DC’s Stargirl is well into its first season with the DC Universe/The CW series following the story of young Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) as she finds the Cosmic Staff and becomes Stargirl, ushering a new generation of the super hero team the Justice Society of America in an effort to take on the villainous Injustice Society, protecting the small town of Blue Valley, Nebraska and getting justice for the original JSA in the process. That means Courtney and her fellow teen heroes find themselves coming up against some of the biggest bads in DC comics history — including Paula Brooks/Tigress.
Played by Joy Osmanski, Paula Brooks is one of DC’s most formidable villains as Tigress, but she’s also a force to be reckoned with outside of her criminal efforts. The mother of one of Courtney’s classmates, Artemis Crock, she’s a character with a lot of duality and drive, a helicopter mom to the absolute extreme. ComicBook.com recently had a chance to chat with Osmanski about what it was like bringing Tigress to life, the diversity and representation on Stargirl, and even a little about how Paula Brooks would be a truly terrifying Instagram Mom.
Read on for our chat with Osmanski below!
ComicBook.com: Tigress, Paula Brooks, such a cool character. And honestly, in comics, she is one of the most lethal that has no superpowers. So, she’s a badass. What is it like playing her?
Joy Osmanski: It was amazing. From looking at my past work, there’s nothing I have to compare this to. So for me, everything about this role from the duality of it, to the demands that were placed on me to train and get ready to play a role like Tigress, and frankly, just to feel really at ease as Paula in all the athleisure that she wears, it was intense and oftentimes surreal. And I think what kept it grounded was just interacting with the league of thousands of people that it takes to make something like this happen, the show, and the incredible creative people from the super suits team, to the stunt team, to props, to all the people that give you the physical aspects of the character, that help you click in piece by piece to that being a reality.
Because yeah. Until you interact with all those creative teams, it’s completely in the realm of the theoretical. And if you try to say to yourself as an actor, okay, I’m playing a character that has really a legacy, and I’m playing two sides of a character, it’s too much. Like, your brain can’t quite grasp. So, I was really grateful to start working with all the different creative teams, because that’s really what grounds the character in reality. And from that point on, I was like, okay, now I think I can do this.
Did you know anything much about Tigress before you took the role?
Zero. Zero. In fact, the sides I was given were completely … I think her name was completely different. There was nothing about the character in the sides that told me who she was, nothing. I didn’t know it was a dual character. I didn’t even know the real name of the character. I just knew, I think the sides, as they often are for a new project, were written for the audition. So, they’re written to try to get a sense of you, the actor, in terms of your range and what you will do to play with the character. And so, all I knew was that she was fun and funny and a little bit lethal. And I thought that was really a kick, but then she said so much of it with a smile, and I was like, oh, that’s fun.
That will be fun to play. So yeah. I was in the middle of rehearsals for a play. Honestly, I didn’t give it too much mental space. Like, I prepared for the audition. I had fun doing it. And then I let it go. Like I try, as I endeavor to do, with every audition. But this one in particular. I remember just being like, “Well, that was fun. Okay. Onto opening night of this play.” Like, I really didn’t let it linger in my brain. And then, it wasn’t until I got told that I got the role, but I was like, “Wait, wait that one?” And then when they told me what it was, my mind just did a series of flips. I was like, “Wait, I think this is wrong. I didn’t audition for two characters.” I was completely flabbergasted by it.
Welcome to the world of super heroes and super villains where everybody is two people, sometimes more.
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Just a cursory Google search, I was like, oh my God. What? And I was like, ah, and I’m so glad I didn’t know because that would have really intimidated me. You know? I would have felt indebted to the legacy of this character, and that would have, I think, really, really thrown me. So, ignorance was bliss, and I’m really glad I didn’t know.
Speaking of the duality that we have of Paula and Tigress, she’s got this very public mom persona, and she’s got the super villain side. They’re both similar in a way that they’re both really fierce. When you realized you were playing kind of a split role, how did you prepare for that element of the character?
