The Boys’ Showrunner Eric Kripke Explains Those Big Season 4 Guest Stars

A couple of major superstars turn up early in The Boys season 4. Showrunner Eric Kripke explains how they came to be.

Black Noir and The Deep in The Boys Season 4.
Photo: Jasper Savage | Prime Video

This article contains spoilers for The Boys season 4 episodes 1, 2, and 3.

Through its first three seasons, The Boys has been no stranger to the art of the major celebrity cameo. In season 3 alone, Amazon Prime Video‘s superhero satire fit in more than a half dozen famous faces in one 40-second clip as Patton Oswalt, Rose Byrne, Kumail Nanjiani, and more re-enact Gal Gadot’s ill-advised “Imagine” routine.

Within the first three episodes of season 4, however, The Boys well and truly outdoes itself with two big guest stars – one of whom never actually appears onscreen. Allow us, and The Boys‘ showrunner Eric Kripke, to explain.

The Boys season 4 episode 2 “Life Among the Septics” opens with a scene from A-Train’s very shitty biopic. In a situation that in no way resembles his actual origin story, Reggie Franklin a.k.a. A-Train (Jessie T. Usher) is a drug-runner living in an urban slum that appears to have been borrowed directly from the set of The Wire. Surely this troubled (and Black) youth is calling out for guidance from a wise (and white) savior. Said white savior arrives when a car pulls up to the projects and out steps none other than … Will Ferrell?

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Yes, in the fictional movie-within-the-show, comedy superstar Will Ferrell is portraying A-Train’s track coach at South Chicago High School. Hack Dawn of the Seven director Adam Bourke (P.J. Byrne) is delighted to have him aboard and even predicts Oscar-gold in his future. How could Ferrell not be up for awards consideration with the way he delivers lines like “Damn it, Reggie. You’re the most talented superhero I’ve ever seen. Yet you’re throwing it all away, slinging yayo for gangbangers?”

According to Kripke, the Ferrell cameo came together pretty much the same way most Boys cameos come together – remarkably easily.

“Will and I had been chatting a little bit around that time about a screenplay,” Kripke says. “And I just asked him ‘will you come to Toronto for 30 hours and bang this out?” He couldn’t have been more gracious and lovely. It was miserable shooting conditions with sideways frozen rain all day but he was nothing but smiles and kindness. I just have the greatest respect for him.”

What’s particularly interesting about Ferrell’s cameo is not just that he’s playing a heightened version of himself but that his character within the A-Train movie might have significance for the larger Boys franchise. A-Train refers to Ferrell’s character as “Coach Brink.” Dedicated watchers of The Boys‘ first spinoff, Gen V, should recognize that name as belonging to Clancy Brown’s character Richard Brinkerhoff. Professor (and sometimes “Coach”) Brink was a beloved figure at Godolkin University and is one of the most politically and socially powerful people in Vought’s orbit. Not only is Brink a major character, but if you squint a bit, you can absolutely see the resemblance between Will Ferrell and Clancy Brown.

Of course, our headline promised to discuss major guest stars, plural, and you probably don’t recall seeing someone else on Will Ferrell’s level. That’s because you didn’t see them…but you did hear them. Voicing The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) octopus lover, Ambrosius, is Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton.

“We knew that we wanted Ambrosius to be played by the classiest Oscar-winning British actress we could find and [Swinton’s] name is on a very short list,” Kripke says. “To her everlasting credit, when her representation presented it to her, she said like ‘hell yeah, I want to play an octopus.’ She came into the recording booth for a day and I was there watching this highest possible caliber actress say just the dumbest possible shit. It literally brought a tear to my eye. It was one of the best professional days of my life.”

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The first three episodes of The Boys season 4 are available to stream on Prime Video now. New episodes premiere, culminating with the finale on July 18.