Antony Starr revealed why he looked for inspiration in his adopted US for Homelander in The Boys.
Antony Starr revealed why he looked for inspiration in his adopted US for Homelander in The Boys.

How Trump inspired The Boys’ Homelander

Kiwi actor Antony Starr says it has been strange watching the coronavirus pandemic unfold from his adopted base in the US, as opposed to his homeland.

Starr has been based out of Los Angeles for most of the past four years, starring in TV hits, including four seasons of the action-drama Banshee and acclaimed, subversive superhero series, The Boys.

He'd relocated from his native New Zealand via a stint in Australia, where he appeared in shows including Rush, The Lowdown and the 2012 feature film drama Wish You Were Here, for which he won an AACTA Award.

And whereas the Land of the Long White Cloud has been widely praised for having one of the world's most effective responses to COVID-19, America's has been chaotic at best, and disastrous at worst, as Starr has seen first-hand from being locked down in LA.

Antony Starr as The Homelander and Erin Moriarty as Starlight in a scene from The Boys, Season 2
Antony Starr as The Homelander and Erin Moriarty as Starlight in a scene from The Boys, Season 2

"You couldn't have a bigger difference in response really, could you?" he says.

And while he readily concedes that the smaller population and geographical isolation made the task of containing coronavirus in New Zealand easier, he also admits to feeling immense pride from the other side of the Pacific for his country's much-lauded leader, Jacinda Ardern. "I have been out of the country for most of the last four years but from what I have seen, she has had a lot to deal with, from the mosque shooting to a pandemic," he says. "There have been a lot of very intense things happen on her watch, and to my way of thinking, she has handled every one with grace and dignity and swift, bold action.

"Everyone at the moment, I think, is looking at her as a true leader and I am actually very proud of my little country for voting her in, and I am hoping they do the same thing again in the upcoming election."

Leadership has been something Starr has been thinking about a lot, ever since he landed the role of The Homelander in The Boys, a darkly funny, brutal and caustic spin on the superhero genre - as well as a savage take-down of celebrity culture - which made its debut on Amazon Prime last year.

His character, who Starr has described as "an inverted Superman on crack", is a superhero created in a lab by a greedy, amoral corporation. The Homelander leads a band of equally morally bereft, turbocharged companions, known as The Seven.

Although the graphic novels on which the series is based were released more than a decade ago, and the second series, which drops today, was filmed last year, Starr says it's "surreal" just how relevant the show has become in the deeply divided and fractious America of 2020. "I think the show works because it's a two-pronged approach," he says,

"If you want to just be entertained, then you can be thoroughly entertained, but if you want to go a little bit deeper into some of the social references and critiques, then that's all there for you as well."

And he says both he and series creator Eric Kripke drew inspiration from America's highest office for inspiration for his character, as well as other immensely powerful global figures, claiming there's "a direct correlation with Homelander and vice-versa".

"There is an obvious parallel with the inverted version of superheroes," Starr says. "Trump to a certain extent, with certain elements - or Trump-ish sort of figures - there are plenty of them around. But not for everything. Eric references Trump a lot and I go with that 100 per cent but not across the board. because I don't think there is enough there to go on with Trump, to be honest. He's too shallow; there's just not enough there."

Antony Starr (right) with Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price and Teresa Palmer and Antony Starr, in his AACTA-winning role in Wish You Were Here.
Antony Starr (right) with Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price and Teresa Palmer and Antony Starr, in his AACTA-winning role in Wish You Were Here.

Given the popularity of the superhero genre thanks to the all-conquering Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was inevitable that something like The Boys would strike a chord by subverting its conventions, presenting its self-obsessed, murdering, lying costumed characters as anything
but heroic.

Starr says he and everyone involved with The Boys are fans of the more traditional superheroes, but he has the feeling that if such beings really existed they would be more like the ones on his show, and that peering into the darker side of humanity creates a whole new world of possibilities in the well-worn genre.

"I do think they are hamstrung by having to be morally upright and our characters, like Homelander, there's nothing good about them; he's about as morally bankrupt as you can get," says Starr with a laugh. "And I think there is something really fun about that - taking the norm and just flipping it on its head. It's fun to make and it makes it really fun to watch, as well.

Antony Starr as The Homelander in a scene from The Boys, Season 2
Antony Starr as The Homelander in a scene from The Boys, Season 2

"And it's arguably a more honest reflection of celebrity culture and in a hypothetical world where superheroes were real, it's probably a more honest picture of what they would be like."

Season one of The Boys ending in a cliffhanger with the immensely powerful but emotionally needy Homelander discovering he had a son and the second season picks up with his coming to terms with progeny. Starr says his character's parenting instincts are just as appalling as his other character traits ("I don't think he is going to win Father of the Year any time soon") but admits he used his real friends and family as inspiration on how to bring up children.

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"I don't have kids myself," he says. "But what I observe with a lot of parents - I am going to put my foot in it and say most parents - they tend to treat their kids as an extension of themselves rather than a unique little snowflake individual that needs to be seen for who they are and not who you want them to be. So, the funny thing about Homelander's parenting is that he is pretty much doing a more extreme version of what a lot of other people do."

The Boys season two streams from today on Amazon Prime.

 

Originally published as How Trump inspired The Boys' Homelander


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