AMazon’s superhero show The Boys isn’t exactly known for its good taste. The episodes are packed to the gills with fake blood, sex scenes, and exploding skulls. That’s all part of its charm – a corrective, perhaps, to Marvel’s gory, cartoonish depictions of violence – but that means it’s not necessarily something you’d watch on a crowded train.
Nevertheless, this is how I watched the first episode of the third season. I realized my mistake during what is surely the most outrageous moment the show has attempted. I’m forbidden to share the details, but it features a part of the human body being manipulated in ways I couldn’t have imagined, filmed in a way I’ve never seen before.
The streak is fresh in my mind when I arrive in central London to meet The Boys star Karl Urban. Still jetlagged from his flight from New Zealand four days earlier, and already several hours into a grueling day of interviews, he is polite and attentive, but clearly trying to conserve his energy. Detailed interviews with him are thin on the ground; there is at least one video of him giving a weary look of death to an overly familiar interviewer. But as we pull chairs to sit down, there’s only one place to start: did you see the scene with the [redacted body part]?
“I’ve only seen the hard stuff, so I haven’t seen his, uh, full glory,” he says. “But there are things in season three that, once you’ve seen them, you won’t forget.”
The show is based on Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s comic book series about a team of superheroes who are run as a wing of a major media corporation, with spin-off movies and pop careers, and the band guerrillas determined to expose their recklessness. behavior and hypocrisy. In a world where superheroes have become the dominant cultural force, The Boys feels like an important continuation of the conversation.
The show was a post-lockdown hit – it’s probably now Amazon’s flagship series – and audience hunger for new episodes has been palpable for some time. Season three seems to have recognized this: the jokes hit harder, the effects are more gruesome, the celebrity cameos are bigger. This season takes on one of the books’ most notorious chapters – a long, graphic orgy of superheroes known as Herogasm. How the hell do you adapt that for TV?
“It’s hard to talk about without giving away too many spoilers, but I’ll tell you one thing,” he said, leaning forward. “Jensen [Ackles, who plays Soldier Boy, a hero in the style of Captain America] were walking on set one day when they were shooting Herogasm. He turned to one of the cameramen and said, ‘Hey, mate, how are you?’ The cameraman has this thousand-yard stare and says, “Man, I saw some shit.”
Although The Boys is an ensemble show, with a sprawling collection of superheroes and anti-hero vigilantes, Urban has emerged as the show’s frontrunner. His character, a violent man-turned-vigilante called Billy Butcher, dominates the show’s posters; his fierce quest for revenge drives the plot forward.
This season, Butcher will have superpowers. Was it fun to finally become a superhero? “I had a lot of discussions about what the powers might be,” he says. “And I was like, ‘Well, that’s gonna hurt, right?’ It comes back to the question, what is the cost of electricity?The cost is that it actually causes extreme pain.
This pain is not just physical. This season will show him struggling to cope with a version of parenthood that doesn’t suit him. “It’s a responsibility Butcher never anticipated and defeats his purpose,” Urban says. “You can’t be a parent and vigilante fighting superheroes.”
I wonder how much Urban can identify with Butcher’s competing priorities. The Boys tours for half the year in Toronto, while his home and family – he has two sons with his ex-wife – are eight thousand five hundred kilometers away in New Zealand. “I’m always on time,” he said with a sigh. “When I’m in New Zealand, I know that in six weeks or two months I’m on a plane and I’m leaving potentially six months. The most important thing for me when I return home is to connect with the people who matter to me.
In previous years, Urban was able to fly back and forth during filming breaks. But season three was made during Covid, so he’s been separated from his family for longer than ever. “I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this amazing career and all the opportunities that come with it,” he says. “But there is a sacrifice. I’ve missed countless of my boys’ birthdays; funerals of friends. And the third season was the first time in my career that I had seven months away from my family. It was hard. I have never built my career to put myself in a position where I would be absent. So, yes, it was difficult.
Urban turns 50 next week and his children are 21 and 16. I am fascinated by how a parent-child relationship changes when the child reaches adulthood. How’s it going?
