While on The Boys, Homelander is kind of the worst person in the world, his portrayer, Antony Starr, comes across very differently. We were on a Zoom video chat about a month ago, he at in his home in Los Angeles, sans the cape and the suit (and blond hair), on screen after ushering his beloved dog into the next room. Though we’ve seen Antony Starr at Fan Expo Canada talking about the show among his boys Jack Quaid and Karl Urban, speaking with him on Zoom about season two of the Amazon Prime show was a bit of a different experience, as he previewed for us how season two builds on what was already a pretty insane show. Although we had only see the first three episodes of the new season at the time (we’ve since watched the entire season), Starr alluded to a particularly confronting scene, which was still unlike anything we had seen before. (Let me tell you, season two is jaw dropping pretty much the entire time.)
Who better to guide us through it than the leader of The Seven, the charming (in real life), Antony Starr. The following is a condensed and edited transcribed version of our Zoom video interview.
Brief Take: What can viewers expect from the upcoming season of The Boys?
Antony Starr: Wow, what can we expect? Okay. Well, it is batshit crazy, and it does not relent in that respect. From Homelander’s perspective, from a show perspective, I think that one of the things Eric (Kripke) said very early on, and he honoured it, is whatever the characters think that they have, whatever Terra Firma or whatever they have accomplished in season one, that’s going to be taken away from them in season two. And so I think that on a global level on the show, all the characters are really struggling with loss and being forced into situations in which they really are being challenged and tested. All of the characters are really facing new challenges, Homelander, specifically, has really put himself in a situation with Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue) that he’s having to deal with a lot of loss and withdrawal and all of the things that [laughs] go along with killing your partner-in-crime, and then of course you throw Stormfront (Aya Cash) into the mix and that’s not something that he has created himself, but it is another challenge that he has to deal with. He’s a direct threat to his position in The Seven and in a lot of ways, in threatening his position in The Seven, he’s a direct threat to his mental and emotional stability. Which is…it’s funny, you’ve seen up to episode three, there’s a very interesting sequence in episode four that you’re going to love. Homelander really does confront himself in episode four and it is…something to behold, but then the rest of the season is really…it’s a pretty crazy batshit journey.
BT: What does it feel like to “go there” on the show?
AS: Well, we’re really, really lucky that not only in terms of the tone and material, we have the scope, the room, to go to those places without it seeming…it is over the top, but the universe of the show is over the top: superheroes and spandex and capes and flying and lasers and all that. This really does give us a lot more rope with which to hang ourselves. And on top of that, we’ve got….I loathe saying this, because I sound like every cliché bloody actor that speaks in an interview, everyone’s always banging on about how great the actors are with whom they work and everyone’s great and this and that. And they’re usually lying and I’ve done the same myself. There’s always a few bad eggs, but I can quite genuinely say that this is a pretty incredible group of people with whom to be involved. We really lucked out on the material and the creative team on this and it just makes it fun, you’re sticking your tongue down a bottle of breast milk and everyone’s there enjoying it and willing to get the most out of it and it’s a very positive, creative environment. In terms of this being a job and sometimes it’s not like that, so when it is like that, you make the most of it.
BT: You’ve discussed being the social coordinator amongst the cast while filming in Toronto and going to Bar Raval in particular.
AS: I am the social coordinator as long as it’s going to that specific corner of Toronto, because that’s my favourite corner, because Bar Raval is there and that’s amazing. And then right next door is a buddy of mine, he’s now a friend of mine, is a restaurant that is just great, DaiLo is just fantastic. Anton (Potvin) who runs it is great and he loves having us there and we love supporting him, so yeah, as long as we’re on that corner, I’ll coordinate anything. [laughs]
BT: Did you know fellow Kiwi Karl Urban before doing this show together?
AS: Karl and I know each other from New Zealand. We went to the same acting school and so I knew him from there. But he came overseas…he’s a little older than me, not much but a little. He came overseas pretty much before I’d even started acting, so I’ve always wanted to work with him and inevitably, the day has come when we’re on set together and I love it, it’s great! And it’s also having someone around on set that understands rugby and wants to watch the All Blacks, which is amazing! And he speaks normally, without an accent.
