Jack Quaid is the star of the Amazon drama series “The Boys,” about a team of vigilantes who fight abusive superheroes. The actor plays Hughie Campbell, who joins the titular Boys after a particularly tragic event.
Quaid recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria about what attracted him to “The Boys,” the scariest parts of being on the show and what’s ahead for Season 2. Watch the exclusive web chat above and read the complete interview transcript.
Gold Derby: Jack, what in particular were you most excited about when taking on this role?
Jack Quaid: Thanks for having me, Rob, first of all. I think I was just really excited to do something based off of a comic book and something in the realm of superheroes. I know that my character doesn’t necessarily have powers but I found that to be really interesting of, like, “Who is an average person in this world that’s anything but average?” I just enjoyed being the character who gets to react to this insane world around him. I also just like him as a person. I read the comic book series, all of them front to back, just to get a sense of who the character was. In the comic books, he looks a lot different than I am. I’m 6’3,” Hughie in the comics, I think he’s 5 feet, maybe smaller. The likeness is based off of Simon Pegg circa “Spaced” and he is Scottish in the comics. So I knew I sounded and looked nothing like him so I wanted to get a sense of who is this guy on the inside, why do people like him, what makes him tick internally? So I used that and I just really liked the guy and I feel really honored that I get to be able to play him and then to be able to play off of people like Karl Urban and Erin Moriarty, everybody in the cast, it’s just been lighting in a bottle personally because you don’t usually get to work with all these people who are all so talented and also are genuinely your friends. It was a great cast and a really fun character to play. I’m rambling a lot.
GD: No, not at all, it’s really interesting because, to be honest, I wasn’t really that familiar with the source material when I first watched the show so I wasn’t really that in the know about the departures that they made from the source material, particularly with your character. I’m really interested to know why they decided to go in this direction and cast you and have you make it your own. You weren’t really familiar with it at all before you took on the role, is that right?
JQ: No, not at all. In fact, when I first read the script I didn’t know it was based off a comic book. It was just a script that came in, “Hey do you wanna audition for this?” And I took a look and I just thought that somebody wrote a really fucked up script about the world as it is today but just added superheroes into it. And then I did a little bit of research, found out it was based off a comic book and then when I was auditioning for it, I didn’t want to have any of the source material in my head. I wanted to come in and do it my way because I didn’t want to be doing an impression of something. I didn’t wanna be motivated by anything, really. It’s the equivalent of, “Okay, I’m playing a role that somebody else played in a movie from a while ago,” don’t watch that movie ‘cause ultimately that’s gonna enter your subconscious and you’re going to do an impression of that. You just wanna make it your own. As I was auditioning, I didn’t look at any of the source material and afterwards I was like, “Okay, I have to devour this now because this is real.”
GD: Yeah, I can imagine. Well, speaking of things that are really fucked up, this show does that plenty. For example, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, if you’re really that interested before you see it, there’s a baby with killer lasers coming out of its eyes, there’s a woman who crushes a man’s skull in her crotch, there’s an invisible guy who’s exploded, but probably the most memorable, right at the beginning of the show, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into, there’s you beautifully holding hands with your beautiful girlfriend and then suddenly, a train carelessly obliterates her and you’re left literally holding her hands. Tell me about that scene, ‘cause that was how we all came into the show and we realized, “Oh shit.”
JQ: That is a scene from the comics. It plays out a little bit differently in the comics but it’s the catalyst for everything. It’s why Hughie wants revenge from the supes, it’s why Butcher finds Hughie and tries to manipulate him into joining forces. So much happens based off of that moment, and that was my second, maybe third day on-set for the entire project. So it was really nerve-wracking because that scene is darkly funny in a lot of ways, just because it’s so extreme and insane. I think that for a while it was hard for me to elevator pitch the show to my friends ‘cause there were so many elements. But if I just told them about that moment, they kind of got it. I think that when you watch the show and you see that, you’re like, “Oh, okay, I know what this show is now.” So it is darkly funny but I really wanted to make sure I played it as real as possible because it has to feel like a loss for a person that we don’t really get a ton of time with. Robin, we don’t get a ton of time with her, so I really tried to make sure that Robin meant a lot to Hughie and that you understand from that moment why Hughie does all the things that he does. If it was just played just for a laugh, I don’t think that would’ve worked as well. It would’ve been shocking but I really wanted to make sure it felt like a real person was getting lost, albeit in a crazy way, but yeah.