“What is the old saying? The older the kids, the bigger the problems,” he laughs. “My kids are awesome, they really are. But it’s just more complex. When they’re kids, the issues are much simpler. As they come of age and have to find their own way in life, it’s a huge challenge. Everyone, in the end, has to go on this journey on their own and fend for themselves. At some point, the umbilical cord is cut. I hope I will pass as much time as possible with them.
When Urban was a boy, his mother worked for a company that rented lights and cameras to the New Zealand film industry. This is how he realized what he loved most in cinema. It wasn’t necessarily the finished work, but the camaraderie of the people who made it.
“Once in a while when a great New Zealand feature film was finished, they would screen it for the cast and crew behind the garage door,” he says. “I was hanging out with the crew, sitting on boxes, drinking beer and watching these movies as a family. I just felt like it would be nice to be part of a family like this.
A few years later, Urban dropped out of college to pursue acting. He began to gain traction, appearing in local plays and commercials, before making the leap to Australia’s biggest stage. Almost immediately, he realized he had made a mistake.
“It was brutal,” he says, starting from scratch in a new country. “I was very adamant that I wanted to work internationally, to work with the best filmmaker possible, but it was probably one of the hardest years of my life. In fact, I wondered if I wanted really do that.
He was saved when an offer arrived from his home. “I’m a big believer in the philosophy ‘A missed opportunity doesn’t come back often’,” he smiles. “So I went back to New Zealand and did a bunch of New Zealand films. One of them was a little film called The Price of Milk, directed by Harry Sinclair. Harry was a good friend of Peter Jackson, so he took a rough cut to show Peter, and I happened to come across Peter when he was looking for someone to play Éomer in The Lord of the Rings.
This is the role he attributes to the change in his life. Thanks to Lord of the Rings, work in the United States came much easier than in Australia. Over the past decade and a half, it’s embraced a slew of fan favorites, from comic book adaptations such as Priest and Dredd to Star Trek and Thor: Ragnarok. Does he have a secret formula for choosing roles?
“No, I have no idea,” he said. “I’m definitely a science fiction fan. But more than that, I’m a fan of storytelling. We happen to live in a world where the entertainment industry has become quite geared towards genre-based products. If I was an actor in the 70s, it would be a different story. In the 60s or 50s, I would have been in westerns. Gender is not a motivation to do or not to do.
Because fans love his work so much, I try to spend the last few minutes of our conversation checking out the dormant projects. It’s the closest I get to eliciting Urban’s death gaze. I’ll probably get arrested if I ask about Star Trek 4, right?
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he growls, already starting to disconnect. No word on what’s next, then? “Look, I know it’s in development,” he says, probably for the millionth time this week. “They have a manager attached. They’re writing scripts and I know the actors are all willing and ready to come back and do another one.
Are you going to be a part of the planned Judge Dredd TV show? He straightens up a bit. “Regardless of whether I’m involved or not, I think it’s such a wonderful property. John Wagner and his entire team of writers and illustrators have created so many wonderful stories that personally, as a Dredd fan, I would love to see. I can’t wait to see what they will do with it. »
Finally, I tell him that I looked up his name on Reddit. “What is that?” I tell him it’s a place where, if you search for Karl Urban, you’ll find hundreds of cropped photos of his face on Wolverine’s body. And then, for the first time in our interview, he starts barking with laughter.
“Oh really?” he stammers. “It’s flattering, but you have to think about it rationally. What am I, two years younger than Hugh Jackman? [It is closer to four years.] I mean, if I was a studio looking to cast someone as Wolverine, I’d cast someone I’d shoot three movies from. You won’t get three Karl Urban movies unless you want a 65-year-old Wolverine.
A recurring theme in Urban’s work is that of welded wholes. Between The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and The Boys, he chooses films in which it seems that the actors are having fun together.
“Well, that comes down to family, doesn’t it?” he said, finally released. “It goes back to that environment that I identified when I was eight years old. For me, that’s the most important thing in life: building a strong connection with people and having a good time doing what you really love.”
The first three episodes of the third season of The Boys premiere on First video on June 3