BT: Our EIC Leora got a chance to interview Jack recently for Star Trek: Lower Decks and he was lovely.
AS: Well, he’s an anomaly. Jack’s an anomaly because he’s got pretty well-known parents and there’s every chance that this boy could have been horrible growing up in a pretty Hollywood sort of environment. And he is quite genuinely, your Editor-in-Chief would probably tell you, he’s just such a well-balanced, genuine, sweet man. And credit to his parents, man, credit to those guys for keeping him straight. And you know what? I love doing scenes with him. We had the baptism scene in Season 1, which was just so much fun. And getting to dunk him underwater and doing this weird scene beforehand, in which we’re standing there and Stefan Schwartz directed it and we were encouraged to ad-lib and we ad-libbed a bunch of that scene and a bunch of the stuff prior to the dunking, and it was just so much fun, because Jack’s so loose and available and ready to go there and I loved that. He’s a lot of fun.
BT: Homelander is kind of a jerk, but you aim to find the light in him. He grew up in a lab, obviously has some issues with his mother…
AS: [laughs] Just like me!
BT: How do you play him?
AS: Well, no one is all dark or all light. There’s always light and shade in everyone, and I think that a lot of the best moments are when it should be dark and someone finds a little bit of lightness, so it’s those opposites and I’m always looking for those opposites. And how do I play him? Honestly, there’s so many references at the moment out there politically, there’s a lot of negative role models at which to look and celebrity culture, we’re all pretty well exposed to that. We do see the best and the worst of that on a day-to-day basis. There’s a wealth of material from which to draw out there in the real world. Sadly. It’s really finding the pieces that work and add a pinch of narcissism and a pinch of sociopath [laughs] and we’re on our way.
BT: What kind of themes have stuck with you?
AS: It’s interesting because we really touch on a lot of social issues in the show. And arguably, my character hasn’t really come into contact with some of the ones that more have stuck out. There’s the obvious one in season one with Chace (Crawford) and Erin’s moment of #MeToo, which was despicable, and ever since The Deep has been paying for it. I guess the theme would be something along the lines of karmic retribution or cause and effect. Eric (Kripke) said very early on that one of the rules of the universe of the show is that if someone does something morally bankrupt, then they would eventually pay for it, that their day in court will come, their reckoning will come. And he’s true to his word, whenever somebody does something negative, they’re punished, and positive, they’re rewarded. Something that I love about the show is the idea of having to deal with the consequences of your actions and I think that’s what season two is all about for Homelander. Season one is very much his taking bold actions to try and assert himself in his environment and the world and then season two is very much about the repercussions of that and to a certain extent, paying the piper. That’s my go-to theme.
BT: Your Supe locations are really expansive, whereas Laz Alonso pointed out how his are usually pretty grimy. Do you enjoy filming in the boardroom space?
AS: Love it. That’s my favourite set. It is two different worlds though, you notice that when The Boys are on screen, the shooting style, the camera work is handheld, it’s very gritty and real. And then it’s much more classic when it it’s the Supes, much more formal, we’re up on sticks and we’re on tracks and it’s smoother and more refined. Just to emphasize these two polar opposite groups and the worlds in which they live. He’s right! He’s right! The Boys have to go to some dirty little places, tiny alleyways and shitty little rooms and it is like whales and things. Honestly, the worst thing that happens to me is that I have to put on a harness and go up in the air and the rest of the time I’m in boardrooms. I love those sets. I love walking into a set that’s big and expansive and broad and you can really use the space in a different way. By the same token, they can do the same, with a very tight space you can add a lot of intensity around it. Respectively, I think that both of the environments in which the crews shoot, I think that they really play into the fabric of what is going on and the relationships. I think that we all feel very blessed to be a part of the show in general, but I’m certainly okay with not being in their environment and I’m certainly very okay with being in the Supes’ world.
BT: How do you feel about the darkness of this show and with Banshee, does that attract you?
