Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Stargirl And Duncanville Star Joy Osmanski On Playing A Supervillain And Telling Family Stories - Exclusive Interview

Even if you don't know Joy Osmanski's name, there's a good chance you've seen her pop up in some of your favorite shows. A former graphic designer whose lifelong love of performing led her to pursue acting full-time, Osmanski's screen career now includes more than a decade of roles on the big and small screen in shows like The LoopTrue Jackson, VPDevious Maids; and Santa Clarita Diet

In 2020, Osmanski's already-busy career exploded as she landed two major roles at almost the same time. February brought the series premiere of the FOX animated comedy Duncanville, in which Osmanski plays Jing, the family's five-year-old adopted daughter. Then in May, DC Universe's Stargirl premiered, featuring Osmanski in the dual role of local high school gym teacher Paula Brooks and the deadly supervillain Tigress. In this exclusive interview, Osmanski talked to Looper about playing a supervillain, voicing a five-year-old, telling unconventional family stories, and more.

Becoming Tigress and entering Stargirl's world

How did Tigress come to you and what was it like to find out that you were going to be a supervillain?

So, like some things in life, sometimes at the beginning of something really great, it's kind of buried under the lede. You know what I mean? I was in the middle of intense rehearsals for a play at the time when I got the audition. So I almost didn't even audition. But then I read the material and I was like, "Oh, this is really well written and funny." And so I was like, "Oh, I'll read. All right." And I put myself on tape and submitted the tape and that was it. [Stargirl creator Geoff Johns] liked what I did with the character, which was so lovely. And it was easy because it was so well-written.

At that point, I had no idea that I didn't know anything about this world. I did not know about the DC world of these characters. I did not know about the Golden Age. I didn't know about anything. So to me it was just a character. I don't even know if her name was Paula in the audition. I just knew she was a funny woman who was kind of violent, but also had a really bright sense of humor. And I was like, "That's awesome." And then when I found out I got the role and I saw that it was a dual role, I got really confused.

I was like, "Wait, is this what I auditioned for?" And then I was like, "Who is Tigress?" I just had no idea. And then I Googled it and I was completely overwhelmed. And I think I went through the gamut of emotions in about a 10-second period. It was a lot.

Did you then go back and read comics or were you just trying to work from the scripts you were given?

I thought about trying to go back and read and I did do a little bit of research online. And I saw the origin of the role. I couldn't believe it was so long ago. And I went through all the iterations of Huntress and Tigress and all the different ways she's manifested. I thought that was fascinating. I remember, I think I asked Geoff, "Should I go back and read?" And he was like, "You can if you want, but don't worry about that." I could focus on the script at present. That's ultimately what I decided to do. I think mostly out of a fear of getting overwhelmed.

Now that I've done the role and I've brought what I can of me to it, now I think I'd be more in a place to go back and read something. But I think if I had done that in anticipation of the role, that I would have been completely freaked out. Because there's so much history and legacy. And while I want to honor that, you can only bring yourself to any particular job. So at the risk of getting overwhelmed by all of that, I opted to stay with what I had been given. I think that worked for me in that moment.

Was there a lot of physical preparation going into it?

Oh my lord. Yes. I have never had to work out for a role and no one told me to. But I think it all started to crystallize when I went from my first super suit fitting. And first of all, as an actor, when you go to fittings you typically go and you meet up with some wonderful wardrobe people. And they have some different clothes for you to try on. And that's all. So, I was like "A super suit? A what now?" I just had no idea.

And then I went and I met [costume designer Laura Jean Shannon] and her incredible team, and they showed me the rendering of this super suit. I literally had to roll up my jaw. I was like, "I'm going to wear that?" And that was really inspiring for me to start what would be a months-long, really intense physical training for me. And I had never done that before in my life. I hired a trainer and was really diligent about it because I was like, "I have to live up to this super suit." That is no joke. It is not that big. And the person who wears it has to look like they could annihilate you. So I better get in shape. It was great. It was the best reason.

Let's be frank, would I have done that without the super suit? Probably not. So it was excellent motivation. I was able to meet with a member of the stunt team, with Paul O'Connor, for a few times here in LA. And he just gave me some basic training. Some fight training. And just having a little bit of vocabulary was really helpful when I got on set.

