‘The Boys’ Creator on Season 4 Premiere’s Butcher Reveal, Intro of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Kessler, That Sprawling Naked Fight Scene and Key Cameos

SPOILER ALERT:This story contains major spoilers from the first three episodes of “The Boys” Season 4, currently streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video.

“The Boys” are back with blood, guts, glory and more fake penises.

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The fourth season of Amazon’s R-rated superhero series dropped its first three episodes on June 13, returning fans to the battle between Homelander (Antony Starr) and Vought’s supes and Butcher (Karl Urban) and The Boys — but fractures on both sides have made the allegiances blurry amid the election of incoming President-elect Robert Singer (Jim Beaver) and secret supe Vice President-elect Victoria Neuman (Claudia Doumit).

Season 4 of “The Boys” also introduces new supes Sister Sage (Susan Heyward) and Firecracker (Valorie Curry) and new CIA agent Kessler (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) amid the ongoing battle for the soul of Homelander’s son, Ryan (Cameron Crovetti). This is all while Annie (Erin Morarity) distances herself from her Starlight persona, and Hughie (Jack Quaid) works through his relationship with a dying Butcher as they attempt to assassinate Neuman before the inauguration (on President-elect Singer’s orders).

Here, “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke breaks down the biggest moments from “The Boys” Season 4 premiere, and its subsequent two episodes — as well as where the show is headed, now that he’s confirmed the show will be ending with Season 5.

Let’s start with the craziest thing from the premiere episodes: Why did you do that to “Supernatural” alum Rob Benedict? And by that, I mean bring him on to the show as Splinter — a superhero who can split into multiple versions of himself — and have him perform oral sex on multiple versions of himself in a line, before he gets into a naked fight with The Boys.

Look, Rob knew what he was getting himself into. When Rob reached out and said, “I think I might be auditioning for this part,” I was like, “Hold on, we need to talk…”

I said, “Here are the things that this role is going to be doing, and you need to know exactly what you’re getting into, because we’re friends.” So I explained every single scene, and he was just down to do it. He just thought it was hilarious — and it is.

And the stuff we had to do to make all that work — like, we had to make a perfect prosthetic of his ass so he could eat his own ass in the same shot. Because it’s a seven-day shoot, that fight scene, and he’s every other person in that fight, that’s a lot of time to be naked. So we ended up building a prosthetic penis, for what it’s worth. So he’s not so much naked, as he is wearing a thong for seven days. But pretty close.

We had these amazing meetings about how to get the penis to swing properly. I just want to cut to the chase: the answer is ball bearings. A couple of ball bearings in the end, so it’s weighted just enough, because otherwise it’ll feel too rubbery. So these are the things you learn on this show.

He’s so funny. Obviously, you know how often I used him in “Supernatural,” and he’s just a treasure. It was just such a blast to work with him again.

Will Ferrell and Tilda Swinton both make cameos in the first episodes. Ferrell plays himself as the co-star of A-Train’s (Jessie T. Usher) origin story Vought film, and Swinton does the voice of The Deep’s (Chace Crawford) octopus romantic partner, Ambrosius. How did those castings come about?

For Will, I was chatting at the time with him and his producing partner, Carolina Barlow. We were just talking about a script kind of casually, right when this role came up. Jessica Chow in the script wrote, “huge Hollywood star” — that was the slugline. So I was emailing him, “Hey, do you want to come out and do this for 30 hours, and just bang it out?” I showed him the pages and he was like, “Yeah, that sounds fine! I’ll totally do that.” It was miserable shooting conditions. It was freezing rain sideways. They were outside all day.

I felt so bad. This poor guy, he’s saying yes to a favor, and then he’s in sub-Arctic conditions. But he could not have been like sweeter or more gracious or kinder to the crew. And he was hilarious. We have a lot of ad-libbing between him and Jessie that we have to put in bloopers. There’s so much! At one point they deeply kiss — there’s a lot going on in those outtakes.

For Tilda, we didn’t know her — it was just that once we realized that Ambrosius was going to be a character this year, we in the writers’ room all said, “We need the classiest, Oscar-winningest, British actress we can get our hands on.” And that’s a really short list. And Dame Judi Dench was unavailable.

