Stargirl's Trae Romano Talks Character Development, New Relationships, and a Darker SeasonJessica Lerner at .
Trae Romano stars as Mike Dugan on Stargirl.
We had a chance to catch up with him right before the premiere of Stargirl Season 2 on Tuesday, Aug. 10
Read on to find out what Trae had to say about what's up ahead for Mike, his relationship with Jakeem and Pat, and a darker tone this season.
What can you tease about the second season?
There's a lot of blurring of the lines of good and evil this season. The villains are beautifully written and very complex. All the core characters and their relationships and conflicts are explored to the nth degree, and you can understand the characters a lot more than you did in season one.
This season they've really honed in this core cast of characters and the ideologies that separate JSA and the ISA. They break that down and say, “Hey, who's the good guy? Who's the bad guy here?" Everything gets a whole lot more complicated and more dramatic -- with good reason -- this season. So it's a different twist on the last season.
So what does that mean for Mike?
Mike’s character takes a little bit of a shift. Once he realizes that there are actual real stakes to this, that this isn’t just rainbows and unicorns, that people can die, and he killed someone, it's a little bit traumatizing for him. So he takes on this a little bit of a darker note.
It’s interesting to see him go through this change of “I killed this person; I feel guilty.” He finds himself almost confiding in the rest of the JSA that has someone like Yolanda. Mike's character does mature because he realizes he has to grow up.
As you probably saw in the trailer for season two, there's an encounter with the Thunderbolt, and it brings him and the character of Jakeem together. That's a cool little storyline that they put in there. Alkoya Brunson, who plays to Jakeem, and I have a great time on set.
We have great chemistry, and it's an interesting look at Mike's character because you always see him pissing everyone else off. And finally, you get this Jakeem character who is pissing him off, and [Mike’s] somewhat having to mentor Jakeem because he's been exposed to some interesting things as well.
Can you expand a bit more on Mike and Jakeem’s relationship?
Mike and Jakeem have been friends … since Mike moved to Blue Valley. But the thing about Jakeem’s character that I think is so funny is that he's a nervous character. He's paranoid about everything.
So it's quite the mix because of Mike, who's just like this ‘happy, go-lucky, do whatever he wants’ character, and then there's Jakeem, who’s always paranoid, and he gets on Mike’s nerves. So it's almost like Pat and Mike's relationship, but now Mike is Pat and Jakeem is Mike, but it's in a very light-hearted friendship sort of way.
It's not like, “Hey, I'm telling you what to do.” It’s more like, “Hey, if we're gonna keep hanging out together, you just got to calm down a little bit.” So it's fun working with Alkoya. He’s a great actor. We have a lot of fun together.
So can you confirm that it's Jakeem wielding the Thunderbolt? Or perhaps it’s your character, Mike, as many speculated online during the first season?
I can neither confirm nor deny either of those things, but the Thunderbolt is a big driving force in Jakeem and Mike's relationship.
Moving on, what is Mike’s relationship with Pat this season? He struggled being kept in the dark, but now that he knows the truth, how does that impact the father-son dynamic?
Yeah, I think he understands the stakes more. We get to see some cool bonding between Pat and Mike the season -- not for long, but it is there -- between Mike is now involved, and he can help out Pat with things and stuff like that. We'll walk. But, as Mike always does, he goes against Pat’s wishes, and that derails everything.
So Mike and Pat's relationship is relatively the same, and there are some ups and downs this season. It's not as one-note; it's a lot of different things playing into their relationship. Because it's this, “Hey, I told you forever that you don't want to get involved with this, and now that you have, I can't help you anymore.”
So it's something that could have been avoided if Mike wasn't such an idiot. It's interesting with Pat’s and Mike's characters, but with Courtney and Mike, there's a little bit of admiration between them. Mike is in the same position that Courtney was in season one, that he doesn't know what he's doing, he doesn't know his identity.
And Courtney is trying to help him find that. So there's a lot more admiration; there's a lot more respect between those two characters this season.
Do Pat and Mike ever butt heads? Like Courtney, Mike wants to be in the throes of things, but that’s not what Pat wants for his son.
Definitely, it's just the sheer love Pat has for Mike, and he feels like he has to protect his son. But I think Pat realizes that he can only protect Mike for so long. So it's good until it's not. For the first few episodes, everything's normal, but then as the show tends to do, things get a little crazy.
