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Interview: The Boys’ Erin Moriarty

by Charles Trapunski

Creating the opportunity to get to speak with Erin Moriarty was of massive interest and it was a stellar experience. The actor is a breakout talent, the star of the show of the summer. If you haven’t seen The Boys, Moriarty plays Annie January, the newest member of a group of superheroes collectively called The Seven, although none of the Supes are that intent on letting in Starlight (her superhero persona). Later she forms a romantic attachment with a member of The Boys, a team of vigilantes hellbent on taking down the Supes, as Starlight grows close with Hughie, played by Jack Quaid.

As we were fascinated by Erin Moriarty’s arc in real life as well as the series, we took a bit of deep dive in this particular interview, done during her break day from shooting The Boys‘ much anticipated season 2.

The following is a condensed and edited version of our fun interview with Erin Moriarty, who is going from Starlight to Superstardom.

Brief Take: How did you tap into playing this multifaceted character of Annie January and Starlight?

Erin Moriarty: I think that for me it was tapping into personal experiences, experiences of those to whom I have been around and to whom I have been close, while wanting as much as I possibly could to make her as nuanced. So really sitting down and building a backstory for her, making sure that I honour the fact that she is a dichotomy in a very cool way, which is that she is so tough and she is such a badass and such a cool superhero, but she is also really earnest and a kind human being and arguably one of the kindest on the show. So it was a combination of really sitting down with the material and doing my homework on it, and luckily, I had the luxury of six months to have the material to digest and to work on it, because I got cast in it quite a long time before we even started filming.

BT: You’re so perfect in this role. Was there a moment in which you felt how much you clicked in your portrayal in season 1?

EM: Yeah. For me, the moment in which I clicked into the role, actually, and this is probably why I booked it: the first episode, the pilot, the scene in which Starlight is talking about, she has her speech in the audition scene which gets her her role in The Seven. In the scene, she’s talking about how she grew up going to Little Miss Hero pageants and that her mom kind of forced her into it, but then she realized that she really did earnestly and genuinely want to save the world. And one of my favourite lines to date that she says is: “Since when did being hopeful and naïve become the same thing?” and she really is talking about her earnest desire to be the best at what she does. That scene was my audition scene for The Boys as Starlight. I put myself on tape and I read that monologue and it clicked, and I knew that no matter what, whether or not I booked the role, I got it, I got her, I understand. I completely understand and I was excited to show my interpretation of her and how much she resonated with me, and it clicked. I remember that’s the exact word that she used is how much it clicked with me, what she was saying and what she was going through and how effortlessly it came out of my mouth, which was a testament to Eric Kripke’s writing.

And that whole moment is very reflective of who she is, she’s earnest, but she’s also not a doormat and she is very genuine with her intentions but she’s not naïve, you know? We always kind of project a naïveté onto her but someone who is that earnest but defies that projection. I think that from that moment on I felt this very cool click into her that has made the role really fun to play.

BT: What did you enjoy most about working with Eric Kripke?

EM: Well Kripke is such an awesome person to work with because I think that we’ve all developed such a mutual trust with each other, and it’s not only me, it’s all the other actors in the show. We trust him so much and he has such specific ideas for what he wants out of performances and for outlines and characters and such high standards, which maintains a certain level of quality within the show. But he’s also extremely humble and totally willing to collaborate and talk things out and adjust things according to what we think should be adjusted. It’s always been this amazingly collaborative relationship in which when I’m on set, I feel like I’m in such good hands. I feel like I’m in this awesome position of being able to bring my thoughts to the table, and he brings his thoughts to the table and combine them to keep adding to the nuances of this character. And he’s such a super kind, humble guy and really easy to work with, and I also trust him and his standards. I know that when he says that we’ve got the take and things are going well, that he means it. I know that he’ll always be honest with me and make sure that at the end of the day, we get the performance and the scene that we need without sacrificing anything, but also he’s very receptive to my take on things. It’s been really great.