You mentioned earlier you do have a dual role. You play Paula the gym teacher, and then you play Tigress. Did you spend a lot of time working out how the different aspects of her would manifest in different scenes?

It was all there in the writing. Which is such a gift. I felt like this character, without even knowing that she had this alter ego of Tigress, she seemed to be someone in the writing who had this really polished public veneer. And I didn't know any of the backstory, but it was clear that that was something that she had generated probably over years. But her true self underneath that, this like simmering rage, was real close to that, so that the flips could be quick and clean. That is so much fun for me to do. And exploring all the ways that that gets to happen was so great. I just loved it.

You also mentioned you weren't familiar with the world. Are you a superhero fan at all?

Oh yeah! So that's the thing is that actually from a really young age, I was obsessed with the DC universe. I just didn't understand that that's what it was [when I auditioned]. I was obsessed with Wonder Woman as a kid. Like there's a photo of me, I think when I'm three and I'm wearing like Underoos, Wonder Woman Underoos. I was obsessed with her. I mean, Lynda Carter for me was the first representation of a powerful female. And for me her biggest strength was how she could run so fast, I guess because that was like the one thing I could emulate as a kid. So that's where my fantasy was with Wonder Woman running really fast. That and Spider-Man. Those were my two favorites as a kid. I loved Spider-Man. Still do.

How did your kids feel about you playing a supervillain?

So my oldest kid is my 19-year-old stepdaughter, and she's been a part of my life long enough now that me getting acting roles doesn't really faze her. I think when she was a kid and I was in True Jackson, VP, that frankly was probably way more exciting than this is. But for my young kids who are three and four, they're right at the age where they're kind of in that black and white world of good and evil already. Something's either great or not. And so when I first tried to explain to them that I was playing a bad guy, it's like this cognitive dissonance. They just couldn't get why their mama was a bad guy. I remember showing them a lot of pictures of the wardrobe because it's kind of scary looking. And Tigress has a dead eye and that big patch over her eye. And I didn't want them to be completely freaked out by me when they saw me. They slowly started to get it. I made it like Halloween references. I was like, "Mom is just dressing up. It's just pretend. I pretend to fight, but that's not what we do. We don't do that."

They think it's really cool, though. But this other role that I played on Duncanville, the animated show where I play a five-year-old child, they're like, "Okay. Yeah, that's mama too. I think I get that." So it's been fun to watch them try to reconcile who I am and what I do.

You're not just a supervillain on the show. You also get to be part of a supervillain team. If you could trade roles with another member of the Injustice Society, who would you pick?

Oh gosh, let's see. Oh, that's a good question. I mean, I think my brain leaps to Brainwave just because I think it's kind of everyone's dream in some way to be able to control things with your mind. Like that's such a cool power. [Christopher James Baker] does such a great job of infusing that with so much intensity. Everyone is drawn toward a villain who barely has to move. You know what I mean? He just shoots laser beams out of his eyes and things go flying up in the air around him. That's so cool. So maybe I could see wanting to try that. That would be cool.

What do you think sets Stargirl apart from other superhero shows?

I think one of the fundamental things that sets it apart is its protagonist. I feel like on a lot of the other shows, the main characters are by and large older. And I think to see a young woman, a high school teenager in the lead role and have this incredible transformation. I think that's really powerful. And now more than ever is when we need young people to be able to step up and use their voices for good. And so I feel like it's really on the pulse of what's happening right now. I hope this show provides both relief and inspiration in that way.

From supervillain to five-year-old girl

Let's talk about Duncanville. How did that show happen for you?

It came as an audition, like everything else. One good thing is that it came via a casting director whom I just adore. She cast me in my very first TV job ever, so she and I go way back and I just associate all good things with her. Lisa Miller Katz. She's fantastic. And this was her first animation show, too. I just did an audio submission and it worked. Then all of a sudden I found myself sitting at a table with Amy Poehler and Ty Burrell and Wiz Khalifa. I was just like, "What is going on?"

Sometimes things happen fast in this business. Sometimes they're glacially slow, but this was something that actually clipped right along. It happened concurrently with Stargirl. So I was flying back and forth from L.A. to Atlanta playing a five-year-old and a supervillain. I remember my brain just being a little fried sometimes. Making the leap sometimes would take that five-hour flight across country. I'd be like, "Okay, all right, now I can do that. I'm going back to L.A., I play a five-year-old." But yeah, it was an incredible experience to be with that many comedic geniuses.