GD: I think that’s exactly what happened because firstly, if you’re not expecting it it’s quite shocking. I thought, “Oh, what a lovely couple and she seems like a really great character and I almost care about her already,” and then bang, she’s gone. That’s actually really important.
JQ: Real quick shoutout to Jess Salgueiro who played Robin, who had maybe two scenes and everyone just loves her automatically. A lot of the credit for that goes to her as well. She’s awesome.
GD: Yes, absolutely right. But then, in a couple episodes later or maybe it was the next episode where Translucent is exploded from the inside out, that was insane and Hughie ends up literally wearing him all over his face and chest and stuff. Can you talk us through the shooting of that? Was there a lot of takes to do that? Were there many bloopers? How did that actually pan out?
JQ: I think that one was one take. The actual explosion was one take and we made sure to cover every angle of it while we did it so that I didn’t have to clean myself up and then do it again ‘cause that’ll take forever just to get it out of your clothes. I’ve become an expert at getting fake blood on me. We just wrapped Season 2 and I can’t spoil anything but that has not changed. There’s even more blood in that season. Oh dear god, I’m so happy we got it in one take. But it’s scary because you’re looking down the barrel of a blood cannon and you know it’s gonna hit you but the same thing happened when Robin gets evaporated in my hands. You have to act like you don’t know that’s coming when there’s a thing literally aiming at your face and you know it’s gonna somewhat hurt. The anticipation is there and it’s so scary but you have to act like you’re not expecting it at all. I think that’s the biggest challenge for that is to pretend there’s not a cannon aimed at your face.
GD: Oh my god. That never occurred to me but that would be really quite challenging.
JQ: In the behind the scenes stills, I literally have a guy shooting it (laughs). It comes this close too in the photo, it doesn’t quite hit me, it’s like here.
GD: That’s brilliant. Hughie’s part of the good guys, the Boys, the scruffy band of misfits who have banded together to expose and destroy the chokehold that the supes have on society. Talk us through working with those cast members. Did it take long for you guys to gel, particularly Karl Urban as Billy Butcher?
JQ: No, we all fell into our roles really quickly and we became friends almost instantly. Karl and I, we met one day, we did a little light rehearsal and we hit it off pretty much instantly. He’s like my big brother, the big brother I never had in a lot of ways. He’s taught me so much and I absolutely love working with him. The same goes to the rest of the Boys. We just formed this crew and we’re all similar to our characters in certain ways, which is really interesting. I have a team now in my life of people that are just so cool and interesting and come from so many different backgrounds. It didn’t take us long to find a groove. What I really actually am excited about in Season 2 is I think our dynamic as a group really evolves and you get to see it go through different kinds of stresses. I can’t give too much away but I’m really excited for people to see that. Everyone was just incredible. The first time Karl and I really talked was I said, “Hey, there’s this bar in town that has Terror on it.” Terror is Butcher’s English bulldog from the comics and there was a place in Toronto where we shoot called the Dog’s Bollocks, and I was like, “Let’s just meet here, it’s perfect, it has the dog right on the front, the name is something your character would say,” and we just played pool and had beer and chatted up and we’ve been friends ever since.
GD: It’s really important when you’re working on a series with a cast to have that rapport. Can you imagine, maybe you’ve been there, where you’re working on a series where that rapport is not there and it’s all fake, that would be quite challenging, I would assume.
JQ: It could be really bad. I’ve been fortunate in my career to not really have that at all, really. I’ll give Eric Kripke the credit on that, our amazing showrunner. He, I think, cast people with a no asshole policy, which is important on anything, because one person can really derail something and I’m happy to report we really don’t have that on our show. It’s been a dream to work on, both on the Boys side and all of the supes are also very incredible people that I’m lucky to work with.