BT: The Boys builds its own universe but at the same time is inspired by the original graphic novel. Were you familiar with the source material prior to filming?

EM: I wasn’t familiar before with the source material, but I’m also sort of ignorant when it comes to graphic novels, so I wasn’t surprised when I wasn’t familiar with it. But I read it as soon as I booked it because I wanted to understand the foundation of our show. I also wanted to read it in gratitude for the people who are involved in the source material that gave birth to our show. I thought that it was this wickedly dark role in this world that was quite cool and would certainly lend itself well to being an awesome TV series. It was fun to read it and it’s not very often as actors that we have source material from which to draw and to introduce us to the world and storylines. It was a cool experience and quite a unique one.

BT: You’ve said that you enjoyed your fight sequences and the chance to be physical in this role. Can you tell me a little bit about your training?

EM: We work with a really awesome stunt coordinator on this and I think that he really wanted to make sure that we embody the physicality of a superhero easily and believably. Leading up to season 1, I did some lessons with him that were sort of like a boxing / Muay Thai / martial arts hybrid, that when I have to learn choreography for fight sequences, it came more easily to me. I had been training with him and then one of the first night shoots that I had in which the entire night consisted of me doing a fight sequence and I hadn’t had experience with this type of thing prior to the show, and it was so much fun. There was something about it that felt very cathartic and that made me feel very empowered, it ended up being so much more fun than I expected because I’m the type of person who watches UFC and winces, so I didn’t think that I’d take to it very fondly, but there’s something cathartic about it. It was super fun and it all the more made me feel like I was in that character’s shoes, so I loved it.

BT: You have such an interesting dynamic on screen with Jack Quaid. What’s something that you enjoy most about working with him?

EM: The thing about Jack and the dynamic that we have as actors is this mutual, unspoken understanding that we’re there for each other. Whatever we need from each other to get to the emotional place we need to get to in the moment, or whatever we need to find in the moment is there. We are absolutely there for each other, collaborative, we talk things out a ton, the rehearsal process is not a luxury you’re afforded when you’re working on screen, it’s more typical of theatre, but I come from theatre, so that’s something I appreciate which is rehearsal. And he loves to rehearse and talk things out and maybe discuss a little bit of the backstory going into the scene, and I love that, that’s part of the fun of acting for me. That combined with that the fact that he’s one of the kindest, funniest dudes who I’ve ever worked with, so it makes it very easy to work with him, which was great because these characters obviously need to have a very high level of chemistry. It’s been such a pleasure.

BT: Your rapport with Antony Starr, Chace Crawford and Dominique McElligott and the Supes is also really strong, although they’re not exactly welcoming of you into the Seven. What are some of your common interests in real life?

EM: This is said with all the truth in the world, one of the best things about this job and one of the reasons why its positive reception has been such an overwhelming, surreal thing is because there is so much love amongst these cast members. Given the fact that it’s a large cast, you never know what you’re going to get into and if the personalities are going to clash or not, but we get along all so well that we’ve become like a family. I would say that honestly, our mutual interests…one small example is that Antony, Chase and I all are obsessed with true crime anything – true crime podcasts, true crime documentaries, true crime TV shows and movies, of course we are always discussing them, and we’re either informing each other of ones that exist or obsessing over them. And this is sort of an obvious thing, but we all like movies, so dorking out over films and true crime stuff, and I think that it’s been really cool because we all enjoy each other’s company so much, which is important when you film something on location as well. We’re all away from home. I think that the common thread in this cast is that everyone’s so nice and so kind that we’ve all been open to hanging out. Now that it’s season 2, we feel like we almost have a book club amongst each other because there are a few of us that are rabid book consumers and it would probably come down to that – podcasts and books and movies and hanging out and dorking out. It’s really nice, it’s really fun.

BT: What do you like most about shooting in Toronto? 