AS: Yeah! Very much so. I think it’s very easy to distract yourself with the nice things of life. We want everything all the time to be sunshine and apple pie and that’s not the way that it works in the world. I don’t know why, but some people seem to be able to dip into the darker parts of themselves and the darker parts of the world and I’ve always been quite fascinated with that. For me, the characters that are more interesting tend to have darker elements to them. Which, to be honest, my experience of humans is that often times, the bigger the front, the bigger the back. I remember a friend of mine saying that to me years ago. Every time I have encountered someone who is relentlessly positive and nice, eventually I found out that there is some kind of shadow personality in there. To some extent and usually it is equal in measure to the positive, but I do, honestly having played good guys and bad guys, I’m always trying to reverse the poles on those anyway. But it is more fun I think being the bad guy. Jumping into those dark places, you get to go places you never would in real life. You get to question things in a different way. I embrace the darkness. I watched a film about cannibals, which is based on a true story, I think it was a German film that got banned and I loved it. I thought it was fascinating and I think that the darker it gets, the weirder it gets, the more I am interested. We don’t experience that in real life, go dark!
BT: What was the sequence in which you couldn’t believe that your show pulled it off?
AS: Well I’ve already told you about the sequence in episode four, but I’ll go back in time because now I can actually talk about something. I’m telling you, Season 1, probably my favourite scene and it was excruciating to shoot, episode eight, confronting Karl’s character, Billy Butcher in the kitchen, with Madelyn Stillwell tied up. We shot that overnight and we had four babies that all cried, four little baby Teddys, and they all cried as soon as I picked them up, it was a nightmare to shoot with them. We didn’t finish until I think about 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning and it was brutal to shoot, but it’s one of the most fun scenes because you don’t know where it is going and Stillwell gets lasered. To my knowledge, I’m the only person who’s been crying through lasering someone in the head. When I saw that scene, I was so tired when we finished it, I thought it was a mess and the baby wouldn’t be quiet. Like: “Oh, nothing worked!” Then when I saw it back, it’s a really fun scene, and that’s the character in a nutshell. She’s in the way, she’s arguably my favourite and my closest person, but he’s a narcissistic psychopath. When she presented a bit of a roadblock [whoosh] she gotta go. That’s a fun scene and it’s very telling of that character.
BT: This season, the featured actors include Giancarlo Esposito, Aya Cash, Patton Oswalt, Goran Višnjić. How was it having them on set?
AS: Right off the bat, Eric Kripke, Krips said that he had a “no asshole policy”. And I said: “Mmm-hmm. Okay, pal. I’ve heard that before”. But to his credit, he’s really put together a team of people where there are no assholes, which is amazing. But then you expect that to break somewhat or potentially someone to come in as a guest or potentially that would not necessarily be an asshole, but is not necessarily part of the group and could go anywhere. And here for a good time, not for a long time. But again, we got Giancarlo and he’s just…I had a ball. Season two I was excited when I saw that his role was being expanded from season one. Thankfully I got a few scenes with him and he’s a pro, man. He’s so good. He’s a professional and more than that, I mean that’s great. But he’s fun. He’s had such a long career but he hasn’t lost his sense of enjoyment or fun and it makes it much better, coming in and not having to feel like constantly on his toes, and he’s a loose cannon as well and that works for me. We had a ball together. And then of course Elisabeth Shue in Season 1, she’s such a sweetheart and there’s no pretension about anyone that is coming in. We can either thank them or we can thank Eric for not hiring assholes, because it’s an asshole-free environment.
BT: Did you have a moment in which you realized this show was brilliant and unlike anything else?
AS: My first inkling is that we had a screening of the first three episodes just for cast in L.A. so that we could just see it. And Eric and Amazon put some food on and we watched the first three episodes and that was the first time I went: “Oh yeah, there’s something really good here. There’s something really positive here.” I’m always very cautious about overselling something or going too far with it, but I think that was the first time that I was very cautiously optimistic about the show and felt really good about it and thankfully that was reflected by the public response. These things exist only with the support of the fans, we’re very lucky.
The first three episodes of The Boys season two are now available on Amazon Prime Video. New episodes are available weekly through October 9th.