Courageous Nerd’s Exclusive Interview with Stargirl actor, Eric Goins. Read on to find out more about the on-screen ISA member.
You’ll likely recognise actor and improviser Eric Goins from his current role as Steven Sharpe/The Gambler on Stargirl. In this interview with Courageous Nerd, Eric discusses his familiarity with DC Comics and the character, knowing some of the cast prior to Stargirl and his real-life relationship with onscreen teammates, the Injustice Society.
Thank you Eric for taking the time to chat with Courageous Nerd.
First of all, congratulations on [Stargirl] being renewed for Season 2. How has it been, from the inside, watching that show become a huge success?
Eric Goins (EG): It’s been really incredible. I mean, I think everyone who was involved with the show really felt something special from day one. The project is so important to Geoff [Johns, creator and developer] and so dear to his heart. I think he brought that feeling in on day one. You could really feel that everyone was getting together to do something really special. And to see the success that the show is having, is really, really rewarding. The fans are so supportive and engaged in the show and the characters. It’s a really special community to be a part of, for sure.
You initially worked in the corporate world. What prompted the decision to pursue acting?
EG: Fate! Much like The Gambler. So, I worked in the corporate world for a long time and in 1998, my good friends took me to an improv comedy performance for my birthday. I remember sitting way in the back of the theatre, watching the show and just being blown away by what the performers were doing on-stage. At that moment I said, “I’ve got to try this”. I auditioned for classes, got accepted to class. And the rest was history.
I really bought into the ideas and philosophies of improv. “Yes, and-ing” a partner and not judging your partner or yourself. Being in the moment, being present. I really bought into it. The best way I can describe it is that the chemistry in my brain changed, when I started doing improv. It just got rewired, I started thinking in a different way, more freely, out of the box. Trusting my own instincts.
Jumping forward in time a bit; on Stargirl, you play The Gambler/Steve Sharpe. How familiar were you with DC Comics and that character before joining the show?
EG: Well, as far as DC Comics were concerned, I grew up watching George Reeves’ Superman, Adam West’s Batman. So I was an American child who loved the DC Comics, right? And I was fascinated by them, I love superheroes. I love comic book shows. As far as The Gambler was concerned, I wasn’t too familiar with the character. I would say that the character isn’t as prevalent as some of the other characters throughout the DC Comics world, which really gave me an opportunity to explore [the character]. As soon I found out who I’d be playing, I definitely went back and did my research. There are certainly resources you can find to find out more about The Gambler. Just did my research and found out what the character was all about.
After you got cast, what made you most excited about being part of Stargirl?
EG: I think working with icons of a genre, like Geoff Johns and James Robinson. Being a part of something that so many people grew up with and love. I think that was super exciting, to be a part of a superhero-supervillain show associated with DC. I mean, that’s the top, that’s the pinnacle of working in that genre. And to work with the people who actually forged the entire storyline of the comics, of Stargirl, was incredibly exciting.
Another credit on your IMDB are the two Ride Along films, with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. How was the experience of working on those?
EG: It was awesome. Kevin Hart is a very, very delightful person to work with. He has such high energy and keeps things energetic, effervescent the entire time he’s on set. It was fun, it was funny and it was a really good experience.
Aside from Stargirl, you’ve worked on other television series; One Tree Hill, The Haves and Have Nots. Do you have a favourite TV appearance prior to Stargirl?
EG: You know, I did two seasons of Halt and Catch Fire. I played Larry, who was one of the original engineers working under the character played by Scoot McNairy – Gordon. That was a really fun experience, working with Scoot McNairy was just a delight. He’s just incredibly fun to work around. It was cool to work on a show that explored the advent of the laptop computer in the 80s because that was kind of my childhood. It was really cool, the nostalgia that we got to explore. It was a lot of fun for me.
You’ve appeared with Trae Romano [Stargirl’s Mike Dugan] in the pilot episode of Robbie. Had you ever worked with any other Stargirl co-stars on other projects?
EG: Let’s see… I hadn’t worked with any of the other stars of Stargirl prior to the project. I am good friends with Mark Ashworth, who plays Janitor Justin. He lives in my town and we’ve known each other for quite a long time. It was really exciting to be part of a show with someone who I’d known for a long time.
