From showrunner Eric Kripke and based on the best-selling comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the eight-episode Amazon Prime Video original series The Boys is an irreverent look at what happens when the popular and influential superheroes abuse their superpowers rather than use them for good, and often need someone to cover up all of their dirty deeds and secrets for them. But when Hughie (Jack Quaid) suffers a devastating loss as a result of one Supe’s recklessness, he becomes so outraged that he teams up with Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and The Boys, in order to seek out their own brand of vigilante justice.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Karl Urban talked about the fun he’s having in playing Billy Butcher, why this story appealed to him, the changes from the comics, the cohesiveness of vision for the series, the unusual nature of filming a fight scene with a translucent person, just how crazy things get, the dynamic between Billy and Hughie, and whether viewers will feel differently about Billy, by the end of the season.
Collider: This is definitely a wild show, and it seems like you’re having a total blast playing this character.
KARL URBAN: Yeah, I am. I’m having so much fun playing this character. When I read the first episode, it was pretty clear to me that Billy Butcher was quite a trip and quite unlike anything I’d done before. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity.
What was your reaction, when you learned about what the story was, who this character would be, and just what this world would be? What did you think of it all?
URBAN: I personally have become so accustomed to these tentpole event movies, and these big superhero movies, and when I read the script, I thought, “Wait a minute, this is fresh. This is something new. I haven’t seen this done like this before.” It supposes a world where superheroes exist, but what then? What if your version of Superman was actually a mass murderer, or a psychopath, or a rapist, in a really dark way? And what if the only people that knew about it was this group of criminals, and a kid who works in a TV shop? That was a fascinating place to start. Thematically, it’s about a story about those with absolute power, going up against the powerless.
Even with the crazy things that happen in this show, this is a bit of a toned down version from what we get in the comics. When you got to check out these comics, were you surprised that it had been changed?
URBAN: Oh, yeah, definitely, and it had to be that way. There are some elements of the comic that are just not palatable for television, at all, and certainly not, if you want to reach a wider audience, which is the goal of any television. When you spent so much time and energy making something, you want to be seen by as people as possible. Eric Kripke, our showrunner and writer, did a really marvelous job of transferring the source material into a different medium. He’s delivering something new, but at the same time, he’s honoring the genesis and delivering the very essence of what Garth Ennis’ graphic novel was.
What was it like to have Dan Trachtenberg direct the first episode and set up everything for this series, and then having your showrunner, Eric Kripke, direct the season finale?
URBAN: From my perspective, Dan was great to work with him. He knew how to move the camera, in order to help tell the story. He was thoughtful and efficient. He had the responsibility of really establishing the tone of the entire series. Eric Kripke was also there on set, every day, during the pilot. That, to me, was the most important thing because there’s a real cohesiveness about the vision. And Eric is not only a fantastic writer and very smart guy, but he’s also very approachable and very collaborative. Jack Quaid and myself would often go to him with a thousand ideas, and to his credit, he was like, “Yeah, sure, let’s give it a go.” The fun thing, in watching it is that what you see is a real combination, mostly of what was scripted, but then with our contributions. We took Eric’s script and made it ours, and then he took it back and made it into something else.