[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Boys, Season 2, Episode 5, “We Gotta Go Now.”]
The Boys has never been one to pull punches. For that matter, neither has Homelander, Antony Starr’s scene-stealing, blood-chilling take on a Superman-esque figure, who blasted his fist straight through a man’s chest in the first season. Likewise, neither the show or the character pull their punches when it comes to a sex scene, as we witnessed up close and personal in the fifth episode of Season 2, “We Gotta Go Now,” which brought the tension between Homelander and newcomer Stormfront (Aya Cash) to a surprising (ahem) climax.
The scene was unexpected for a few reasons, not least of which is the fact that Stormfront’s arrival to The Seven initially sent Homelander into a fit of rage. Then there’s the violence of it: Homelander and Stormfront get their kicks by positively kicking the hell out of each other. Sure, nationalism and racism have always made violent bedfellows (and what are Homelander and Stormfront but supercharged incarnations of nationalism and racism), but in the context of the characters and in the wild world of the show, it’s another peak moment of WTF-ery.
Fortunately, Collider’s Christina Radish had the opportunity to break down some of the chaos with Starr, who talked us through the logistics of filming a superhero sex scene and what the new relationship means for Homelander.
“You’ve gotta look at where it’s coming from within Homelander. He’s the neediest, emotionally weakest character on the show, and he killed his right-hand woman/handler/mommy lover Stillwell,” Starr explained. “As much as he believed that was the right thing to do, he’s a needy little boy and he finds someone that adores him. Even though it doesn’t start off like that, by the time they get to that, he finds not only a replacement but an equal – someone that he can laser but doesn’t break.”
Continued Starr, “There’s a sense of this guy who’s always been ostracized and disconnected from not only humanity but even other supes because he’s out on his own and this corporate packaged product, who’s based his whole sense of identity in the character of Homelander, while the person inside has been crying out to meet someone that can connect with them, on that level. And then, with Stormfront, he finds that.”
Indeed, the scene exists in contrast to the final moments of his doomed relationship with Elisabeth Shue’s Madelyn Stillwell, who met her grisly end when Homelander lasered out her skull in the Season 1 finale. From that twisted dynamic to his equally unsettling relationship with Dominique McElligott’s Maeve, sexuality and desperation have always mingled in Homelander’s sinister power plays.
The character’s particular perversity was rather succinctly summed up in the previous episode of Season 4, which saw Homelander continuing to live out his sexual fantasies of Stillwell through Doppelganger, and ultimately, very nearly having sex with himself. But before he went all the way (something series creator Eric Kripke told us he regrets not doing), Homelander pulled back, strangling himself instead. It’s one hell of a surreal and disturbing sight, but as Starr explained, it was also a major moment for the character.
“It’s funny because, if you look at that Homelander-confronts-himself scene, on the page, it looks quite big and overt and funny with lingerie. There are all sorts of things going on in that that are quite wacky and kooky,” Starr said. “Immediately, my first instinct is to see through all of that and to see it as a really interesting character moment where he’s quite mentally confronting himself. What comes out of that, where he’s coming from, and where that takes the story, is pretty crucial for the character for the season. I think that scene actually is pretty good at symbolically representing the show pretty well. We have this crazy set-up and these very big things going on but it’s actually a psychological moment that keeps it really satisfying.”
Whether it’s playing two versions of himself for a very unsettling moment of self-reckoning, or strapping up in harnesses for a mid-air tryst, filming superhero sex scenes has presented Starr with a whole new set of challenges and on-set experiences as an actor.
“When it came to shooting it, it was pretty surreal,” Starr said of his Episode 4 Homelander-on-Homelander sequence. “We had a great double that helped out a lot. Thankfully, he was an actor and he was really fantastic. That makes things much easier.”
Equally helpful was Starr’s years of experience playing twins on Outrageous Fortune, which aired in New Zealand from 2005 to 2010. “I knew exactly what I was in for and I knew how much work I needed to get into it,” Starr explained. “It was actually, when it came down to it, shooting it on the day was just a lot of fun. You just put a little bit of extra work in and do things from both sides. It was really fun, playing around with it and seeing what you can come up with, and then the tech wizards get ahold of it and the illusion is sold.”
But the sex scene with Stormfront was a whole different ball game — one that required rigorous choreography and intensive safety measures to pull off. “It was a pretty strange one,” Starr said. “I’ve done a bunch of sex scenes over the years and this was by far the least intimate and the most surreal.”
“Especially in this case, because there were so many stunts and so much crazy activity involved, it’s more like doing a fight scene or a ballet. It’s step by step,” he explained. “Everything’s gotta be in the right place. It’s not the most cliched romantic scene. There’s nothing stereotypical about it. The conversations were less about comfort levels and tone, and more about safety and harnesses and precautionary measures and visual effects, and things like that.”
And as you’d expect, it was also an extremely surreal sequence to film as an actor. “I was giggling like a child going, ‘What the fuck am I doing? How did I get here? I could have been a lawyer. What are we doing? This is insane.’ And not necessarily in that order,” Starr recalled. “Honestly, it is surreal. When we look at what we’re doing, there are elements of the show that are very serious and are really trying to make a social commentary, but some of this stuff is just pure tomfoolery and play. At times, you pinch yourself and go, ‘What are we doing? This is nuts.’
“And definitely that scene was one of those moments when I believe that Aya and I were harnessed, and making out in harnesses, which is actually really difficult. We were meant to be having sex in the middle of the air when a mirror ball drops. It was a very tricky shot to get. We had to be slowly spinning. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong, and we just started giggling and wasted one of the chandeliers. We couldn’t stop laughing and Eric was a little grumpy because we wasted a very significant and expensive prop. It was that thing where it’s so ridiculous that all we could do is sit in our very uncomfortable harnesses, 10 feet off the ground, and giggle.”
As strange as it was to film (and to watch), it certainly makes it clear that Homelander has met his physical match in Stormfront. But has he finally found the love he’s been so desperately looking for? He may not share all of her views, but as Starr explains, that might not exactly be a dealbreaker.
“Homelander is an equal opportunity hater, but there are a few sides to Stormfront that he’s prepared to overlook because he’s so narcissistic and selfish and needy that he’s not going to worry about a few excesses when he gets what he wants.”
The Boys is now streaming on Amazon, and you can get all caught up with our full Episode 5 recap here.