X-Men's Shawn Ashmore uncovers the 'deep history' of Lamplighter on The Boys
Warning: Spoilers from The Boys season 2, episode 6 are discussed in this article.
The name Lamplighter has been lingering in the periphery ever since the very first episode of The Boys. His retirement from The Seven, which hadn't been fully explained at the time, was the reason Starlight (Erin Moriarty) was tapped as the team's new recruit. His name is practically taboo among the members of the Boys themselves; it was a mission-gone-wrong that resulted in Lamplighter torching Grace Mallory's (Laila Robins) grandchildren and forcing the group to disband in the first place. This week, as episode 6 of season 2 arrives on Amazon Prime Video, it's time to get the full picture with Lamplighter and what happened that fateful night.
"It was always such a heavy thing weighing over Frenchie and it drove a wedge between him and Mother's Milk," showrunner Eric Kripke prefaces in an interview with EW. "It was just such a central, monumental moment that we wanted to explore."
Shawn Ashmore, who spent the better part of a decade playing Ice Man in the X-Men movies, debuts as the fire-powered Lamplighter. The actor was originally up for the part of Eagle the Archer, a role that ultimately went to Langston Kerman. "Obviously it was really attractive because of his X-Men pedigree and he's just a really, really good actor," Kripke says. "I think ultimately we decided that he wasn't quite right for Eagle, but I really wanted to get him into the show. So, when the idea of Lamplighter came up not that long after, I was like, 'Oh great! That's perfect.'"
In "playing a character that already has a very deep history on the show without having seen this character," Ashmore acknowledges "a lot of the work was already done for me." Lamplighter is "talked about a lot," he says. "His meaning and what he's done to our existing characters is pretty deep." That allowed more time to appreciate the fun of playing "both sides of a superhero"— going from playing the frosty Ice Man in X-Men to the fiery Lamplighter.
As Bobby Drake, Ashmore found himself playing opposite cast mate Aaron Stanford's Pyro. "When we were shooting X2, I didn't know Aaron before that, but I feel like I had [learned] a few little lighter things just over the years," he recalls. "We definitely played around with the lighter together on set for X2." Now, Ashmore gets his own lighter, one with a crass "Titty Committee" engraving. "In future episodes, we'll learn more about who he is and I guess his personal tastes," the actor teases. "The lighter does represent a bit of who he is in the world. It's not just a random engraving."
With help from Starlight (Erin Moriarty), the Boys send MM (Laz Alonso), Frenchie (Tomer Capon), and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) to investigate what Stormfront (Aya Cash) has been up to at the Sage Grove Center. It's there that they find Lamplighter, who, since his retirement, has been forced by Vought to work at this facility which tests Compound V on adults. Previously, the drug only successfully turned infant humans into supes. The goal now is to create a version of Compound V that grants instant superpowers upon injection into full-grown subjects — without the nasty side effects of going insane or blowing up afterwards. It's Lamplighter's job to, as he says, "burn the evidence" (i.e. the test subjects).
The character's introduction was a situation in the writers room of blending the "chocolate with the peanut butter," Kripke says. "We wanted to go to this mental hospital where Stormfront was running these Nazi type experiments on these inmates and we also really thought this was the time of the story to introduce Lamplighter and really get into what happened — and primarily Frenchie's story."
In flashbacks, we learn that Mallory and the Boys were blackmailing Lamplighter into spilling secrets on the Seven and Homelander. One night, when Frenchie was supposed to tail the supe, he left his post when he got a call about a friend who was overdosing. That allowed Lamplighter to slip away to execute who he thought was Mallory sleeping at home, only to realize later that he actually burned her grandchildren.
As Lamplighter deals with the trauma of his past acts, he no longer dons his over-the-top hooded supe suit, complete with a "very phallic" flaming staff, as Ashmore describes. "It's the dumbest," Kripke jokes of the design. Getting fitted for his custom-made look took Ashmore back to his X-Men days. "Having been through a lot of fittings for superhero costumes, this was even more intense and more specific, more fitted, more ornate," he says. "The amount of detail that goes into the supe costumes is insane. I was so impressed and so overwhelmed." For the scenes shot in the present, Lamplighter is more in simple scrubs with a small lighter. "The fact that he can do the same things with a Zippo versus this huge impractical staff, I think it says a lot about who he was in the Seven and who he is now," Ashmore remarks.
The actor initially came up with "a few more flair ideas" for Lamplighter. "Maybe he's a little fancy with his lighter or it was just second nature that he had all these weird tricks. It was interesting that Eric, I think, was not into that. He said this guy is not fancy, this is not special to him. This is his power, this is his ability. He wouldn't take the time to have all these little tricks so it was more of a simple technique. I think it speaks to where Lamplighter is in the series, as well. He's not relishing in this ability necessarily anymore. He's been through the wringer and is on the other side. So, when he uses his ability, it's to get business done. It's not necessarily fun and flashy anymore."
Full disclosure, there will be more fun and flash on next week's episode.