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‘The Boys’’ Jensen Ackles On Fighting For Soldier Boy (And Probably Ending Up On A MAGA Poster One Day)

Perhaps the best compliment I can give Jensen Ackles after seeing his contribution to the third season of Amazon Prime’s The Boys is this: It’s a damn good thing he was never cast as Captain America.

By now fans have learned the truth about that long-rumored “missed opportunity.” Ackles, who was likely in the running early on, has said he never even auditioned for the job because of scheduling conflicts. His career might have side-stepped the Marvel Cinematic Universe but he became an on-screen quasi-superhero anyway, playing one-half of a brotherly demon-fighting duo in Supernatural. The show ran for 15 seasons, netting both Ackles and co-star Jared Padalecki a dedicated following, one that will presumably be tuning in when Ackles ushers a prequel series to the small screen this Fall.

Until then, fans can catch him playing Soldier Boy, the latest villain to cause chaos in creator Eric Kripke’s debauched superhero series. A perverse fever dream filled with orgies and cum shots and exploding body parts, the latest season of The Boys pushes the line of what’s humanly possible to endure while watching a comic book show to new lows — in the best possible way. It’s sharp-witted, intellectually challenging, and bleakly funny. And there’s absolutely no way Ackles could have been a part of it had he played the more wholesome (and let’s just say it, boring) version of his machismo World War II vet. No, we’re betting Ackles fans will be more than happy that the actor’s first experience donning some spandex was under the direction of Kripke, who teases out a tortured anti-hero in Soldier Boy, one that shakes up the core dynamics of the show in irreversible ways.

We chatted with Ackles about fighting for the role, taking on toxic masculinity, baring it all, and the odds that he’ll ever end up on a MAGA poster after this.

The Boys is such a big show. I assume plenty of people want to be involved in it. Were you able to slide into Kripke’s DMs for this role or did you have to get down and dirty and fight for it?

[laughs] This certainly wasn’t a package that showed up at my front door. We were talking about something completely unrelated, and at the end of the conversation, I was just like, ‘So when are you going to have me over there on The Boys?’ And he kind of chuckled and he’s like, ‘You want to come over?’ And I was like, ‘Dude, I’ll do anything,’ thinking that maybe he’d just write me a little scene and he comes back the next day, he’s like, ‘I gave it some thought and sure, I can write you in but there is a big role coming up in season three. We’re trying to figure out the list of people that we want to think about for playing this role.’ And I was like, ‘I’m not on that list, am I?’ He’s like, ‘No, but let me just send you the material. Tell me if it’s something you’re interested in.’ Right off the bat, it was a scene between Soldier Boy and Butcher. It’s not in the show, but it was an audition scene. I called him back and was like, ‘Who do I have to kill to get this role?’

Who’s on the list and where do they live?

How do I destroy the list and be the last man standing? And so I did. I had to put myself on tape and I did it over and over. We kept going round and round, making adjustments until finally, he was like, ‘Okay, man, I think I can take this up the ladder and see if they’ll sign off on you.’ So I was fingers crossed for a couple of days and he finally got back to me. He was like, ‘All right Soldier Boy, you’re in.’

Did you get a sense during your Supernatural days of what you might be in for or was this a whole new animal?

When I watched season one of The Boys, I was like, ‘Oh, so basically Eric got released into the wild.’ The handcuffs are gone. The gloves are off. Whatever metaphor you want to use, that’s what’s happening. It is Kripke unleashed.

Were you nervous at all to shoot some of the wilder stuff?

I feel like the theme this season is ‘middle-aged white boy ass.’ No one was safe this season. It’s like, if you want to be on this show, you’re going to have to show some tush.

This feels like the start of a good drinking game.

Right? Every time there’s a middle-aged ass on screen, you’ve got to take a drink.

Kripke warned you against reading the comics to prep for this role so what did you pull from to get inside Soldier Boy’s head?

They gave me a list of names of old actors and so, instead of watching their movies, I went and watched interviews of some of the old-timers — the Robert Mitchums and the Steve McQueens and the Lee Marvins. And I just got a sense of who these guys were in real life because that’s really what I wanted to do — make this character real. One of the brilliant aspects of this show is that these are superheroes, these are unreal, ludicrous characters. But the fact that they’re so grounded and so rooted in reality is one of the reasons why it’s such a smash hit and people can relate.

Soldier Boy is that old guard. He’s from a different era, an era where there was toxic masculinity, women were treated a certain way and men had to act a certain way. It was an interesting narrative that was being told through his story about some of the things that we are still having to deal with in today’s society — that have been held over from those older generations, from those eras that have gone by.

Right, it feels like toxic masculinity is definitely one of the villains this season and it just takes the shape of characters like Soldier Boy, Homelander, and Butcher.

Yeah, it’s this notion that to be a man, you’ve got to suppress your feelings and you have to be tough and you have to be strong. You can’t waiver in that at all. If you do, it’s a sign of weakness and your fellow man will look down on you, will think less of you. And so to keep your chin held high, you have to put on this air of masculinity. I often think about the show Mad Men, and that era. It was a good time to be a white male. But other than that, not so great. And there’s dialogue there that Kripke is utilizing with Soldier Boy. He said the show’s like a Trojan horse. All the craziness and the superhero-ness and the blood and the exploding heads and all that stuff, that’s the horse. But on the inside is the satire, the narrative about what we’re dealing with as a culture and as a society.

Sometimes comic book properties, especially ones that are hyper-violent like The Boys, attract toxicity within its fandom. Do you think this character is going to challenge some fans of the show?

I mean, I feel like the fans that like the show that are that probably won’t get the satire. They’ll probably just be like, ‘I like this Soldier Boy guy. He tells it like it is. Let’s get that guy a MAGA hat.’

Are you worried the character might become a right-wing poster boy then? That your face might pop up on a MAGA poster?

I mean, even not just Soldier Boy, but his sidekick Gunpowder. They utilize him with some satirical scenes that kind of take shots at the NRA and gun culture in America. It’s like Eric has a crystal ball. It’s really disturbing.

Speaking of the future, Soldier Boy has to adjust to a new era when he’s thrown into the mix here. As Jensen, if you were to wake up in 2022 after being asleep since 1950, what would be the hardest thing to adjust to?

Gas prices. [laughs] No, that’s an interesting question. I’d probably be very similar to Soldier Boy. We find him on the streets of New York looking around, just taking it all in and it’s jarring. It reminds me of when Marty McFly went to the future. But where are the hoverboards? Where are the flying cars?

It’s almost like we haven’t advanced enough.

It’s 2022 guys, where are the flying cars?

You’re spearheading a Supernatural project. Did you learn anything from how Kripke runs this show that you’ll take with you to The Winchesters?

Of course. You never stop learning. Every show, every experience, every day on set, try to pick up little nuggets of information, try to learn something. Kripke is certainly somebody who I consider a mentor, and have for many, many years. But also meeting some of these new guys and developing friendships with them, I’ve learned some really cool stuff from Karl. Just watching him lead a set, he’s a natural-born leader. I’ve been leading a set alongside my buddy, Jared [Padalecki], for 15 years. And to come on to another set where there are other leaders, it was kind of fun to sit back and observe. I mean, he could write a book. I was taking notes. And he taught me things that I had never thought of. And that’s one of the great things about doing what we get to do, is every day is different. Every day you have an opportunity to learn something, you’ve just got to be available to learn it.

It sounds like, as long as your character doesn’t die, you wouldn’t be opposed to more Boys action then.

Nobody ever really dies. This is why I do these shows because nobody ever dies.