I got to work with Trae a little bit on the pilot of Robbie and, I mean, he’s an awesome person. The moment you meet him, you recognise that the kid is very, very special. He has a lot of talent.
Which way around did you shoot the two? Was it Robbie and then Stargirl, or vice versa?
EG: Oh yeah, I shot Robbie maybe two years before Stargirl.
When I spoke to Neil Hopkins, he discussed the camaraderie and friendship between the Injustice Society actors. How’s your experience been, working with that group?
EG: Oh, it was exceptional. We really created quite a relationship. Some of the best moments on set were when we just got an opportunity to spend time with each other. We really felt like a close-knit group of people and we spent time off-set together. Some of the funnest times I’ve had on a set were with the fellow members of the ISA, when the cameras weren’t even rolling. Just getting to know them and developing relationships with them, they’re all really top notch people and it was such a great opportunity to work with them.
Neil Hopkins is hilarious. I love comedy, I’ve been doing it for a long, long time so Neil Hopkins is just a funny, funny fella. I really enjoyed working with him.
The Gambler is the only ISA member who doesn’t have a child attending school with Courtney. Does that create any kind of different dimension for you in approaching your character, by not having that relationship?
EG: That’s a great question, it does. Since every other ISA member has a child involved in the show, I think it could be argued that the ISA members are doing arguably bad things for good reasons. Icicle [Jordan Mahkent, played by Neil Jackson] has said it a number of times, he’s looking to make a better world for his son. I think a lot of, if not all the ISA members have a similar drive. The Gambler does not have that drive. His only real drive is money and greed.
That creates a new dynamic for a character. He is now kind of the villain amongst the villains because he does not have any type of shining star to guide him. Which makes him a little worse of a person, quite frankly. He becomes the great manipulator because he is in it just for himself. You could argue he’s almost a sociopath who really only has hopes of benefiting himself.
He also doesn’t have any of the supernatural abilities that the other ISA members do so he can’t blow ice, freeze things. He doesn’t have great fighting abilities. He’s got his mind and his charisma. His manipulation to do what he needs to do in the moment to get what he ultimately wants which is just money and possessions. It makes him a pretty evil guy.
With such a large cast on Stargirl, was there any opportunity to connect with actors that you may not have directly worked with?
EG: Yeah, I got to meet Henry Thomas, who’s kind of an icon of my childhood from ET. I got to meet Lou Ferrigno Jr, his father had such a huge impact on my life because I grew up watching The Incredible Hulk. I got to meet some really cool people who I may not have gotten an opportunity to meet otherwise.
Assuming that The Gambler survives Season 1, there’s still a few episodes to go, what would your hopes be for where goes next in the overall story?
EG: You know, if The Gambler makes it through Season 1, there are no guarantees for any of the characters. I guess, in a way, I would like to see him become more dangerous, even more dangerous than he already is. We established him as a hacker and technical master of computers. I’d love to see his character be developed more into being a little bit more physically dangerous. So that’s kind of where I would love to see the character go.
I would love to see things from his past come up so we could find out a little bit more about who The Gambler was in the past. He’s a horrible person if you think about it and I’d love to see what created The Gambler. It’s obvious in the history of DC Comics why Steven Sharpe became The Gambler. But I’d love to see them explore his history, to give him a storyline to try and explain who he is.
What’s one thing you would want to say to fans of Stargirl during the ongoing pandemic?
EG: I think what I would say to people about Stargirl… I’m very proud of the show because Stargirl has created a show that families can watch together and enjoy watching a diverse group of people with a strong young woman leading the show. It’s given my family an opportunity to find moments to escape in what I think are challenging times. I would encourage people to watch it and allows themselves to escape… these challenging times. Stargirl does a really great job of giving families something to watch.
My daughter is finding a lot of joy in getting into these superhero characters. I just heard her talking to her grandmother on the phone, listing all the characters. I was shocked that she knew them all. She asks me questions throughout the week, “Why did Stargirl do this?” “Why did STRIPE do that?” It’s just created this really cool oppourtunity to bond with my daughter in a way that I hadn’t before we started watching Stargirl.
I would say that I would encourage families to give Stargirl the opportunity to bring their families together, to find something to share.
Stargirl airs on DC Universe and The CW.