Not only is The Boys one of the best shows of the summer, but Laz Alonso crushes it in the complex role of Mother’s Milk, as he is one of The Boys, but isn’t a superhero at all – in fact, far from it. In a series in which the superheroes or “supes”, are kind of dickish (to put it mildly), let’s hear it for The Boys and especially Alonso’s portrayal of a character that would otherwise be a pure alpha male, but demonstrates a wide range of emotions instead.
We had the exclusive opportunity to speak with Laz Alonso from the Toronto set of the next season of the show, and he brings as much magnetic energy in real life as in the series.
The following is our condensed and edited phone interview with the booming and powerful Laz Alonso.
Brief Take: I binge watched the show so quickly because it was brilliant TV. What’s something that stands out for you about being a part of The Boys?
Laz Alonso: I’m totally excited about witnessing a completely different spin on the superhero genre. I grew up with superheroes, it’s always something that I loved and enjoyed and loved the fantasy, the escapism of people who could do amazing things that I couldn’t and always secretly wished that I could. And what I love about our show is that it shows that, but it also shows them in a way that we don’t see, them behind closed doors. What do they think about at night [laughs] when they go home after saving the world, some of their interpersonal relationships and dealings, and it shows them in a more balanced light, and so that’s what I love about our show. It shows a more well-rounded view of who these people really are behind closed doors, and in some cases, they’re more similar to us than not. Just because they can save the world today doesn’t mean that their lover didn’t cheat on them, or they’re insecure, or they might do drugs behind closed doors and all these flaws that we know to be human flaws, superheroes suffer from them too.
BT: What do you like most about working with the show’s creators Eric Kripke, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg?
LA: First and foremost, I would say that they put together an amazing team. It’s rare that in our business everyone completely gets along- creatively as well as personally. And that’s what we so far have been able to find is a chemistry in which everybody gets along in front and behind the cameras. We genuinely like each other and respect each other’s craft and artistry and don’t try to duplicate or outdo each other, it’s not a competitive set. A lot of times in our business, it can be competitive in which people try to…you’ve heard this term “scene stealing” or trying to get in the spotlight, and here it’s like Eric (Kripke), Seth (Rogen) and Evan (Goldberg) and those guys in the writer’s room, they’ve masterfully crafted everyone so uniquely, such a unique story, and it is really is a a team effort. Nobody duplicates each other and everyone has a purpose. And like I told Eric, I’ve been a part of many productions in which the focus of the story pretty much revolves around the main character, but as a testament to the people that he’s brought on as writers, everyone here has equal importance and everyone has a well-rounded character arc, where everyone’s important in it, and that’s really hard to find. As actors, I think that is why everybody is so happy, because everyone is being creatively fulfilled by their character development.
BT: We don’t see characters like yours very often, so what did you think of your character and how did you tap into playing him?
LA: I loved it, man. I loved it. I got to talk to Garth Ennis, the creator of the comics, and his whole thing was that he really wanted Mother’s Milk to visually look like what people when they immediately see a book, they judge it by its cover. And the minute he opens his mouth and you get to know the character, it is completely the opposite of the box in which you tried to place him. Within The Boys, Mother’s Milk is the smartest one of The Boys, he’s the most empathetic, he’s the most forgiving. Contrary to the images that you see a lot of the time, at least to what I have portrayed, I’ve played villains and very cold-hearted guys that were menacing and here, this guy really, truly loves his family. He’s doing this as a labor of love and doing the right thing. And that’s what I loved about the character, which is that his superpower is empathy. His superpower is intelligence. And it’s completely against type, the archetype that we see generally and that’s why we made him look the way that he does, because he’s completely not the archetype like which he looks.
BT: Do you draw on any of your previous roles for Mother’s Milk?
LA: I’ve played villains before – I played a villain in Fast & Furious, and in Avatar I was a villain, but really he wasn’t a villain, he was the arch nemesis of the protagonist, Sam Worthington’s character. I’ve had the opportunity to play some really strong roles and this one is strong, but from a different place. He’s internally strong – he looks physically strong and intimidating, but his real strength is his heart and I think that that’s what makes it a much deeper and more meaningful character. It also makes us explore within ourselves, like instantly when we see someone and think what they are going to be and we’re like: “Oh my God, this person is totally different than what I expected!”. And I think that’s the fun part about this show, which is that everything is flipped on its head.
BT: Tell me about shooting in Toronto.
LA: I love working in a city that is playing New York, but isn’t New York, like not New York. I have shot a lot in New York [laughs] and between cabs honking horns and trains, people, it’s tough to shoot in New York. And being in a city that is architecturally similar, but has 1/3 the amount of people, it really allows you to get stuff done without many pickups as it does in New York. The show takes place in New York and my character is from Harlem, so I try to bring as much of that energy as possible to the character and to the vibe. But it does help to shoot in a city that has culture. This is a very multi-cultural city like New York, but at the same time, it’s smaller, so it’s easier to get things done.
BT: One of my favourite scenes in the first season is the speech about how The Boys are like the Spice Girls, better together than apart. What was your favorite part about this aspect from the series?