Your character, Jing, has a very specific worldview and sense of humor. How did you find her voice? Did you take some from your own kids?

I'm sure. I have no doubt that hearing two small voices 24/7 has influenced how I portrayed Jing. I have no doubt. The funny thing is that when you play a small child... in reality, maybe 50 to 75 percent of what they say would be intelligible, right? Because [I think of] the amount of time I spend bending down looking into my children's faces with kind of a quizzical look like, "Wait, what did you say?" The main differences that I have to actually be understood when I play Jing. But yeah, for sure, my kids have influenced me. Absolutely.

And then, I think, again, it all starts with the writing. [Duncanville co-creators] Mike Scully and Julie Thacker Scully, these are pros. And having [Duncanville star and co-creator Amy Poehler] on board as a producer. These are people who know how to write. And so all her personality, all her quirks are still right there on the page. As an actor, it just becomes a matter of unleashing that and setting it free. And that's such a joy to do.

What's it like working on dialogue with that cast? Is there a lot of play?

Yes. I mean, again, it's written so beautifully that really there doesn't need to be too much deviation. When we're actually recording, they'll throw different options at me sometimes, which is really fun. But in the room for the table read, we all pretty much stuck to script. And oh man, everyone... We would just be dying the whole time. My cheeks would just be aching after those table reads. Amy's sitting there playing Duncan and Annie at the same time and flipping back and forth between the two of them seamlessly. And Ty is Ty. He's brilliant. We had so much fun and it was surreal every single time.

As an actor, what does voice acting give you that live action acting doesn't?

I would say just time. Voice acting takes so much less time than live-action because of course there's so many components of on-camera live action, and voice acting is done in relative solitude. The one time we all get together is for that table read. And that's probably a total of about 45 minutes. Then we all go back to our lives. We each go independently into a recording studio and do our parts all by ourselves. And so it calls upon a whole different skillset, for sure.

You've got to really use your imagination to put yourself in the middle of a scene because you're just saying lines out of context when you're recording them. Which is why the table read is so important, because then you know the world in which you're creating.

Different kinds of family stories and what comes next

Between Stargirl and Duncanville, you are doing shows that are both, in their own way, about unconventional families. What do you bring to those roles from your own family life and family experience?

Oh, I so appreciate that question. Thank you. Well, it's really amazing and unique for me actually to have this experience. I think just a couple of months ago. I was in the booth and talking with Mike Scully and I was like, "Did you know that I was adopted?" And he was like, "No." So it was a complete coincidence that I ended up playing this adopted character in this family.

And one of the things I loved about Duncanville is that her adoption is never explained. It's just taken for granted that she is a member of this family. And it really, to me, is a huge sign of the evolution of how adoption is portrayed in mainstream media. Normally it's treated with, I don't know, jokes or some sort of trauma or some kind of weird commentary on it. I found that to be really lovely and enlightened. So that was a neat parallel. And then with Stargirl, having this blended family. She has this new stepfather and as a step-parent I really relate to those situations.

And also I'm an adoptive parent as well. We adopted my son as an infant and I also have a biological daughter. So I feel like our family hits on all these different experiences and it makes me really empathetic and grateful and wide-eyed to a lot of different family situations. The fact that I get to be part of two shows that represent that is so lovely.

What's next for you? Are you recording Duncanville now?

We are not. We were all of course understandably thrilled about our season two pickup. I think everyone involved is like itching to get back to work and do something creative. We don't have any dates for when that's going to start yet. But I would anticipate soon.

What else is coming up for you?

Well, there's a show that I wrapped just before everything got truly crazy. It's actually shot in New York. And I remember taking the flight back to L.A., and that was the first time that I was like, "Oh, this is starting to get real." But it's a show for Hulu called Monsterland. It's an anthology horror series, and oh man. It was one of the craziest things I've been a part of. I've never been in a prosthetics chair and I had to sit in one for about three hours. It was nuts.

And I'm so proud of everyone's work in my episode. It was an incredible experience. So I'm not sure when that's going to be coming out, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it, because the level of the production values in that were pretty insane.

Duncanville is available to stream on FOX and Hulu now. New episodes of Stargirl arrive Mondays on DC Universe and air Tuesday nights on The CW.