Well, it was actually a lot simpler than I would have anticipated, because it’s not … Like, you just said it. It’s not as if you have to prepare, for this character anyway, they’re not diametrically opposed. They’re very enmeshed. And I always feel like Paula has become very, very good at creating a front and presenting that front as part of society, as part of a functioning civil society, which she has somehow managed to tame the Tigress aspect of her enough so that she can participate in all those things that she says she loathes, like the bake sales, and the PTA. She hates that stuff, but she’s able to push through it with a smile because that’s what she has to do in order to act out on the Tigress part of her. But you know, when we saw that unleashed in episode six, it had been so long since she and Sportsmaster had been allowed to suit up, right?
So if I could just imagine in my own life, it feels very similar in a lot of ways to the way that we’re all constrained nowadays. And there’s parts of us that just want to run rampant and go out and live carefree, but like, we have to be careful nowadays. So for her, I think the ability to suit up and act on all of her primitive instincts, which is who I think she really is at her core, that must’ve been such a liberation for her. And it certainly felt like that for me as the actor. When she’s Tigress, the role is so physical, but that just naturally becomes the focus of that part of her personality. And all the dialogue that I had as Tigress was such an extension of that physicality, that it was just really fun to do.
And kind of speaking of the fierceness of her as a parent, for Paula in particular, we see the lengths that she will go in order to ensure that Artemis succeeds. And as a mom, I kind of sort of identify with that to a certain extent. What do you think drives Paula as a mother?
I agree with you on that. I am also a parent, and that, to me, was super easy to click into, and you’re right. I think if you’re not a parent, if you haven’t had that experience, you can certainly understand what it’s like to be fierce on someone’s behalf. But, I will say it is primitively different when you have a child. And I was able very easily to understand why she would go to great lengths. Now, I would never go to the lengths that Paula goes to, but yeah, clicking into that desire to protect your child and to help them exceed expectations, that was really simple to do, which I don’t know what that says about me. But, being able to play a role that … I mean, what’s beyond a helicopter parent. She’s like a drone parent. She is like personal drone, right there, hovering over Artemis’s shoulder, ready to literally take out anyone who gets in the way. That is super unhealthy. I wouldn’t encourage that behavior in anyone, but in terms of accessing that impulse as an actor, that was very simple to do.
One of the things about Stargirl is that it’s very unique in a couple of ways. It gives us female characters that are in the spotlight as both heroes and villains, who are very capable in their own right. They don’t need to be somebody’s sidekick, or just the background part of the story. And on top of that, it’s not even just, oh, here’s some white girls. It’s girls and women of every color and different body shapes. And it’s mind-blowingly amazing to see that. What has it been like to be part of a show that is offering that really unique and much needed type of representation?
Well, it’s immensely gratifying. I’ve often been the lone Asian, and as any Asian actor will tell you over the years, we can look at a show, and if there’s already an Asian character in it, well like, well, they got their Asian, and that’s terrifically sad. That’s starting to change. But, the fact that I can be part of this show, which has, like you said, a very diverse cast, particularly among the women … It’s wonderful to see Hina [Khan (Anaya Bowin)], and Anjelika [Washington (Beth Chapel/Doctor Mid-Nite)], and Meg [DeLacy (Cindy Burman/Shiv)], and Stella [Smith (Artemis Crock)].
And it’s kind of mind blowing to me actually. And the fact of the matter is, I’ll be honest with you, until you just said it, I didn’t even really think about it because I guess maybe that’s my desire. That’s my subconscious desire for all these years to have a cast like that, where it’s just a matter of fact thing. Like, Geoff was never like, well, filled that quota. You know what I mean? I feel like the fact that it is so representative of what we would like the world to be, and frankly what the world is, but you’re right. It’s a rare thing to see in a mainstream show. And the fact that it’s done without question and explanation is really, really lovely and evolved, and I hope indicative of where we’re going.
I think it’s interesting that the kids are noticing in a way that’s, I don’t know, giving them something that I guess a lot of us didn’t have growing up.
