This week's episode of DC's Stargirl was one of the most intense of the DC Universe/The CW series to date. After a series of discoveries in last week's Brainwave", this week's "Brainwave, Jr." saw Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl (Brec Bassinger) deal with her mother's discovery of her heroic secret while Henry King, Jr. (Jake Austin Walker) dealt with not only his new powers and some pretty heavy family secrets, but saw both elements collide with the JSA plus Henry teaming up to save his dad and maybe Blue Valley in the process.
The episode was a huge turning point for the series, but also for Henry in particular. The young man found himself confronted with a major choice and some hard truths about everything he thought he knew about himself and his family with everything culminating into a fateful moment that can only be described as "full circle". ComicBook.com had the opportunity to chat with Walker about his character and the journey in a wide-ranging conversation that touched not only on Henry's story but the significance of that story -- one that is all about the paths we choose and how people are always growing and changing.
Before digging into the chat, just a heads up: there will be spoilers for the tenth episode of DC's Stargirl's first season, "Brainwave, Jr." beyond this point.
ComicBook.com: I am so excited to talk to you. I have talked to so many members of the Stargirl cast over the course of the season. I've talked to Geoff Johns a few times, and I don't think it's a mystery, anybody who reads my coverage at this point, to know that I'm a huge fan of the show. So thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
Jake Austin Walker: Absolutely. I'm a huge fan of the show too. I mean, I'm a little biased, but absolutely.
But you're allowed to be biased. I mean, you definitely play really cool character.
Yeah. I'm so happy to finally be able to talk about it. I feel like I've been having to sit on my hands and just keep my mouth shut. It's been so difficult.prevnext
I've gotten just a tiny taste of that because I've gotten to see screeners and I'm like, "Great. I've got to go rewatch the episode and cry for the 13th time."
I know. What's so funny though is, it's the funniest thing, obviously you hate for people to cry, but I'm so in love when I hear that response, because it's all I ever want, you know what I mean? I remember talking to Geoff [Johns, series showrunner] when we were first talking about this arc, and I was like, "Do you think we're going to be able to get the guy that was kind of slut-shaming in the beginning, for people to actually care about him?" And they did it. They did it. Let me tell you what, they really gave him an amazing full circle, growing as a human being.
Absolutely. And what I think is really great, though, is that you didn't have to get to this week's episode to necessarily start caring about him. We start caring about him pretty early on.
Right. Yeah, no, and I mean, I think that just kind of falls to the power of the writing, and just the team really cared so much about it. I remember before we even started, I knew a roundabout way of what was going to happen to my character, but I never knew how we get there. And the one thing I wasn't even, I don't even go as far to say skeptical about, but the one thing I was just a little interested in was how the art was going to pay off. You know what I mean? Because he is such a little punk in the first episode. He definitely makes himself known. That was my biggest joke, it's like the reveal the first episode, you know what I mean?
When you find out he's Brainwave's son, you're just kind of, oh, okay. That makes sense. It's a shocker, but it's not like... I think it's so funny because I was joking with my buddy Hunter [Sansone], who plays Cameron. And we were joking, I was like, "When it's revealed your dad's Icicle and everyone's just, 'Oh my God, how?'" It's like Henry's Brainwave, they're like, "Oh yeah, that makes perfect sense." No, that's good to hear, though. It's super exciting to have the confirmation, even through you, that even in the beginning you already started to care about him. And it's been really cool seeing it come full circle.prevnext
One of the things when we meet him, even before we know what's happened to Yolanda, we're like, dude, this guy's a jerk. He's a jerk, he's a bully. He's entitled. He's all of these totally negative things. And then as he evolves, you start to see that he's not necessarily bad, he's dealing with a lot of internal pain. We find out that his mom has died. We find out his dad's not great.