GD: That’s actually very important to have a no asshole policy on anything you’re working on. You touched on Season 2. I know you can’t give anything away ‘cause then unfortunately you probably would be fired and we really don’t want that.
JQ: No, let’s not have this be my demise.
GD: At the end of Season 1, there was many of us around the world who were just like, “What? Shit, I need to see more,” so I’m really glad that you’ve shot the second season. Can you at least tell us, are we gonna get some answers? Is it more exciting? Is it more action? What can you tell us about it without getting into trouble?
JQ: I think that Season 2, in my opinion, is better than Season 1. I’m very biased obviously but we have a lot more action, we a lot more of those crazy moments that we’re known for but I think that we really get in deep with every single character. It’s bigger but it’s also deeper which I think is really important, especially for a Season 2. You really get to find out what makes everybody tick. I can’t give it away but there’s one scene, and you’ll know it when you see it, that is the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Just bar none, the most insane situation. I can’t say anything else but I can’t wait for everybody to see it. Again, you’ll know when you see it.
GD: I can’t wait. When I was watching “The Boys,” sometimes you go onto IMDb, you’re like who is that, what’s that guy been in before and I happened to be looking up the cast and I had no idea that you have really famous actor parents. I’m sure you get asked about it all the time but what I’m interested to know is, obviously you’ve learned a lot as an actor over your career today and from when you were training but what do you learn from your family who are also doing the same thing as you do? What do you learn from them that you really not necessarily can learn professionally?
JQ: People ask me that kind of question all the time and I’ve never had an acting class with my parents. They never sat me down, like, “This is how you cry.” That’s never happened. I think mostly what I really feel lucky to have them in life for is that their support was just complete from the get-go. I think they really understand how tough this business can be and just how insane your day-to-day life can be sometimes. Yet, they still were like, “You wanna be an actor? Great.” Because they understand it from their own lives and a normal parent would be like, “You wanna be an actor? That doesn’t make any sense at all,” but they obviously were super supportive because they know what it’s like and they know what it’s like to have this itch that you need to scratch. They’ve been super supportive every step of the way. I’ll call my mom, earlier in my career definitely I would call her all the time just to be like, “What’s a table read like?” Never really quite taken the Meg Ryan acting class yet.
GD: That’d be fun.
JQ: That’d be fun, she could do it. They’ve just been incredible resources for support this whole time so I’m very grateful for that.
GD: It’s so cool to hear from people in all professions when their parents have been such a huge support for them growing up and learning their trade. I was also really curious to know about “Star Trek: Lower Decks” before we finish up. You’re on that and I love it how CBS All Access is bringing out all this really awesome “Star Trek” ‘cause I’m a huge “Star Trek” nerd from when I was a kid. What can you tell us about that? That looks awesome.
JQ: I don’t know when it’s coming out. I know I’ve recorded most of my stuff for it but it’s a new “Star Trek” show, it’s animated, it’s from Mike McMahan, who’s one of the writers on “Rick and Morty” and he’s frickin’ hilarious. He has this Twitter account basically, I think he still has it, where he’s just pitching new ideas for “Next Generation” episodes constantly and he is just frickin’ hilarious and the show is super funny but it is definitely still “Star Trek.” If you are a huge “Star Trek” nerd, like you say you are, you’re gonna get a lot of the references and a lot of the deep cut jokes, but I think even if you’re new to it, I think it’s something really cool to introduce you to the “Star Trek” universe as well. Me speaking personally, I didn’t know a ton about it when I got cast. I had seen the J.J. Abrams movies but now I’m into it. I’m watching “Next Generation” now in quarantine ‘cause I realized I have to do my research on this, this is like a world, and I’m loving it. I always considered myself a huge “Star Wars” fan and now “Star Trek’s” coming up. They’re about equal now. It’s a super funny show, it is a comedy, it’s animated but it is definitely still “Star Trek,” which is awesome.