LA: You know, I’m going to tell you that definitely is a theme of The Boys and it’s totally right, when we do scenes in which we are separated and no longer together, it does feel empty, like the set feels empty, without Tomer (Kapon) or without Frenchie, or without Hughie aka Jack (Quaid), our enmeshing really comes together when we are all together and working together as one. So that whole Spice Girls analogy, while it is ridiculous, it’s like a hand. No finger is more important than the other. I couldn’t tell you which one I was more worried about losing than the other, because I don’t want to lose any of them. [laughs] That’s kind of how we really play. I think that more than the words, it’s the energy that Karl (Urban) kind of gives, like he’s this guy that he truly tastes revenge. You can see how much he enjoys revenge, and in a very weird way, for him it’s so satisfying. It’s kind of like when you watch an amazing meal on TV, you can’t taste it. But you can feel how the people tasting it are having it and that’s how it is with him and revenge.
BT: How do you want fans of the series to respond to the show and to you? Will you be following along with their comments on social media?
LA: Yeah, man! I would love for them to respond, but I am definitely going to watch it again with everyone when they receive it, because I want to be able to enjoy it with everyone else. I watched it once, they gave us this little screening link that kind of disappears after each episode. We had about 48 hours to watch it or it disappears, so you can’t really sit there and savour every episode the way I like to watch shows that I like and of which I am a fan. So I am going to be looking forward to being able to watch it again and relive some of these of moments and see the directions in which the story went and be able to have those conversations with the new fans of the show.
BT: What’s something that you think an audience that has read the comics will enjoy as well as people who have not?
LA: This show is almost a precursor to the comics in many ways. The comics introduces you to a world in which the mayhem of the supes is already a part of their everyday life. And here, in our show, we kind of bring you into that. Where our show starts is a little before the comics, in the sense that people are still not aware that the supes make mistakes and the supes can be dangerous to humanity. People are still living in the world of loving and worshipping the supes and feeling like they’re here to save us. We take you on that journey of discovering who are they really and you get to see the other side of them through our discovery. We pull the curtain back and show you who these people are. So for the fans of the comics, they’re going to go on that journey and discover how we found out that they are who they are and who they are. It gives you a little bit of backstory and leads you into this world, more so than the comics. For people who didn’t read the comics, they don’t necessarily need to read the comics to understand the show.
BT: This is a series that feels very cinematic. Did it feel big on set?
LA: I don’t know about big, because we really do live in two different worlds. The supes live in this really big, huge, glossy world of clean and polished and big sets, and our sets are usually really dingy, small, dirty, hideouts and caves; our sets are a lot more gritty than theirs. It almost feels weird, like the other day when we had been on the supes’ sets, we shot in two different buildings, they have a set and we have a set, it’s like night and day: their floors are marble and they’re polished and the ceilings are 30 feet high and our sets are all really dirty and grungy and they’re hideouts. So ours don’t feel really big, but we feel really small when we’re on one of their sets.
BT: What about your work on L.A.’s Finest? What do you bring from the experience on that series to The Boys?
LA: It was great, man. L.A.’s Finest is a completely, one hundred per cent different character, it’s the undercover DEA cop world. While that has its element of grit as well, because it’s a spinoff of Bad Boys, it still had the gloss factor, that fun factor, that cracking jokes and the humour involved in that, the humour is tongue-in-cheek in a way. They’re both Sony shows. Sony produces both The Boys and L.A.’s Finest. It worked out that I was allowed to do both shows at the same time, or roughly one after another, but it was a completely different thing, man! When you play a cop, you have to get in and out of character, because when you play a cop, it’s completely different, even though he’s DEA, it’s a completely different posture and different way of holding your gun and pulling it out and approaching a situation armed than when you’re a vigilante. So it’s a whole different brain space to which you have to go, because the last thing that I want to do is look like a cop when I’m hunting down superheroes.
BT: What roles have been your crucial to shaping who you are as a performer?
LA: Oh man. Too many to really name. Every project on which I have worked, I can say has somehow or another contributed to making me a better actor and making me a better performer and preparing me for the next role. And I have learned from everybody, both directors and other actors, because I like to study while I’m on set, so I look at people’s choices and people’s movements. Watching Karl Urban and how he moves and how he plays something in person, and then when you see it on camera and how it looks alone, it’s an acting class. I enjoy watching other people work and I can’t really name one specific thing. I learned a lot from Spike Lee, I learned a lot from James Cameron, from Sam Mendes, he loves to rehearse scenes prior to us shooting our first frame. We rehearsed as if it were a stage play and by the time we got to set, we knew exactly what we were doing and where we were doing it and how we were doing it. We had rehearsed those scenes so many times over and over again, and I’ve learned different things from different people and it’s allowed me to pull from every experience to…it’s like my little bag of tricks, it’s my toolkit.
BT: Do you have a superhero motto?
LA: Yes. I would say that all power has to be checked. No power can go unchecked. What I learned from being on a superhero series is that for every powerful being, whether it’s super or not, there has to be something that counteracts it. Otherwise, it can run amok.
Season one of The Boys can be currently streamed on Amazon Prime Video