No, no, he doesn't have the world's best dad mug anywhere in the pantry. I can tell you that. But yeah, that was a really interesting thing with the character were first starting, too, because when you're doing a character, you kind of want to... I mean, everyone has their own rite of passage, but I'm really big on trying to make a journal or something. I know it sounds all artsy fartsy, but I am big on just trying to get to know someone because, especially, I knew my art going in, and so I knew I had a limited amount of time to really figure out who this person was. And I'm very big on, I hate just writing off people as one note. I hate the idea of being, oh, that was their action. That's who they are that see, they're always going to be, especially for characters on a show because it's just like, that's not how people operate.prevnext
You know what I mean? Unless you're a sociopath or a psychopath, there's normally triggering events, especially when you're early in your development years, your prefrontal cortex and how you're learning decision making stuff, so much is fundamental those early years of your life. And I knew in the show that we weren't going to talk about Henry's mother or pastor or anything. That was only going to be revealed for specific times and stuff like that. So I knew, going into it, I wouldn't be able to tell the audience why Henry feels the way he does. You're not going to be able to until the story's told.
But that's a lot of things I started thinking of immediately. Obviously he has his father that doesn't really celebrate sensitivity and care. It's not something in the household. You know what I mean? And the only womanly figure in his life is his maid, which gives him the sense of control, or do this, do that. And you see just a little smidgen of that. So Yolanda, in my opinion, was always kind of like Henry getting... It's a really interesting situation because when the pictures are leaked, there's a interesting thing where you don't know who did it. You don't really know if it was Cindy. You don't know if it was Henry, and nothing justifying him going along with it, even if he didn't do it.
But one thing that always kind of helped me, not justify, but more just understand why he went along with it if he did love her so much, is because to me it felt like the second betrayal of a woman in Henry's life. Any sort of female interaction or motherly care or any sort of sensitivity for Henry. A good light of compassion in his life, in some way, he felt was just ripped from him and given to everyone, you know what I mean?prevnext
And we don't know, throughout the story, we don't know until a certain amount of time how it really played out. But in the beginning, that's the only thing that made sense to me because there were a lot of questions. When I was first talking to Geoff, I was like, "Well wait, how can he slut shame in the beginning, and then a few episodes later you realize he was super in love with her and stuff?" And it was a really fun thing with him, kind of figuring out that whole dynamic. And I really feel like the fans get a huge payoff in 10. I really do feel like it's so heart wrenching.
So I really feel like it comes full circle. I never wanted to approach Henry as just this bad guy. I knew there was so much to him just from what Geoff has told me. And I'm a big comic guy, so me, I was going down the rabbit hole of Infinity, Inc. and just thinking, oh man, are they going to have Mr. Mind in his head at some point? Has it really the Henry doing any of this? I was really going down a deep dive with it. But yeah, I really loved how these come full circle, and how people gave him a chance, which I thought was really cool.prevnext
Yeah. Well, I think one of the things that's really interesting about Henry as a character, and there's this concept that really comes across in the show, is that children, because they're children, they're teenagers. It's hard to remember that sometimes, but they are still children. They're still making choices and learning, but they're also human. And that's something we see a lot in Stargirl that we don't necessarily see in some superhero genre stuff where there are real consequences, there are mistakes, there's pain and suffering. And for Henry, he's dealing with powers and he's dealing with emotions, and those are the two things he is not familiar with.
Right. Well, and another thing is one thing I thought was interesting is, Henry's the only character on the show who kind of is going through his powers by himself.
Which I thought was such an interesting concept is, once the team gets their powers, they're all kind of unified, right? They're all kind of learning and battling together so they can all keep track of what they messed up on and what they didn't. Henry's literally, I mean, you go from... Yeah, exactly like you said, you go from experiencing no emotion to where you have powers where you can't help but experience every emotion from everyone at all times. And getting to play that turmoil and stuff was beyond fascinating to me because I didn't know, when we first initially signed up, I didn't know how in depth it was going to go.
