Eric Kripke, creator and showrunner of Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of The Boys discusses his passion for the project and casting Karl Urban in the role of Billy Butcher. The ultra-violent superhero satire is set to premiere on Amazon soon, bringing to life the dark, bloody, and often very funny world of twisted heroes created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Like Ennis’s Preacher, the series began life as a comic book series before being ushered along to TV with the help of producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
As it turns out, the pair’s unique sense of humor makes for an ideal match with Ennis’s iconoclastic take on the typical comic book story, much less the popular culture-dominating influence of superheroes in general. Add to that the writing style of Supernatural creator Kripke and an enormous cast of extremely game actors that includes Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Chace Crawford, Elisabeth Shue, and Jessie T. Usher, and it would seem as though Amazon has a hit on its hands.
That certainly seems to be the case, as the streamer has already renewed the series for season 2 ahead of its official premiere. Screen Rant had an opportunity to speak with Kripke about the series earlier this year, and he was eager to discuss all that went into making The Boys the summer series to watch on Amazon. Read the complete interview with Eric Kripke below:
How did you come to be interested in working on The Boys. Did you have a relationship with the comics beforehand or were you introduced to them more recently?
No, I did. I did have a relationship with the comic. Mostly, I came to this by being a huge Garth Ennis fan. Preacher as a comic was sort of my – I would put Preacher up there in my top two or three comics of all time. I was reading it in college or in my twenties, and so then I would follow everything Garth Ennis ever wrote. And so, when The Boys were coming out, I devoured that the same I devoured everything the guy ever wrote.
So, I was a fan and I knew it and was aware of it and knew all the characters. And so, I got involved with the show because they had just announced that they were in production on Preacher. And Preacher, like I said, it was one of my top two or three comics and I knew Neil Moritz and a producer who works with him, Ori Marmur, and they were producing it. And along with Seth and Evan, and so I had a meeting with them for no other reason than to say, hey, fuck you for giving Preacher to somebody else! [Laughs] Because I was like, ‘I was the number one fan of Preacher and you gave it away!’ They didn’t know I was into it, but still.
So we sat down and they were like, ‘Well, we have The Boys,’ and I’m like, great, I’ll take The Boys. And that was the meeting. Seth and Evan were already getting involved with it because they were all working on Preacher together, which is sort of like Seth and Evan and Garth Ennis had become a family. And I sort of joined up with The Boys.
When you’re working on a series like this that has blueprints within the comics, how do you approach that as a writer? How do you decide when and where to make changes that are going to best suit the story you’re trying to tell with the material?
You make those choices with an incredible amount of angst and agony. I’d written all originals up until the last couple years where suddenly everything I was doing was adaptations. I was doing The Boys, and then on the movie side, I adapted this book called The House With A Clock and Its Walls, which is one of my favorite books. An heading into it, I was blissfully ignorant. I thought after all these years of having to shoulder the burden of coming up with the original ideas myself, this is going to be a breeze. And I found it, by a mile, harder than writing original material.
I love it, but it’s so fucking hard because when you’re writing original material, it’s just blank, it’s go wherever you want, do whatever you want. You don’t have to stop and think about any of it. You just craft your story the best way you can. In adaptations, there are inherent differences in the mediums. They’re just baked in.
Comics for instance, is a medium that is based on space. A film is a medium that is based on time. There’re just core differences that you cannot do. It’s the same for novels, and so there’s no such thing as a straight adaptation. That just simply wouldn’t work. I think you would end up with something pretty disastrous. And so then you have to start playing this, what I liken it to is the world’s most stressful game of Jenga. Where you have to say, ‘Okay, I have to make certain adjustments just to fit the medium, but what adjustments do I make and where, and is this going to topple this thing that I love?’ And I’m the last guy who wants to be the person who fucks it up for a couple of million people. So you feel the heat.
So I think it’s about, I mean, one thing I’ll give Garth Ennis the greatest credit: He was so soothing and amazing and great. And early on I was quite nervous and I was like, ‘I’m going to have to adjust the story.’ He’s like, just get the characters right, have them be the characters from the books and people will be fine with whatever adjustments to the story you have to make as long as the characters are are complicated and recognizable. And I thought that was actually remarkable advice.
So that’s what we did. We really focused on making sure we got the characters right. ‘Cause I think that’s a big part of why that book works. And then we can adjust the stories as necessary.
The series walks a pretty fine line between satirizing superheroes and subverting superhero tropes and also participating in the genre of superhero storytelling itself. What’s the challenge in making that all work and balancing it in such a way that it doesn’t skew too much in one direction?
