Stargirl star Anjelika Washington unpacks Beth’s emotional journey, drops a hint about the season finale, teases Jennie-Lynn Hayden’s return and more.
Beth Chapel’s life just changed forever. In “Summer School: Chapter Eight,” the latest episode of DC’s Stargirl, she came face-to-face with Eclipso in his two forms: as a young Bruce Gordon, and as his true self. However, unlike her Justice Society teammates Yolanda and Rick, Beth found the strength within herself to stand up to her fears and, by extension, Eclipso himself. Now, Beth is armed with the knowledge to help the JSA defeat him — what’s left of it, anyway.
Speaking to CBR, Stargirl star Anjelika Washington broke down Beth’s emotional journey. She explained how Beth’s brush with Eclipso and his racism mirrored her real world experiences, as well as how she approached those scenes with her young co-star Milo Stein. She shared her belief that Beth’s strength comes from her mind and her heart and unpacked why this episode “changes her the most.” She also offered some insight into Beth’s “desperation” to find Charles McNider, dropped a hint about the season finale, teased Jennie-Lynn Hayden’s return and more.
CBR: This is a particularly tough episode for poor Beth. How did you prepare to really put her through the emotional wringer?
Anjelika Washington: You know what? I genuinely didn’t have to do too much. I still feel like we were in the height of a Black Lives Matter movement, and as Beth was being traumatized by an evil racist entity, it wasn’t too difficult, just because that’s where the state of the world currently was at. So I was just living my life.
We are still in a movement of Black Lives Matter, but I believe, in 2020, there was more of a peak moment right before that. So I just was living, is really it. Just was living.
My stomach absolutely twisted the first time Eclipso mentioned “you people.” What was it like for you to confront something as serious and pertinent as racism through this character and this episode?
You know, it was actually very important to me that it felt realistic. It felt very similar to what I have experienced in my life, and what I think a lot of people of color have experienced in our lives, just walking through the world, particularly in this country. So it was important to me that the words he said were words that have been said to me before. It was nice to get to be a part of the writing process a little bit with Geoff [Johns] and our writer Steve [Harper] and just kind of dive into what that real world looks like.
Milo [Stein], the young actor, is incredible. Actually, before that exact scene that you just talked about, he didn’t want to do it, because he didn’t want to say those really mean things. He’s such an ally, and he is so young, but is already aware of racism, and aware of his own allyship and the power he holds with his privilege and using it for good. So we had to have a very real conversation, like, “Milo, it’s okay! We’re just acting, and I actually need you to say these things so it feels real, and so people can actually feel the extent and the severity of the situation.” And then he did, and he did a great job.
Aside from that initial confrontation in “Summer School: Chapter Six,” Beth is the first JSA member to directly confront Eclipso as Bruce, and then in his true form. Tell me a little about working with Milo Stein and Nick Tarabay in these roles.
Working with Milo was so incredible, was so great, just because he’s so young, but he’s so aware of his character, and the creepiness that he can bring. He’s also so extremely professional and, again, was very, very aware of the topic that we were handling.
Of course, in the beginning, he didn’t want to do it, but once he realized, like, “Okay, this is to serve her story. This is to serve Beth’s story, and Beth is experiencing her worst fears that Eclipso has on her, and those are fears that she lives.” She is a Black superhero in this world, living in Nebraska, where she doesn’t always feel valued or seen or even just a part of the team. So it was just a moment for her where she really came up against that.
Working with Nick was also so great because he is very, very — as Eclipso, once he’s in his wardrobe, and all… He’s a very nice man, but once he’s in character, he’s a theater actor, so he is definitely more of a character actor in the sense of he walks and breathes this Eclipso character that is not him at all. Whereas I think the most of us on Stargirl are bits of our own character, where we can flip in and out, but when he is in Eclipso, he is in Eclipso at all times. So that’s really scary, but really, really fun to work with and fun to learn from as an actor and just get to watch him be this evil person.
Even with him, he was very aware of the things he was saying. In Episode 8, there was a moment where he grabbed me and it got really physical for a second. He would always check on me and be like, “Are you okay? Are you comfortable with
this? If I grab your arm like this, are you okay? If I yank you like this, if I push you like that, are you okay?” And every time I was like, “Yeah, that’s fine — let’s do it!” I never get to do stunts, so I was like, “This is the most I’ll ever get, so let’s do it!” So it was really fun.
What do you think it is about Beth that allowed her to overcome Eclipso’s wiles, while her teammates could not?
Yeah, I think we just get to see Beth’s mental toughness in a way that we’ve never got to see before. I notice on social media and in other interviews I’ve done, where people call me the weakest character, the weakest member of the team. I think that that is definitely based on opinion, because we get to see Beth be so mentally strong and emotionally strong, where my other teammates lack, and they actually fell to Eclipso’s power. Eclipso was able to overtake them, but he was not able to overtake Beth.
So I think we just get to see a moment of what powerful really is and what strength really is. I don’t always think it means who can run the fastest and who’s the strongest and who can hit the hardest. Sometimes your strength is how emotionally mentally and stable are you when you’re in situations where you’re confronted with your biggest fears? Beth was able to overcome that in ways for teammates weren’t, and I think that makes her pretty freakin’ powerful.
