Inside The Boys’ Season of Payback

Karl Urban, Jensen Ackles, and the cast of The Boys walk us through the bloody good times to come in season 3.

Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara), Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), Frenchie (Tomer Kapon), and Mother's Milk (Laz Alonso) in The Boys season 3
Photo: Prime Video

The cast of The Boys and showrunner Eric Kripke have filed into the Den of Geek SXSW interview studio to discuss their festival appearance and the triumphant release of season 3’s much-anticipated trailer. But as Kripke, Karl Urban (Billy Butcher), Karen Fukuhara (Kimiko Miyashiro), and Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk) take their places on the hopefully comfortable stools we’ve provided, the conversation eventually goes to where most conversations about The Boys inevitably end up: the verisimilitude of superhero orgies. 

“It all comes from this very logical place of ‘if there really was a superhero orgy, what would it look like? How would you depict it in the most honest way possible?’” Kripke says. “Because we’re all about integrity here. We’re just telling the truth, man.”

Depicting the outlandish in the most honest way possible has become a hallmark of Amazon’s massively successful superhero satire. Adapted from Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s 2006 comic series of the same name, The Boys imagines a world in which the public is obsessed with superheroes. Sounds familiar, no? Yet in the world of The Boys, superheroes or “supes” are very much real.

The Vought Corporation creates supes via their proprietary pharmaceuticals, gives them some media training, and then sets them loose on the public to bring in advertising dollars, movie deals, and, hopefully, keep the body count down. Though personnel changes frequently, Vought’s premier team, The Seven, includes such superheroic luminaries as Homelander (Antony Starr), a sociopathic superman with mommy issues; A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), a literal and metaphorical speed-freak; The Deep (Chace Crawford), a dim-witted sex-pest; and relatively new member Starlight (Erin Moriarty), whose idealism is quickly crushed.

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Critically missing from this state of affairs is meaningful government oversight. Stepping into that void to keep the supes in line is profane, lovable goon Billy Butcher (Urban) and his Boys: Mother’s Milk (Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capone), Kimiko (Fukuhara), and Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid). 

No series right now better understands the relationship between consumers and the superhero properties they demand to consume than The Boys. The show’s world, as depicted throughout the first two seasons and several ingenious augmented reality marketing efforts from Amazon, is distinctly familiar. 

Now, just as our superhero landscape must constantly grow bigger with new team-up movies, ponderous TV side projects, and all manner of merchandise, so too must The Boys’ world. And that’s something that season 3 is perfectly happy to do

The Boys’ third season will take things back to the very beginning with the introduction of Vought’s first supe: Soldier Boy. As played by Jensen Ackles (who previously collaborated with Kripke on Supernatural), Soldier Boy is The Boys’ tongue-in-cheek answer to Captain America—an image of an archaic patriot from the World War II-era brought back to an unfamiliar modern world. 

“He’s kind of the original superhero in this world,” Ackles says. “We did get to see a little glimpse into that past. Bringing in someone who has experienced that world into the modern age—you can only imagine. It’s very similar to Grandpa still being around, and what would he think of someone like Homelander or someone like Butcher? It was really fun to play an old man. The beard was tough, though.”

Ackles will be joined in the cast by Soldier Boy’s fellow 1940s “Payback” team members Crimson Countess (Laurie Holden) and Gunpowder (Sean Patrick Flanery). Before the show can further delve into the story of Payback, however, there are some lingering issues from its core cast to address early on. 

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Hughie (Jack Quaid) is now working with Congresswoman Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit), who, unbeknownst to Hughie, is a secret brain-splattering supe. 

“She has this really interesting ongoing storyline,” Kripke says of Neuman. “We gender flip the character from the books, but this idea that there is this secret superhero is just a really interesting bomb in a briefcase, you know? We give her a lot more to do this season, and Claudia kills it… [and] definitely kills some literal people.”

Fellow Boys teammates Kimiko and Frenchie are still working through their sweet courtship, with Frenchie finally getting a handle on American Sign Language to better communicate with his silent superpowered friend. There will also be some dancing, much to Karen Fukuhara’s delight. 