No, we reached out to Tilda, and to her everlasting credit, she didn’t know any of us, but she was like, “That sounds hilarious, I’m in,” and she did it. She was in Scotland, I think, at the time, but came into a recording booth there, and I was in a booth in L.A. giving her some direction. And just to hear the highest-caliber actor of her level reading the dumbest lines, it just makes me so happy. It’s really one of the best professional days of my life.

Singer Neuman
Singer Neuman

You did a voice cameo last season, and you didn’t tell me, you just tweeted it. So making sure to check this time if you have one.

No, I did not have a cameo this season. No.

How much did you decide to focus on the in-universe presidential election for Robert Singer and Victoria Neuman, and want to make commentary on the current election we’re going into?

We were writing it in 2021 or so, we knew it was going to be pretty close to the election — and the strike actually pushed us closer to it. We definitely wanted to get into it, and that’s where our story was naturally going anyway. But I also didn’t want to overplay it, and that’s why we open on Election Night. The audience knows that Singer and Neuman are going to win, we didn’t even name the opponents — they don’t even exist. It’s almost like they ran unopposed. And so I didn’t want to drag it out.

I got really interested in a period of time no one paid much attention to before 2020 — that period from Election Night to Jan. 6 when there’s a president and vice president-elect but they’re not president or vice president until Congress counts the electoral votes. Now everyone deeply knows that process, but we didn’t know at the time. I said, “Let’s set it in that space, and then have Jan. 6 be a ticking clock for us — that they have to take out Neuman before the votes are counted, and she’s confirmed.”

A lot of shows have have done the lead up to Election Day, but us being us, we made the lead up to Jan. 6.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan & Karl Urban
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Karl Urban

Jeffrey Dean Morgan has joined the show as Kessler, Butcher’s old buddy from the CIA. There is a Kessler in the comics, but there’s some pretty stark differences between that character and the one Morgan plays. What was the choice there in using the name and in what you wanted Kessler to represent this season?

It’s more of a nod and feeling like we’re still in love with the comics and when we can have tie-ins, we’ll take them. The notion came up reasonably early to have a CIA agent who was very much like a Butcher. Almost everyone in Butcher’s life is trying to pull him back and say, “Don’t do that, Butcher!” And we said, well, what if there was someone in his life who was like, “No, you definitely have to do that. And go further, and go harder.”

So in effect, you need another Butcher. And it’s not easy to find someone who can go toe to toe with Karl, in terms of screen presence and charisma and danger. And luckily, that was the same time that Jeffrey Dean had let me know he might be available for that season. And I’m like, “Oh, thank God, because that’s perfect.” You have somebody who’s got Karl’s weight and stature. And since he was a CIA guy, I said, well, we should call them Kessler and just do our version of Kessler. If you look carefully, it’s such a throwaway, but for even Sage and in Episode 2, when her license comes up, her name is Jessica Bradley — who is a big character in the comics also. And she’s not at all like the Jessica Bradley in the comments, but we’re always trying to nod that we’re paying attention.

We get a lot of scenes of Ryan and Homelander’s domestic life in Vought Tower this season. What can you tease about where that relationship is headed? And what you were trying to show with their father-and-son moments now that Homelander has custody of Ryan?

We’ve never really seen Ryan and Homelander together, alone for extended periods. And we wanted to see what Homelander would be like as a father — and obviously the answer is horrible. He’s a terrible, terrible father. And the ongoing threat is that Ryan might start listening to his dad and veering into the dark side and listening to these horrible lessons that Homelander is always giving him and potentially seducing him with power. And if Ryan goes that way, that’s apocalyptic. Two Homelanders is something you just cannot beat. So it was living in the tension of, is Ryan gonna break bad?

But also, it’s another way to see how unbelievably needy Homelander is. I love his scenes where he’s confronting the kid because the kid isn’t fulfilling the dad’s emotional needs — it’s just such a funny performance from Ant. Or when he tells Ryan, “We need to tell each other everything until we almost merge into one.” He’s got the worst advice, and that amuses me.