How does that change not only the way she sees herself, but her place on the JSA?
It definitely makes Beth feel that she has a purpose there. I think, since day one, she has always been like, “I really want to be a part of this team! I really want to be a part of this team,” but maybe didn’t feel 100% valued. I think now she knows her worth more. I think that’s the main part that I’m excited for people to see, and I hope people take that with them, is like knowing your worth and your value, what you bring to the world.
For Beth, what she brings to this team is so valuable, that it may not look like a physicality, but it is definitely valued in ways that other people can’t bring to the team. So I’m excited for everyone to see how Beth changes a little bit. There’s a lot of character development in this season for all the characters, but particularly Beth. This is the episode that, I think, changes her the most. So I’m excited for people to go on this journey of seeing how Beth grows up a little bit.
More specifically, how does this impact Beth’s dynamic with Courtney?
Yeah, Beth and Courtney are going to stay JSA team members, and they are going to work together because they both know that they have a bigger purpose when they’re together. They know that they’re stronger together. But that’s all I’ll say, because it’s really fun!
After I read this episode, I wasn’t sure either if Beth and Courtney were going to be still besties. Like, are they going to be closer friends together, or were they not? So I’ll let you guys explore that on the journey the same way I did, but I for sure can tell you that they will be partnering still. In the good way or the bad way? I don’t know! But they will for sure be together.
Throughout the season, Beth has been communicating with someone who appears to be the real, actual Charles McNider. Why would you say Beth is so focused on finding him, and how will that journey affect Beth?
I think, for Beth, she is so desperate to find him because Chuck was her best friend. Chuck came into her life at a time where her parents were ignoring her. She wanted to be a part of the JSA and they didn’t want her, but Chuck wanted her. Chuck was excited to have her and was excited to be her friend and was excited to show her this new world.
The moment Icicle took that from her, she was devastated. So now that she has this possible chance of meeting the real Dr. McNider/Charles/Dr. Mid-Nite — or so she thinks, right? — she is infatuated with this idea that he could be alive, that he could be real. And if he is, she’s like, “I must find him, because he not only changed my life, but hopefully everything else.” So you’ll see later — I don’t want to give away too much — but yeah, it is a desperate search for Beth. It is desperate.
This season really delves into the difference between bad and evil. How would you define those terms?
That’s a great point. When Geoff and I were discussing — well, Geoff, Andy and I, actually; Andi [Armaganian], our director, who is incredible. When we were all discussing Eclipso and really figuring out Eclipso, [he] is not just a bad person. He’s not just a bad villain. He is evil. He is preying on children and preying on their biggest fears and preying on the worst of the worst.
So for me, it was very demonic, very devilish, if you would. To me, I think evil is what comes to kill, steal and destroy, which I guess is a Biblical term of the devil, but that is just what I think is also evil. I think that is exactly all that Eclipso comes to do, is to kill, steal and destroy however he can. So I think that is evil.
What is one moment or scene you can’t wait for fans to see?
In the rest of the season? I am so excited for people to see our season finale. I think our finale really, really topped the charts of some of the best DC TV finales. I think people are gonna be blown away. I think it was incredible. So much time was put into it, energy, money, hard work — a lot!
We got to go out of town to film it. That was really cool. We obviously stayed in hotels and felt really fancy, like, “Oh my gosh. I’m out of town, filming the finale!” I think there will be a lot of really fun surprises in Episode 8. As we saw, Starman comes back. Well, for Beth’s little dream sequence, right? And all of the old JSA come back for her little dream sequence. So that is really fun. We might get to see more of what Beth is dreaming about in the finale. So I’m very excited for people to see that.
What is one of your favorite memories from set this season?
Actually, you know what? Episode 8, I think, is some of my favorite stuff I got to do. I think working with Joel McHale — even though it was only one scene — working with Joel and Brian [Stapf] and just all of the old JSA members. They’ve all been acting for so long! Louis [Ferrigno Jr.], just all of them. They’ve all been acting for so long, and they’re all such awesome actors. Even though they’re not on our show on an episodic basis, they really do carry this superhero vibe to them when they just walk around set, and they were so fun.
I got them to do a TikTok with me that I’ll be releasing today on my Instagram takeover. So I’m very excited to show everyone the TikTok that I got all of the old JSA members to make with me. They were so down! They were so excited that someone asked them to do a TikTok with them. I thought when I asked them, they would be like, “No, we’re not going to do a TikTok.” I’ve asked Luke Wilson so many times to make a TikTok with me and he has said no every time, but all of them were so excited.
Joel was the first one that was like, “Hell yeah! Let’s do a TikTok! Nobody ever asks me that!” So that was just a reminder that sometimes you just got to ask. You never know what people will say! Sometimes they might say yeah! So I’m very excited for people to see that. They were really fun.
Also, working with Ysa [Penarejo] was so great. She’s such an incredible actress and a great Green Lantern. I have more scenes coming with her through the season that are fairly parallel to the comics. I know she was a bestie of mine in the comics. So it will be nice to see what happens through Season 2, and if we do become besties or not, since she left. Maybe she’ll revisit and we’ll see how that goes!