“I’m most excited for everyone to see Kimiko’s dance sequence with Frenchie,” she says. “There was a tiny bit of it in the trailer. You know, I never expected to be able to do something like that ever in life. And I got to do it in a show playing a character who doesn’t speak.”

On The Seven side of things, Starlight and Queen Maeve (Dominique McElligott) will have to recover from their titanic battle against Homelander and Stormfront. The Deep is still stuck in his Church of the Collective purgatory, while A-Train is on his way back into The Seven’s good graces. Homelander, for his part, will be more adrift than ever, having lost what he seemed to perversely see as his family, with his “wife” Becca dead and their son Ryan set to call Billy Butcher papa. As for how that might go, Karl Urban is cautiously optimistic about Butcher’s parenting chops. 

“At the end of the season, he made a promise to Becca that he would look out for Ryan,” Urban tells us. “He finds himself torn between two worlds. One to fulfill that promise. The other trying to get justice/revenge for her death and what happened to her. It’s that moral, inner turmoil battle that he struggles with. It’s a lot of fun.”

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Of course, in a universe where all that separates superheroes from normal civilians is a pharmaceutical compound, the divide between the two factions can grow quite thin. We see as much in the revealing teaser for season 3 that features Butcher shooting lasers out of his eyes and throwing people across the room (and puking too, but who knows if that’s a superpower). In the original comic series, The Boys were known to consume some Compound V every once in a while to better take down a supe. It would appear that Butcher has done the same here. 

“We decided to go full Bill Bixby. Great Incredible Hulk moment,” Urban says of a powered-up Butcher. “To me, the interesting character element about that is ‘how far are you willing to go to achieve your goal?’ To destroy the thing you hate the most, are you willing to become that thing? To me, that’s a very interesting existential question. All of the characters have choices to make.”

Not only does every character in The Boys have a choice to make, but so do the folks behind the scenes. For while honoring the characters is the first priority for Kripke and company, they also inherit some truly wild moments from their source material. 

And that brings us back to the superhero orgy.

“Herogasm,” an iconic comic arc about the sexual depravity of Vought’s heroes, will be adapted for the back half of season 3, with episode six bearing its title. 

“We definitely did it as a dare,” Kripke says. “From the moment people heard we were making The Boys, people would say over and over again, ‘but you’re not gonna do Herogasm. I dare you to do Herogasm.’ Part of it was that we were in season three, we were a hit, Amazon could say ‘no’ to us less and less. So finally, we were like, ‘All right, let’s do it. Let’s fucking do it.’”

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The Boys’ most prurient elements, like sex and violence, are often the ones that stand out in marketing material and fans’ imaginations, but according to Kripke, the show’s writing staff never goes into a given episode or season with the plan to up the ante. 

“We genuinely don’t have conversations about trying to top ourselves,” Kripke says. “I think it’s dangerous because if you’re working to go bigger and bigger it’s an unsustainable pattern. Eighty percent of the conversation in the room is ‘how do we go deeper with the characters and how do we put them through existential crises?’”

Still… even though Kripke is adamant that character comes first, he can’t help but reveal that season 3 will contain multitudes of madness beyond even Herogasm. 

“The very first 15 minutes of episode one is by far the craziest thing we’ve ever done… like, by a mile,” Kripke promises. “It’s a weird almost James Bond kind of opening. It’s its own adventure before you start the season. The hard stuff is figuring out the arcs. The fun stuff is figuring out the exploding bodies.”

Simply put: viewers crave exploding bodies and blood. And The Boys season 3 is going to be more than happy to provide all that gore… if it can keep up with the demand. An anecdote from Laz Alonso illustrates a peculiar supply chain problem.

“I do remember during episode three hearing the head of the makeup department talking to someone about ordering more blood. [She said] that they had already gone through more blood by episode three than they had through the entire season two.”

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One can only imagine the blood inflation for The Boys season 4 

The Boys season 3 premieres on Prime Video on June 3.