had a couple really funny lines he threw in there, then as I got to know him, shooting down in Atlanta, because he lives down there, I got to be good friends with him.
That was one of the things Geoff Johns and I first bonded over together. I had all these ideas for Mike for some reason. I always have ideas for these more comedic characters. An idea that I hadn’t thought about that Geoff had told me about is me and Mike were on our own for a while, after whatever happened to Mike’s mom, so we are like partners and pals. That to me was cool. I always think back to that great old movie Paper Moon with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal, how they had such a funny partnership.
[With] Courtney, because she’s in high school, which can be a rough time no matter where you are and then having to switch schools and being at this big, new high school, it’s the simple things. Where do you sit for lunch? Even at my age, I feel the tension in a scene like that. Then Mike’s already making friends, playing Fortnite with other guys, has plans on a Friday night, and he plays it so perfectly. Because of the way Trae Romano plays it, he needs to know what’s going on, just like Barb. Even though he’s a kid, he’s not some clueless caricature. He’s a real person.
Pat needs people in his life; he lost everyone in the JSA years ago.
Eventually, he interacts with everybody [in Blue Valley], and that’s the cool thing. You see these people as villains and then also in their normal jobs, which makes it seem all the more sinister. It’s not as if they’ll retreat back to this dark castle. They’re going back to their homes and their kids and their jobs and their families, so there are all these dual roles going on. With Brainwave and Icicle and the Gambler and Dragon King, it’s interesting to see when and where they pop and how they pop up. “Oh, okay, that’s who that is.” That’s part of the fun of the show, how they reveal themselves.
Stargirl, Tuesdays, 8/7c, The CW