What about Mike and Barb? They became pretty close last season.
It's a very distant relationship on screen, but I think it's still a very close relationship. They oftentimes spend a lot of time together when everyone else is out doing their thing, and they have this mutual confusion about what's happening. They have this bond formed with them not being involved in their family secrets.
So through a lot of this season, when some things are happening and when neither of them is involved, we can get a glimpse into how they cope with not knowing what's going on, not knowing where Pat is, not knowing where Courtney is. It's almost like a soldier coming home from war.
In season one, there were these amazing action fights and special effects. How has the shift to the CW impacted the show in that regard?
Contrary to popular belief, not much nothing has changed. So, yes, the CW has a slightly lower budget, but if you have a good showrunner and a good writing team, that stuff is almost insignificant. You're not going to see as much CGI this season, but you're still going to see a lot of dramatic storylines with all the characters.
Having a slightly smaller budget doesn’t decrease the quality of all the CGI effects; it's just decreasing the quantity. But the quality of all of those effects in all these scenes is top-notch. And I would honestly say they’re slightly better than last season because of how grounded they are.
They've used practical effects more. They've used different kinds of effects to make it pop on screen more with a slightly lower budget. Plus, with COVID, a lot of money was spent on that. So you took a deep Pe this season into how much you're exploring these main characters.
You don't have as many costars or guest stars because of the virus. So instead, it’s, “Hey, let's do one episode solely on Rick, one episode solely on Yolanda, one episode solely on Mike.” Everyone has their own episode, and you can take a glimpse into their characters and why they are that way.
So what’s in store for the Mike-centric episode?
Mike's big episode is episode three, directed by Lea Thompson. It finally explores Mike when he’s outside of the house, doing his paper route, stuff like that. He runs into some interesting things along the way, and we get a glimpse into Mike's mental state. That episode alone handles every single one of Mike's relationships.
There's a lot of great scenes with Pat, with Courtney, with the JSA in general. It's this interesting look into Mike's character because it's the first time that you can see him not making a joke about something.
When he’s talking to Courtney in a few of these scenes about being the JSA and about doing these things, he's pleading to her. It's more like, “I'm in the same position that you were, so you have to help me at this point. You can't just leave me hanging.” And he's not making jokes; he's not witty; he's sincere and true.
In a few of these scenes in episode three, you can almost see Mike uses humor differently, how he runs into some bullies on his paper route and uses his humor to get out of it as much as he can. It shows Mike in such a human way, and it sets up the season for everyone to like Mike again. It's so early on that the writers make you feel for him.
What can you tease about the tone of the show?
The tone is a lot darker because it deals with everyone's guilt a lot more. Going into this, you're aware that their guilt is slowly mentally wearing all these characters down. You can take a deeper look into what they're feeling through season two.
And, with the addition of all these amazing villains like Eclipso and the Shade, they use that as leverage to get inside. It's very mental and all real threats because it’s something you can see having a real effect on someone, someone who cannot control their thoughts, someone that's constantly stuck in thought.
That happens with a lot of these characters, especially Mike, Yolanda, and Rick. A lot of these characters are just trapped in the cage of their own life. The villains use that as leverage, but as I said, it's a very human story. It's a very dark season, but there are still some moments of light, like with Alkoya and myself.
But other than that, it takes a much-needed darker turn on the show. The first season sets it up so well with this quaint little town, and you see what happens in season one. But now you are exploring what happens when there's not a clear adversary; what happens to this team when they're left in thought? So that's what happens.
Did you get to interact with any other characters this season that maybe you didn’t share that much or any screen time during the first season?
Meg [DeLacy, who plays Cindy Burman/Shiv,] and I had a hysterical episode in episode six. I’ve never really worked with Meg before, but I worked quite a bit with her this season. It's just so fun. She's just so funny. And we added a lot of stuff to this little scene where we have an encounter.
I don't want to say too much, but it’s this feeling that Mike is almost being haunted. It's these two characters that you almost love to hate in a scene together, so it's like, “Who are you rooting for?” Right? I had a great time work with Meg. We do get to see a lot of Cindy and Mike scenes.
What’s one final tease you can give us?
Don't believe anything you see this season. There’s a lot of twists and turns, and I think the audience is going to be caught off guard by a lot of this stuff. That happens, and it's a whirlwind.
Jessica Lerner was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in October 2021.