EM: I love it! Toronto reminds me of New York. My favourite part about it that I don’t have in Los Angeles is that I can walk everywhere and that allows for a certain level of spontaneity and discovery that L.A. doesn’t, because you have to drive everywhere. And we’ve been lucky because we film in the summertime, we’re here, at my opinion, the best time. It’s very cool because it’s an urban city with so much culture and yet there are these really, really beautiful parks, so you also get your fix of greenery and I have a dog (George) and on my days off, we gravitate towards those parks and it has everything that you would want out of a city. I feel comfortable in it and taking public transportation because I’m from New York and I miss that when I’m in L.A. I miss walking and you see more of the city when you are walking, there’s a bit more of an enhanced presence when you’re able to walk around that I miss when I’m in L.A., and I love that about Toronto.

BT: People tend to look up to superheroes. Who is somebody who you look up to in the industry?

EM: Someone who comes to mind is Frances McDormand because she’s so non-conformist and she’s an example of an actress who works as an actress and then dips out. I really respect that because to me it’s about the people who do the work to do the work and are not seduced by the other sort of vapid components and qualities of the entertainment industry and don’t give into that. She’s one strong example to me – I really look up to her, I think that she is really such a brilliant actress and I really respect the way that she’s gone about doing her job.

I think Holly Hunter is amazing. I once heard her being interviewed and I really respected what she said because she is indisputably a great actress who’s done so many great roles, and she said that she loves work but she doesn’t live to work. That resonated with me so much because I think that we can become so obsessed with productivity and climbing the ladder. But I think that the truth is once you relinquish that and work to enjoy it, you end up working more, ironically, you end up doing a better job and you end up being more fulfilled when you step on to set. You end up being more fulfilled in your outside life and that lends itself to being more present and a better person and I think a better actor, and I love her.

An example of someone more my age would be Carey Mulligan. I think she’s brilliant, I think she’s got such a wide array of roles. I think that a common thread throughout those actresses’ careers is that they all have so much variety within their careers and they haven’t been pigeonholed. I respect that a lot and I really admire it.

BT: Do you take previous roles into consideration for this one, and where does it stand in terms of your arc, would you say that it’s a culmination of a sort?

EM: I think that similar to life experiences that you gather and accumulate, I think that it’s impossible to not have past roles somewhat influence your current roles because you learn so much from every experience. It’s hard to say whether it’s the roles themselves that have combined to help me create this character vs. the experiences and what I have learned playing those roles. I would say that one of the cool things about my job is that I step into the shoes of human beings who aren’t myself and if I do it correctly, which is really cool and there have definitely been certain facets of characters that I’ve had to learn to play once I’ve booked them.

I played a role in a movie called Blood Father, which was much, much, much darker than myself and much darker than Starlight, but there were certain aspects of that character in terms of her feistiness and her strength. Once I proved to myself that I could play that, because I formerly played the role of the love interest and maybe characters that are similar to myself, and once I learned that I could play that, it gave me the confidence moving forward to play that in future roles, and in a role like Starlight and in a moment in which she needs to summon her strength. I think it’s impossible to not have the characters that so far you’ve played influence the characters that you continue to play. I think it’s great because it means that every experience you have in a new character, you know that you’re going to learn something from that character.

BT: What’s something viewers can look forward to for season 2 of The Boys?

EM: A) We have a couple of very cool new people in season 2, a couple of really cool actors playing new roles, like Giancarlo Esposito has a big role in season 2, who I have been obsessed with since Breaking Bad, I think that he’s amazing. We’ve got this awesome actress named Aya Cash who’s stepping on board as a really cool superhero named Stormfront who is going to stir the pot in season 2.  B) The circumstances for each character are going to be extremely different than season 1. Everyone’s going to go through a major change or revelation or reckoning. Some of us are going to adjust and respond well while others are really going to drown in those changes. A lot goes down and a lot to look forward to!


Season 1 of The Boys is currently available on Amazon Prime Video. Read our interview with The Boys’ Laz Alonso here

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