God, no. I had little to no representation of myself growing up, and it was really traumatic. You know? I mean, we all look to those images as models for who we are and the world we live in, and that does a number on you when you are not White, and you are watching all the other shows that everyone else is watching, and you see no one that looks like you. So yeah. I’ve been really grateful to be part of the show. I’m really proud of it.
It’s wonderful. So, kind of backtracking just a little bit. You talked about the big fight scenes. Did you get to do any of your own stunts?
Oh yeah. I got to do a lot, which was super fun. And by a lot, I mean more than I would have expected. I went into the training for this role just wanting to be strong enough to attempt something that they would give me. I knew that once we were on set … We had a little bit of prep time before, a tiny bit, but the stunt coordinator, Walter, I didn’t meet him until I was on set.
And then, he was able to see what I was capable of and what my limitations were. And because of all the dance training that I had had, that really was the only thing that enabled me to take choreography on the spot and try to integrate it. And Lauren Mary Kim, my stunt double, is incredible. And she was a teacher, a coach. She kept me safe. And then, her work of course is off the charts. She’s the one who’s in the harness flying through the air. And I’m the one that often will do like a punch. So, but yeah. I was surprised at how much they empowered me to do. And I was really grateful for that because it was so much fun. So much fun.
You’ve got all this wide range of interests, this incredibly wide range of experiences. You do all these interesting creative things. You’re Tigress on Stargirl, you offer your voice to the absolutely charming Duncanville. You’re also a mom. How do you do it? How do you juggle it?
Okay. Well, I mean, not always well. I can tell you that. Yeah. As a mom, you get to experience failure in a whole new way, sometimes on a daily basis. And I actually, I used to … Definitely, I have periods where I get down about it, of course, because I’m hard on myself and I want to be the best parent I can be. But I’ve learned, of course over time, that the best parent you can be means accepting that failure is going to be a regular part of your life. And that’s great. It’s okay. And it’s actually really good for your kids to see you fail because they get to see that it’s a human natural thing to do. And of course, how you handle that is really the key thing. Right? So, my 19 year old stepdaughter, she does not live with us primarily.
She’s mostly with her mom, but when we do get to have her with us, she is an immense help. But then, my four year old son and my three year old daughter … Yeah. It’s nonstop, as you know. There is no break. Like, there is no stepping away. And if you do, they will find you. There is no lull. You might catch a spare moment in surprise and be like, oh my God, no one needs me right now? But, that passes in like a millisecond. So, God, for me, it’s just about trying to stay in the present moment, even if that moment is very uncomfortable. Like, there have been so many moments where I’m just not happy. I’m not content. I’m very uncomfortable. There’s other things I would rather be doing. But, I have to try to remind myself that it serves no point really for me to try to live in some other time because I can’t do anything about it.
Like, the only thing I can affect is the immediate now. And let me tell you, this is a constant struggle for me. Like I said, I fail constantly, and it’s not something that is easy. I am not an Instagram mom. I do not believe in that sh-t. Like, I really don’t. I think that sh-t is good for her, not for me. And I feel like, great for her. I can’t do that. So, I just try to be gentle with myself first and foremost. Self care to me is not a facial. It is just being gentle with myself, and forgiving and loving with myself. And then, maybe I can be forgiving and loving with everyone else around me.
You mentioned not being an Instagram mom. And the idea just popped into my head of Paula as an Instagram mom. And you know you can see it.
Oh, it would be a lot of workouts in the stories. It would be a lot of like, “Here’s what I’m eating today. And you should too.” She would be someone you might fear on Instagram. Like, she would bully everyone into following. I don’t know. She’s terrifying.
You follow her for motivation, but then you’re scared to be motivated.
Absolutely. And then you mute her almost immediately because you’re like, actually I don’t want to see that on my timeline. I don’t want that.
DC’s Stargirl airs Mondays on DC Universe and Tuesdays on The CW.
Note: this interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Tim M. Hill helped bring Digital-Overload from a weekly newsletter to a full-fledged news site by creating a new website and branding. He continues to assist in keeping the site responsive and well organized for the readers. As a writer to Digital-Overload, Tim mainly covers mobile news and gadgets.