What’s going on with that squiggly squirmy thing in Butcher’s temple at the end of the premiere? And what exactly is his life expectancy at this point?

We established at the end of Season 3 that the amount of Temp V he was shooting in his veins was going to kill him. And sure enough, it is. But ultimately, V is a mysterious and insidious drug, and it does really screwed up things to you. And it’s just starting to hint that there’s more going on inside of Butcher than maybe the doctors have found.

You’ve said before you don’t need to watch “The Boys” spinoff “Gen V” in order to understand “The Boys,” and vice versa. Do you think that still holds true moving forward into the next episodes of Season 4 with the supe virus?

We certainly designed it that way, that you don’t have to watch both. Butcher basically says, “Hey, you have this virus and here’s where I found it and here’s how I knew about it.” We’re very careful to put into the dialogue everything that the viewer would need to know to not have to go back and watch that show. I never want the audience to say, “What does that mean?” And someone else say, “Well, you gotta go back and watch that show.”

Like I want them to just know: there’s a virus and it kills superheroes, and this place made it. Is everyone up to speed? Great. And that’s it. I’d love for people to watch “Gen V” if they want to go back and deepen the experience to know where the virus came from, and how Neuman got her hands on it. There’s some moves in it that are certainly worth watching. But you don’t need to and I really don’t want people to feel like they have to watch it.

You brought in Rosemarie Dewitt as Hughie’s (Jack Quaid) estranged mother this season. How long have you been plotting that character’s entrance and why was now the time?

She was always going to show up sooner or later. Every season I keep trying to dig deeper into the characters and who they are, and when you keep digging, sooner or later you’re going to hit their core trauma. The thing that really makes them them.

And for Hughie, it was being abandoned by his mom without explanation. It’s why he likes to cling on to people. It’s why he’s got a certain amount of insecurity. It defined his relationship with his father. So much of who Hughie is came from that moment. So it made all the sense in the world to go, we know Hughie well, the audience knows him well, it’s time to let him confront the very core of who he is and really understand who that character is. And also understand that things just aren’t black and white, and someone who you might have built up in your whole life to be this villain has their own side of the story. And that’s part of the wider theme of the season that we have to quit demonizing each other.

I like that she’s been pulled into a Vought-run essential oils multilevel marketing scheme.

Oh, for sure. Voughtality is funny. It has been on our board for years and we’ve always been trying to work it in and she gave us the opportunity to do it.

Can you break down the “Vought on Ice” sequence and particularly the inclusion of Maeve’s character (and other references to Maeve in the episodes) now that Dominque McElligott has exited the show?

She’s America’s most famous lesbian, as they always say. I’ve been wanting to do “Vought on Ice” for a while; it’s logical they’d have it, and it would be a part of the world. I think we were a little intimidated about how much work would go into really choreographing an ice song-and-dance number. But this season, I was like, “It’s time, we have to do it.” And the idea of Maeve and Homelander being the two Disney-like characters on the ice just made all the sense in the world. It was so fun to do, and the amount of work that went into it. Our choreographer Amy Wright was the same woman who choreographed the Kimiko dance number in Season 3, but she needed like an ice skater consultant. And Toronto is lousy with skaters that are medalists, so almost every skater was a medalist in some major game. Michael Ground, our costume designer, had to make those sparkly versions of the supersuits that have thousands of rhinestones on them. They were rehearsing for weeks and weeks and weeks just to shoot this one sequence.

And it’s just the amount of time and money and effort we put into the dumbest shit just makes me so happy. And anywhere we can keep Maeve alive, we try, to because she’s a major character and even if Dom isn’t in the show this season, I think the spirit of the character is.

A-Train seems to be leaning more and more toward helping “The Boys” this season. Is he actually going to flip sides this time, or no?

You’ll have to tune in to find out! But I will say that last season he was pretending for so long to give a shit that a little bit of it stuck, and he started to actually give a shit. I think what happened with his brother really affected him. So this season, I’ll just say that his conscience has sort of been reawakened.

Considering who he is and where he is, that’s very dangerous.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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