If Superman was real, he’d be a megalomaniac using his powers for personal ends.
That’s the premise of “The Boys,” a new satiric Amazon series created by Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Erik Kripke (“Supernatural”). Based on the eponymous comic book series by Garth Ennis, the eight-episode dark comedy, premiering July 26, is set in a world where superheroes exist as arrogant celebrities —with branding deals and corporate sponsorship.
“At the moment we’re so saturated with superheroes … and they’re great. But seeing something that had a really different twist on it caught my attention,” says Antony Starr, 43, who plays wholesome all-American hero Homelander, complete with a star-spangled cape.
The New Zealand born Starr (“Banshee”) co-stars in “The Boys” with fellow Kiwi Karl Urban (“Lord of the Rings”) and Chase Crawford (“Gossip Girl”). In the world of “The Boys,” everyone reveres Homelander, but like all of his fellow superheroes, he’s secretly corrupt — using his laser-vision to spy on women and attack his personal enemies.
“[Homelander is] basically an inversion of Captain America meets Superman … and add a big dose of craziness,” says Starr. “Superhero culture is everywhere at the moment. You can’t help but be influenced by that, but our show is so different. Take Superman or Thor or any [superhero] and they always do the right thing. So basically the task was take anything that looks like the right thing to do and turn it on its head — and then you’ve got my guy.”
Starr says the cast mostly worked with Kripke on a daily basis while shooting in Toronto, but Rogen was part of the “engine that makes the show work.”
“The Boys” also follows Annie January (Erin Moriarty), a wide-eyed new heroine entering Homelander’s prestigious team of celeb heroes who’s shocked to discover what her colleagues are really like behind closed doors. In a parallel storyline, a group of vigilantes led by the mercurial Billy Butcher (Urban) monitors the corrupt heroes.
Starr says “The Boys” can be watched on multiple levels, since it’s a send-up not only of superheroes but any type of celebrity with a personal brand that’s at odds with their private persona —pro athletes, reality stars, A-list actors.
“There’s a definite political and social satire going on within the show, but it’s also just so much fun,” he says. “So if you want to get deep on it, you could pick it apart and look at metaphors to the cultural environment of our times. Or, you can just have fun. I like shows that work on both those levels. It’s an ‘everyone’s invited’ environment.”
The novelty of an American series having two stars from a country as small as New Zealand didn’t escape Starr’s attention.
“Not having worked with Karl Urban before, I was really excited to meet with him and bump heads, and we sure got to do that,” he says. “That’s a highlight for me. It’s amazing having someone born and raised in the same part of the world in which I grew up. It’s been a lot of fun having him there — every now and then going over to his place, watching rugby. We get on really well.”