Yeah, we came up with, among the writers, we sort of came up with a true north for our compass early. And then were sort of brutally disciplined in sticking to it, which is the following. What if superheroes were really in our world? And so every bit of absurdity comes from that, these totally absurd elements of the superhero myth. It’s ridiculous that somebody talks to fish. It’s just fucking stupid. That’s just one easy example.
We let any comedy or absurdity emerge out of the natural contradictions of putting a fantasy element in the real world. And so when those people have to take shits and go get tacos, it just gets funny.
But by the same respect, we kept saying, that this is the real world. No one was allowed to pitch a joke that was just a parody of another superhero or just a gag because it had to live. From the very beginning, we were very, very aware that it had to live as its own world and have its own integrity and credibility. ‘Cause if it came off like some Naked Gun version of a superhero show, we’re dead.
The show has some complex visual effects. Is that something that you guys were really mindful about, being able to compete with some of the bigger feature films that are out there? You want to be comparable while still doing your own thing?
Yeah, for sure. It was really important to us to have an incredibly high level of visual effects. I just sort of reject the notion that because it’s TV you’re able to accept somehow a lower standard that you sometimes see. But to me it’s like, hey, Game of Thrones doesn’t fucking cheap out on shit. We’re not going to cheap out on it.
Now, the truth is, we had a healthy streaming budget, but we did not have a crazy, crazy VFX budget. It wasn’t that much larger than, say what I had on Revolution and whatever is a classy Bad Robot show like Lost. It’s probably in that realm.
Part of it is just having really, really good people and working really, really hard. You can go to, I think at one point we had something like well over 20 VFX houses doing different shots and we were just, I mean look, I think the houses probably didn’t love us. They were probably not our greatest fans, but we were doing 20 to 30 revisions of almost every shot and I think there’s 1,800 – 1,900 shots in the first eight episodes.
And so we were relentless. It became about going over every shot with a fine-tooth comb over and over and over and over again to get it to the level that we wanted. I think, the great news is that people who are watching it seem to really notice that, which is amazing. And so, yeah, we held ourselves to a really high bar that we felt we had to hit.
Can you tell me a little bit what the casting process was like for you? How long did you search for the right actors to really nail it like you did?
Yeah, I mean I took it, as they always do on TV pilots, it takes forever and there’s so many twists and turns. And then this show, which had by far and away the largest cast I’d ever worked with, has an ensemble of 12 leads. And casting one lead is a shit show on the pilot. So the casting 12 of them is crazy.
The one thing that was interesting was, we had to cast all the superheroes first because it was going to take not only hundreds of thousands of dollars to make their super suits, but it was going to take well over six months. So we had to cast them over half a year before shooting. Which, again, for TV is a really long stretch.
And so I think Erin Moriarty might’ve been our very first hire. And then Antony Starr came not too long after that. Jessie Usher, Chace Crawford, Dominique McElligott, I mean all that, we cast all of them first. It was interesting to cast basically the antagonist before you cast the protagonists. That was sort of unique, you’re sort of like, ‘Oh okay, so normally you go the other way around.’ So that was an interesting balance.
And then it came time to cast the Boys . The process is complex, but the choices are really easy. I think, from the first minute we said, okay, it’s time to cast Butcher. I think literally from that first minute, me and Seth and Evan said, well, let’s call Urban. And so then we told that to the studio network and they said, great, but we’re going to need you to see every human being on earth first to make sure that you’re totally sure. And we’re like, okay.
So we go through months of seeing every human being on earth, and there were some amazing people obviously, but we always felt it was Karl. We just, we were so taken with his charisma and he’s so funny in [Thor:] Ragnarok, that he really won us over. He’s just the perfect choice for this.
So we saw everyone and then finally we said, ‘Can we back to Karl now? ‘Cause that’s enough already.’ And they said, ‘Yes, you can go back to Karl,’ and we did and thank God he was interested, because he is the perfect Butcher and always was.
And then with Jack Quaid, similarly, I was handed a show, an Amazon show, that he was in, that I watched. And it was literally the first piece of tape I watched on any of the Hughies. And I said, oh, it’s this guy. They said the same thing that you can’t keep trying to pick the very first guy you think of. And so we saw everybody and then I was like, but it’s this guy. And so then we eventually we gave it to Jack. So I mean, I think the truth always makes its way to the surface, but sometimes you’ve got to wade through people’s fear, but once you get there, you always end up with the right choice.
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The Boys premieres Friday, July 26 on Amazon Prime Video.