On DC's Stargirl, the quiet town of Blue Valley, Nebraska may have new heroes in Courtney Whitmore/Stargirl and the newly recruited Yolanda Montez/Wildcat, but they also have a villain problem. While most of the villains we've met on the DC Universe series thus far have quietly worked out in the open in their civilian identities, this week viewers were introduced to a member of the Injustice Society who does his work in the shadows: Dr. Ito, also known as Dragon King, a mysterious and menacing villain who conceals his face but unsettles even the chilling villain leader, Jordan Mahkent/Icicle.
Played by Nelson Lee, the character is one that has important ties to Stargirl's story in comics. The father of Courtney's classmate Cindy Burman, it's only a matter of time before Dragon King's machinations collide with Stargirl's quest for justice. ComicBook.com recently sat down with Lee to chat about the terrifying villain he brings to life on the series. As it turns out, while the Dragon King is certainly a difficult and disturbing villain -- one who wouldn't mind figuring out what makes Supergirl tick should there ever be a crossover -- there's a lot of fun to be had playing a bad guy.
We cover a lot of territory with Lee, everything from how he came to be part of the show, his costume challenges, and yeah, that hope for a Supergirl/Stargirl crossover, too. Read on for our chat with Lee and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Nelson Lee: Yeah, absolutely. It was kind of one of the best things about this job is a reunion with the two of them. I mean, Neil and I've been great friends ever since Blade. And Geoff and I, we still been friends throughout the years, but to get to work again together after Blade, after 15 years, it's a real treat. It's like a family reunion. It means a lot because of that.
How familiar were you with the Dragon king character before coming to work on Stargirl?
Yeah. I can't lie. Not at all. It's one of those things. Once, I got it, I've read a lot. Obviously, I read the whole Star Squadron, then read all the Stargirls. I mean, [Dragon King's] such an interesting dark, unknown character, and I love that he's on the fringe, and he's getting introduced to the mainstream.prevnext
When speaking with Neil, he talked about his version of Icicle. And Geoff about kind of the interesting ways that he is reinventing some of these characters that some would call classic, but a lot of people aren't as familiar with like Dragon King. So, they're getting kind of a new, fresh spin. Tell me a little bit about the version you play on Stargirl.
Yeah. I mean, I think the great kind of freedom that we get with dealing with the character that's on the fringe and not as well known, like the Dragon King, is you have a little more freedom. He comes with a little less expectation of like, "Oh, this is exactly how Dragon King should sound. This is how he should move." You just have to comics as reference. And so, there's a bit of freedom in that. And a lot of fun because of that. That flexibility allows us to get really creative.
Geoff was just so amazing and open with me during the whole process of coming up with, what does this guy sound like? What does this guy move like? We're dealing with a character that you don't see anything except his reptilian eyes underneath that hood. So, it's a challenge to try to emote and convey things without any facial gestures, that's completely hidden, with wearing all of his gear, this huge cape. And it was so much fun. And I think that's the... I can't wait for people to see our version of the Dragon King.prevnext
Let's talk about that costume just a little bit. It's both menacing and also just really fascinating. But, also, it looks like it could be a task to wear. Tell me a little about what it's like suiting up?
Oh, it's a very uncomfortable... I always want to make a whole show about super villains actually getting into their gear, because it's not that easy. You need 18 minions putting stuff on. In the beginning, it took us a long time to get everything on, because it's, from even just the makeup underneath to just getting everything on, it took a lot. And it took an entire army, Team DK, the name I affectionately gave all of them. And they were just so wonderful, just holding me up, keeping me cool. Because it was excruciatingly hot in that thing. And I hate to be a little whiny about, but it was. And it was all worth it. But man, in Atlanta summers, it was tough sometimes.
You were shooting in Georgia in the summer.
Oh, yeah. I mean, I'm very thankful that he's more of a layer kind of villain and not an outdoor running in the sun kind of villain. I'll leave that to the icy guy. I'll leave that to Jackson.prevnext
That sounds like it could be a whole spinoff, like in an animated series, Dragon King Icicle Adventures and Icicle has to cool down Dragon King.