You know what I mean? I knew it was eventually going to have the battle with when the father stuff. I knew that stuff was coming, but I didn't know to extent of how far Henry was going to go down that rabbit hole. You know what I mean? And it's exactly like you said, these are still kids. I mean, I think of how different I am as a human being from 16 to 18, from 18 to 23. You're still completely growing. And I know I still have so much to grow, so I'm so glad you brought up that point because I try to ride that home a lot. That was one of Geoff's biggest things is he wanted to keep it grounded. You know what I mean?
And I think that's my favorite part of that whole episode is the fact that with all these powers going on and these people in costumes and stuff, you're still getting people to cry. People are still heartbroken. The whimsical idea that everything is not, I guess, overstepping the actual rooted humanity within these characters. And I'm with you, I really agree; I don't think there's many superhero shows on television that kind of touch on it and go as far as Stargirl does.prevnext
Yeah. There really isn't. And kind of something kind of going into that is, there's a quote from The Dark Knight movie, it's "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Henry also kind of does both of those things. He gets to be the villain, but he also dies a hero. That is such an arc.
I'm telling you, I've literally been just over the moon these past few days just because it's like, I know, so I get to finally, like I was saying, talk about it too. And it is one of the most amazing things. And I love how you don't know where he's going to go til the very end. And I think that's what I love so much about this, is those last five to 10 minutes are so fundamental to who he is. Because you still, god, I'd say until the last five, 10 minutes of episode 10, you really don't know who he's going to be. In those moments, he could have chose the opposite path, and you would've been like, you know what?
Yeah. Well, there are even moments within that where you kind of wonder, what is he going to do? I mean, clearly he's going to probably facilitate people getting away, but is he going to choose to stand with his dad and fight them another day and let Cindy out so she can come help? Because he's still struggling. You see it. He is struggling up to the very last minute, on some level.
Oh, absolutely. And that's what's been so fun with fan theories and stuff is, there's people hitting me up and trying to reach out and be like, "Oh, come on, come on, it's the comic book world. He's not dead, this and that. You know what I mean? He's not anti-hero. What's going on?" And it's so interesting because that was the hardest thing with publicity, specifically, is I couldn't really hop on one side. I couldn't be promoting the ISA, but I can't promote the JSA.
So it really was conflicting. As a comic fan myself, it was, hands down, I'm just going to be honest, anti-heroes are my favorite. Jason Todd, the Red hood, come on, you know what I mean? So when I found out he was going to be kind of in that anti-hero route for a little bit, I just freaked out. I personally thought that was just the coolest thing ever. And like I said, it brings him full circle. It just shows our choices don't define us.prevnext
And what's interesting is that it also kind of finds a way to have redemption without completely forgiving him for what he's done either.
You nailed it on the head.
I think that's so important.
Yeah. It's not just like, okay, let's just completely justify all the wrong he did. I love that you pointed that out. It's not necessarily saying that. It's more just saying that people are capable of growth even with mistakes. And that's basically what Henry was trying to tell his father, too. That you're not lost of everything you've done, but you can be better. It's like if you were to choose to be better now, that would at least be important. No, that's such a great point. I'm so glad you brought that up.prevnext
One of the things I think a lot of fans are going to ask after this week's episode is, if Henry had managed to escape and they'd all managed to get away from Brainwave, what do you think Henry would have done next?0comments
Personally, I think Henry, if his dad was alive, I think Henry would have definitely... It's weird. I don't know if he would have joined the JSA in the sense... I think Henry is older than the JSA too, but I think my only thing is Henry strength is unmatched unless it's his father. So if he was with the JSA, I think it would have added this completely new dynamic because he's technically, in my opinion, stronger than everybody.
So I don't know if he would have gone and joined the team, or would have just been kind of like an ally and still do his own thing, figured his story out, because he just figured out his uncle was Starman and all, you know what I mean? There's so many things he was figuring out. So it's like... I don't know. I don't know if he would have joined or would have been an ally, but who knows what the future holds, and who knows? But I know right now his story is complete, and I'm very at peace with it.prev