It’s unsettling to sit with Antony Starr, who plays perhaps the most intriguing villain on television today as Homelander in Prime Video’s The Boys. Homelander is an Aryan super sociopath, a bright Mr. America with a license to kill. Rigid, human-sized and friendly, wears a fashionable chin collar, glasses on his face and one hanging from the t-shirt collar; Out of his photoshoot couture and into a pair of shorts, his accent is all New Zealand. And most importantly, he’s so…nice.
They are waiting for the trap to spring.
He says, “What I didn’t realize was how much of myself I put into the role. Apparently not in relation to flies and lasers…” When suggested that that’s what someone who could do these things in secret would say, he gives an actual answer mwah-ha-ha evil laugh. “But without going into specifics about me on the emotional stuff, the closer I can get to things, the more I can tap into something real.”
In The Boys, a sprawling conglomerate creates and controls superhumans with greedy hands from the mainstream media to the national defense. Homelander and his team are considered heroes thanks to ubiquitous PR, but what they’re really defending isn’t so much truth or justice as rising stock prices.
“Something very strange happened to the character, even though he’s clearly not a good guy. A lot of people caught his eye. There’s a weird element out there that actually kind of idolizes him. I’ve seen some s on Twitter and I’m like, ‘Wait, what?’ You’re missing the point!’ ”
The concept of Homelander (or “Homie,” as Starr calls him), the most powerful being known to mankind, begs the question, “What if Superman was a narcissistic sociopath?”
Showrunner Eric Kripke “has often said, ‘He’s Trump!’ — [but] If you do it too directly, Trump, it becomes very two-dimensional,” Starr says. “I understand exactly what Eric means, and [Homelander murdering a protester before a crowd] was his Fifth Avenue moment, 100%. But if you need someone to string a sentence together, who better than…Obama?”
Homelander is a superman who wears uniform all the time as Emperor General of his own army. He smiles, unleashing that incredibly pearly white for the cameras, and speaks in his harsh American accent Freedom! Justice! But he’s always just a little disappointment from his face scowling and those baby blues lighting up with deadly lasers. And he has a borderline psychotic mom And father problems.
Its isolation is flawless. It’s almost perfect.
— Antony Starr, on “Homelander”
“He’s the loneliest guy in the world. He has no one to identify with but himself,” Starr says, explaining that a disturbing scene in which Homelander looks in a mirror and sees a reflection of himself alternately comforting and berating him is a manifestation of a imaginary friend “Homie” is. invented as a laboratory test subject in his lonely youth. “His isolation is flawless. It’s almost perfect. He’s not stupid; he’s incredibly emotionally atrophied.”
The series is packed with jaw-dropping gonzo moments (season 3 featured an episode called “Herogasm,” and the title wasn’t an exaggeration), but that’s just the meth-infused icing on a socially and politically conscious cake. As Kripke has described, The Boys is a “dark satire on late capitalism.” Starr totally agrees.
“You can take it how you want. If you just want to see something that’s thoroughly entertaining and a little wacky, then you’ve come to the right place stomach For that,” says the actor, “you can do that.” But there’s so much detail in there, so many Easter eggs, so many episodes and conversation-starting moments, I think it’s kind of an all-play. One of the things about the show that I’m really proud of is that we’re uncompromisingly conversational.”
Homelander is hardly static. Despite always being extremely powerful and dangerously aloof, he begins the series as a still reasonably controllable product. In the third season he shook off his dampeners. And after this public murder he is cheered.
“First of all, there’s this horrible comparison to MLK, which is just mind-blowing,” Starr says of Homelander’s address to the crowd afterwards. “But then he says,” and Starr suddenly morphs into Homelander, that tough American dialect full of murderous self-assurance, “I’ve shown people the real me, and they love me for it.”
But then the nice New Zealander comes back: “It was emancipation, breaking away from this very reserved version of himself; In season 4 we will negotiate both elements. We were always trying to grow our horrible, twisted, twisted little baby.”