[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 2 finale of The Boys, “What I Know.”]
Few people understand what a wild season of television The Boys Season 2 was better than Antony Starr. As Homelander, the deeply troubled and deeply violent Ubermensch seen by many as the greatest superhero of all time, Starr is often involved in both the show’s funniest and most disturbing moments. And his insight into some of the biggest choices made this year offers a lot of clarity about what, exactly, is going on inside his head.
Collider’s Christina Radish, during a recent extended interview with Starr, got a lot of fascinating details from the New Zealand-born actor about this season, including the final episodes. And there were a lot of surprising revelations, such as the fact that during the Congressional hearing which becomes a bloodbath at the end of Episode 7, he actually managed to stay squeaky clean during filming. Why?
“Interestingly, it was quite bizarre because there was nothing to react to when we were there. Because it’s all visual effects and then they used blood cannons on other people. Colby Minifie, who plays Ashley, got some blood on her, as you see, and other people did. But because my suit is so expensive and hard to clean, they didn’t wanna damage it, so they were like, ‘Well, no, Homelander doesn’t get any blood on him because we would have to spend a lot of money to clean that and maybe ruin the suit, which is more than the actor is worth.’ So, I didn’t have to do any blood cannon work.
When you’ve got a real blood effect, or a real physical prop or special effect, it’s obviously a lot easier to react to. We basically just had cameras on us and one of the ADs shouted, ‘One head blows up! Two heads blow up! Three heads blow up!’ We knew where to look and it was all just quite surreal. How do you react when people’s heads start blowing up? I can’t really answer that.”
Still, he loved the end result:
“When you see the thing cut together, I thought it was hysterical. The great editors that we have put it all together and the vis effects guys get in there and do their thing, and movie magic is created. But it’s very surreal standing there and just having someone go, ‘Yup, head one, head two, head three is blowing up!,’ and you’ve gotta react. It’s another ‘How did I get here?’ moment.”
Speaking of “how did I get here” moments — during the finale, Homelander definitely didn’t escape getting a little bloody during the climactic showdown with Billy (Karl Urban) and Maeve (Dominique McElligott). But after agreeing to let both of them go, he still feels confident enough in his power to do what Superman would never do: Gaze out over the city… while masturbating furiously.
Starr, when asked about that moment, explained his perspective on Homelander’s mental state like so:
“He’s the neediest character in the show. That scene was about coming full circle, with a twist. That same level of neediness, when he first started realizing in Season 1 that he wanted to do more and be more and Stillwell was not really on board with that, he started taking steps on his own. He became more autonomous and self-aware, and it’s a little throwback to that but it’s much darker and more grim and more twisted and fucked up. There’s a sexual element in it that is almost secondary, aside from the fact that maybe some people think it’s funny. It’s the need and the desperation and that real primal act. Procreating is such a basic part of humanity and biology, and he’s not doing that with anyone. He’s on his own and he’s so isolated. There’s nothing good about it. It’s all the ugliness of his ego and his need, and it’s hate and vengefulness mixed up with a sexuality. It’s just a bizarre moment, which ends up with a pretty cool shot of the New York City skyline.”
An important revelation comes from this moment — the fact that we’ve never once seen Homelander without his cape on. (Pants, yes. Cape, no.) Starr says that he doesn’t think we’ll ever see the character without it:
“I just feel like his identity is so bizarrely and dysfunctionally twisted up in the corporate identity of Homelander. He wouldn’t know who he is without that costume, without that flag, and without that public persona and identity. That is who he is. That’s why Stormfront coming in and challenging him for leadership of Seven is not just her wanting to take his job. That’s an existential threat. It’s like religion. Religious people often base their identities on which book club they belong to, and when someone says that their book club is wrong, they take that as a threat to their very existence and their identity, and therefore, they’ve gotta kill them. It’s something akin to that. It’s a form of skin to him. I don’t know what he would wear. I’ve been asked, ‘Will he ever take the suit off?,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you tell me what he would wear because I can’t imagine Homelander in civilian clothes. I really can’t.'”
Looking forward, Starr said that he really doesn’t know where Season 3 might go, except for literally two words from creator Eric Kripke — “homicidal maniac.”
“That’s all I know,” he says. “That is literally the only thing I know about Season 3. Judging by what happens in Season 2, it seems like we’re set up pretty well for some homicidal mania.” But he’s not worried about what that might mean for the character, just because he’s looking forward to seeing how it unfolds:
“If you look at Season 2, and we were conscious of it, across the board when we were shooting, a lot of the really horrible violent stuff went through other people. If you thought Homelander was bad, I think Stormfront is next level. There’s a philosophy and a darkness around what she thinks and how she feels about people and races that is pretty evil. Season 2 for Homelander was really a quest for identity and a deep dive into himself, and was really about struggling to find himself again, find some confidence, and find some middle ground, which he doesn’t do. He thinks he’s got it, and then it’s taken away. He doesn’t get up to the same sort of things as he did in Season 1, to the same extent. So, I’m actually looking forward to seeing Homelander off the leash. It’ll be really fun, just seeing him go unhinged and exact revenge. That sounds like a hell of a lot of fun to me.
This is, of course, not great news for some of the characters. “If you look at the end of Season 2, some people should be more scared than others, for sure. William Butcher should always have an alarm bell ringing in his head, and I think some other people have firmly put themselves in the line of fire for Season 3,” he said.
But, as Starr adds, “It should be a lot of fun.”
The Boys Season 2 is streaming now on Amazon. A third season has been greenlit. For more, check out our recap of the season finale and our interview with creator Eric Kripke about the season finale.