After the success of AMC’s adaptation of ‘Preacher‘, it was almost inevitable that Garth Ennis’s other landmark comic series would come to the screen. I’m referring, of course, to ‘The Boys’, a deconstructionist work that sees a group of vigilantes (the titular Boys) tasked with taking on a group of corrupt celebrity superheroes. While at New York Comic Con, we were lucky enough to chat with a couple of the Boys, namely actors Karl Urban and Jack Quaid, who play Billy the Butcher and Wee Hughie Campbell, respectively. In the course of our conversation with Urban and Quaid, we discussed their characters, the arc of the first season, and more.
What was the thing that you latched onto as an entry point for your character?
JQ: For me, just reading the scripts and reading the comics, getting to the core of Hughie’s character. I love that he’s just a normal, anxious dude who’s just in a crazy, surreal, just extraordinary situation. I feel like he reacts to things in the show and in the comics much like I would if I was in his position. He’s a sweet guy who just ultimately wants the best to come out of all these insane scenarios, but he has to make a lot of decisions along the way and comes to a lot of moral crossroads, definitely.
KU: I think what I latched onto about Butcher, which was really enjoyable to play, was his ability to convince everybody around him to do just the most outlandish, wild acts and to service his agenda. That’s a lot of fun. Butcher’s a motherfucker. You probably can’t print that. But a motherfucker with a heart.
JQ: A heart of gold!
A heart of gold?
KU: I don’t know about that. [laughs]
For you, what sets this apart from other superhero projects?
JQ: Well, when I first read the scripts for the show, I didn’t realize it was based off a comic book. I just thought someone took our real world and put superheroes into it. And I think what we do is we really do treat the world like “What if superheroes really existed?” They wouldn’t be these saviors of humanity. Because they have these powers, but at the end of the day they’re still people. And when you have powers, absolute power corrupts absolutely. And then it’s about us, a group of vigilantes who don’t have superpowers, sticking up for the little guy, trying to take down these corrupts superheroes. So I think that’s what makes it different, that it takes a slightly more realistic approach. And a way more depraved approach as well.
KU: Yeah, you’re gonna see things in this show that you’ve not seen before. Every script and every episode that we did was really pushing the envelope and raising the bar on the next one. And I think it’s gonna shock and surprise people, but mostly it’s gonna entertain.
Was there a particular script that shocked and surprised you?
KU: Several. Even just in the opening on the pilot. We have a superhero character in the pilot that is relatable to a superhero in a very big, popular franchise. And you will see him do something that you have never seen anybody do ever! In the history of film or television! [laughs]
JQ: Oh yeah! Oh my God, yes!
Does the show deviate from the comics in any sort of extreme way?
KU: No. I think the comic books were very graphic and we don’t have to go as far to achieve the same sort of effect. And obviously we’ve gotta find as broad an audience as possible, but it is still hard R. Serves up quite an edge.
JQ: I describe it as “palatably fucked up.” [laughs]
How would you sum up the dramatic thrust of the first season?
KU: The dramatic thrust of the first season is really for us about bringing the Boys together. It’s about assembling the group, defining what their mission is, and their goal, their objective is to take down the Seven, this elite group of corrupt superheroes. So really it’s a lot of world-building and a lot of character introductions and taking these relationships and really, immediately putting them under great strain and testing them.
JQ: And something our showrunner has said a lot is that this is a show about masks. And you know, what you present to the public and who you are in private. And every character – kind of beside myself and Erin Moriarty, who plays Starlight – wears some sort of mask when they’re around people or in public, and just playing the duality of that. I think that’s a big part of our show.
Do either of you have any particular similarities to your characters?
JQ: Oh my God, yeah! I feel like I, I don’t know, I would react like Hughie does in any of these situations. And I think you’ve got some… Well, maybe not. I don’t know!
KU: Maybe! No! Maybe! Tough for me to be a jerk!
Off topic, but Karl, has there been any movement on ‘Star Trek’?
KU: I know nothing about ‘Star Trek’.
You play Dr. McCoy.
KU: Yes! I know that! [laughs] No news, apparently. No news.
JQ: Oh, I know a ton about ‘Star Trek’! [laughs]
KU: Uh huh, okay.
The eight episode first season of ‘The Boys’ will arrive on Amazon in 2019.