Meet Soldier Boy: Everything we know about Jensen Ackles' addition to The Boys
Warning: This article contains spoilers from The Boys season 2.
The Boys is getting ready to deliver some Payback for the supes.
After finishing up its second season arc involving Aya Cash's Nazi "superhero" Stormfront and all the alt-right trolling that came with her, season 3 will tackle the history of Vought in America and how the world of The Boys got to its present moment. Soldier Boy, a new character coming to the show, will be a big part of that.
With Supernatural ending a 15-season run, one of its stars, Jensen Ackles, is re-teaming with showrunner Eric Kripke on his R-rated superhero satire for Amazon, playing this hero we heard a few things about over the course of season 2. Who is he? Why is his introduction so significant? Thanks to Kripke, we have some idea.
A brief history of Vought
Vought International is the biggest pharmaceutical company masquerading as the biggest superhero company. Compound V, the serum that grants superpowers to humans, is its chief product. Vought's supes protect cities all across America, each coming prepackaged with their own entertainment franchises of movies and TV shows. Those supes include the Seven, the premiere team of superheroes, who now also operate within the military. But the company's history goes back much further than the autobiography of founder Frederick Vought might suggest.
As we learn in season 2's premiere episode from Giancarlo Esposito's Mr. Edgar, Frederick received his doctorate in Munich, Germany as a rising star in the field of genetics. In 1939, during World War II, Adolf Hitler appointed him chief physician at the Dachau concentration camp, where Frederick's experiments with the earliest iteration of Compound V began. Stormfront, as she explains to Homelander (Antony Starr), not only married Frederick, but was given the first successful injection of the serum during that time.
In 1944, Frederick joined the Allied forces and already had "practical applications of Compound V tested in the field," Mr. Edgar says. "Soldier Boy killing Germans by the dozen." President Roosevelt pardoned Frederick for his role in the war "and he became as Wonder Bread American as Disney and Edison." It's a storyline inspired by Operation Paperclip, a secret program in which the American government pardoned and brought over thousands of German scientists after WWII to advance the country's industries. Wernher von Braun, the most recognized scientist from Operation Paperclip, became the inspiration for Frederick on The Boys.
"One of the things I love most about the world in [The Boys] comic books isn't just how fleshed out it is, but the history of it. It goes back 60, 70 years and it's just as fleshed out as it is today," Kripke tells EW. "One of the reasons that we're getting into Soldier Boy [in season 3] and that team, Payback, is we're interested in exploring a little bit of how we got here. Through the history of the supes, we can tell a little bit about the history of America and how we ended up in the current fraught position that we're in. Soldier Boy gives us an opportunity to do that."
The original superhero
In the comics, created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, Soldier Boy is a spoof of Captain America. He's technically the leader of Payback, a lesser superhero team to the Seven that consists of characters like Eagle the Archer, Tek Knight, Swatto, Crimson Countess, and, yes, Stormfront. But he's easily outranked by the more forceful Stormfront due to a weak will and an obsession with becoming a member of the Seven.
On the show, Soldier Boy is pegged as the original superhero and his team, Payback, "was the Seven before the Seven," Kripke says. Most of the characters associated with Payback either appear or are referenced in season 2. Aside from Cash's larger role of a gender-swapped Stormfront, actor Langston Kerman appears as Eagle the Archer and Colby Minifie's Ashley makes mention of a Tek Knight movie premiere. A statue of Soldier Boy, one with the engravings "1910-1982" and "True American," is seen towards the back of Stormfront and Homelander's rally in season 2's seventh episode. As far back as season 1, when Starlight (Erin Moriarty) fears she won't get picked to join the Seven, she makes note about how great "Countess" is with interviews.
Moving into season 3, Kripke notes, "We will be exploring the history of that team and all the members in it." Doing so will allow the writers to shed light on the show's present, which saw Stormfront, a surviving Nazi, able to manipulate the masses towards alt-right extremism.
"There's always been systemic racism and conflict and a lot of ugliness, yet always a fight to make things better," Kripke says. "Certain politicians like to pitch this somehow idyllic 'good old days' where everything was perfect and calm. That is complete and utter bulls---. It was never that way. So, by exploring the history of Vought in the history of America, we get to make some of those points. There was never an America when they say 'Make America Great Again.' It was always a struggle. That's the point. It's a struggle to make things better."
Though the crew still doesn't have a firm start date for when production might begin on season 3 in Toronto, given all the unknowns around the COVID-19 environment, Kripke says costume designer Laura Jean Shannon already began construction on Soldier Boy's costume, as well as "a couple of other suits that we're going to be seeing in season 3."
Costume designer Laura Jean Shannon, who creates all the supe costumes on The Boys, designed Soldier Boy's on-screen look with concept artist Greg Hopwood. She calls the character "the original badass."
"Our goal was to highlight a bygone era of overt masculinity and grit," she said. "With that pedigree we dove headfirst into baking in an all-American quality grounded in a military soldier's practicality with a heavy dose of old school cowboy swagger. We knew that the actor had to have Steve McQueen looks and chops with a John Wayne attitude, luckily Jensen Ackles embodies all of that."
This is one of Kripke's "very favorite suits," and the look took six months to craft. He remarked, "LJ has made a work of art that tips its hat to the WWII Soldier Boy from the comics, while taking it in a sleek new direction. And if you think the photos are cool, just wait till you see Jensen in action."
Kripke knows his fellow Supernatural executive producer Robert Singer would probably call for his head if he cast Ackles on The Boys before the CW hit was ready to wrap. "Like, literally murder me," Kripke jokes. "So, I would certainly keep my distance, but I'm such a fan of Ackles as an actor. No surprise! And I just think that there's nothing that guy can't do. He's incredible at action and drama and comedy and romance. He's the real deal."
When it came time to cast Soldier Boy, Ackles wasn't on Kripke's initial radar for the part. "My assumption was, he's just finished his 15 years [on Supernatural]. I can't imagine he wants to dive into another project," Kripke says. "But, as luck would have it, he called me for a completely other issue. He wanted to pick my brain about a project."
During that conversation, Ackles asked his former boss about what he was working on. That's when the topic of casting Soldier Boy on The Boys came up, and Kripke sent Ackles the audition pages for consideration. "He texted me back in three minutes and said, 'I definitely want to do this!'" Kripke recalls. "Within a week he was booked, but it wouldn't have happened if he hadn't just randomly called. I hadn't talked to him in months."
"I'm really excited to work with Jensen Ackles," Moriarty tells EW in reacting to the casting news during a shoot for The Boys digital cover. "I've heard wonderful things from Eric Kripke and friends who've worked on Supernatural. He seems like a really lovely guy. He's really talented and he's perfect for that Captain America-esque role. And that role just seems so interesting and nuanced and dark, true to a lot of characters on The Boys. So, I'm just excited to see what he brings."
"We've been hearing about Soldier Boy for the last two seasons and the role that he played in our cinematic universe," Laz Alonso (Mother's Milk) comments. "It'll be interesting to see what storyline he carries throughout this season and which one of us has to really go head-to-head with him, because with the head protagonist or antagonist for that season, there's usually one of us who has a bone to pick with 'em. Frenchie had Lamplighter [Shawn Ashmore] this season. There's gonna be fun in seeing what kind of history we drum up."
This article was last updated on June 7, 2021.