Yeah. He needs to all the time. He's the reason, he's the yin to my yang. But, yeah, it was amazing. And also like, as you say, and it's so menacing. The detail in that costume is, it's amazing. LJ and the super suit team just crushed it.
The detail in those suits is just absolutely incredible.
Yeah. And you don't even really even understand till you really get up close. You stand next to me, you see the pattern in material, and you see these little details that you just don't know, but they're there. That's the kind of commitment that just makes it so amazing. Because, yeah, you could just be, "Eh, we'll just make it this material." But you get down and you look real close and you see these patterns, and it just adds to it, that level and those textures. It's an amazing thing what they do.prevnext
Did you have any input or influence on the look and feel of Dragon King, as the person who is inhabiting that character?
I mean, if anything, obviously, I wanted to give them full reign on creativity, especially Geoff's vision of exactly what Dragon King should look like. I think, especially with Dragon King, a poster like what a Neil did with icicle, it's very specific, and I love that they took it completely from page to reality. And that was a thing that... And I didn't mind that at all. I think the only input I had was things like practicality, how did I move in it? How did it feel? Was I able to do much?
Mobility in that thing is limited. All my kudos go to my stunt man. He was amazing at what he was able to do. I could barely walk in that thing. I fell over many times, going backwards.
Navigating in that suit is difficult. And I also... My main weapon in my character is my high collar. I took out many an eye with that thing when I hugged people. That was the Dragon King move, the hug and the eye gouging. I took out Geoff's. I took out Geoff many times. I took out Leah Thompson, our guest director.
How cool was it working with Leah Thompson?
So, so amazing until I poked her in the eye with my collar.
Actually, once we get going, there's actually a really hilarious photo. Because I actually did this thing where I cut out tennis balls and I would stick them on the ends of my collars when we weren't shooting to my delight and everyone else's. I just walked around these tennis balls on it, and I could safely hug people then.prevnext
In comics, you know, Dragon King is Cindy Berman's father. What can you tell us a little bit about that relationship as it translates to TV and Stargirl?
Yeah. I mean, any fans of Stargirl, they know, indeed, that Cindy Burman and even before, Cindy Burman is Dragon King's daughter. And that dynamic is amazing. It's like you said, there is, at the heart of this entire show, is family. And be it villains or the good guys, it's all comes with its own baggage. And mine has a lot of baggage when you think about you're dealing with a hundred year old father, who's spent his life experimenting on himself and others, trying to perfect himself, his daughter, to further his endeavors in the world domination.
And that all translates so interestingly in Stargirl because Cindy's still dealing with just high school. She's dealing with boys and trying to be popular. And then she has to deal with her father who is in a lair, in this outfit, half reptile, half man, hundred-year-old man, giving her orders. It's an interesting thing. And I think that's where we get to have a lot of fun. And that's a great thing to start with. There's actually a lot of interesting humor that is woven in there by Geoff and the writers.prevnext
I know that you guys initially were intended to just be on DCU, but now on CW as well. And during the crisis on Infinite Earths, super mega crossover event of awesomeness, it was established that Stargirl Earth-2. And so this, in theory, opens up the possibility someday there could be crossovers. Who do you think, if there were to be a crossover, who do you think that the Dragon King would want to go up against the most?
That's interesting. I mean, I think absolutely crossing over, I think he'd want to get his hands-on Supergirl. I mean, I think that's the thing. Suddenly, I think Dragon King is so interested in what makes things work and where powers come from. And I think to deal with someone the like of Supergirl, would be his dream, just to figure out how to get in there and figure out what makes Supergirl, Supergirl, and how to take that for himself.prevnext
What has been your favorite thing working on Stargirl?
Again, I say this a lot, but it's the truth. It really is being reunited with Geoff and Neil. I love those guys so much and I loved working with them before. So being able to kind of sit across from Neil in our silly ISA meeting sometimes, this huge table, we're all dressed up, we're all in our villain voices. And it's just like, 'hehe'. It's awesome to share it with friends, and to have Geoff, and be a part of this story that I know is so personal to Geoff, makes it that much more personal to us. It's an honor, and I just have so much fun. I mean, again, we're playing super heroes or super villains, considering, especially the way the world is right down, that little amount of levity and being able to go to a different world, it's nice.prev