Why ‘The Boys’ Has One of the Best Acting Ensembles of 2020

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Photo Source: Jasper Savage

As we look back at 2020, we at Backstage have pinpointed the year’s best big- and small-screen ensemble work for your SAG Awards consideration and beyond. For more voting guides and roundups, we’ve got you covered here.

MAIN CAST: Laz Alonso, Tomer Capon, Aya Cash, Chace Crawford, Karen Fukuhara, Dominique McElligott, Colby Minifie, Nathan Mitchell, Erin Moriarty, Jack Quaid, Antony Starr, Karl Urban, Jessie T. Usher, Shantel VanSanten
CASTING BY: Eric Dawson, Carol Kritzer, Alex Newman, Robert J. Ulrich
CREATED BY: Eric Kripke
DISTRIBUTED BY: Amazon Prime Video

The title of “The Boys” is a little misleading. Yes, there are certainly boys on Eric Kripke’s darkly twisted superhero series on Amazon Prime Video, but women abound, too. And in Season 2, they stole the spotlight.

But first, let’s talk about the titular Boys. Together, Jack Quaid as Hughie Campbell, Karl Urban as Billy Butcher, Laz Alonso as Mother’s Milk, and Tomer Capon as Frenchie bring tension, action, and humor to their ragtag group of “rebels” fighting the all-the powerful corporation Vought International. They settle into their tough sides while on a mission with the group, yet find ways to give audiences laughs and surprising glimpses of their softer sides. In Season 2, Karen Fukuhara as the mysterious Kimiko Miyashiro adds some (much-needed) female energy to the group. Without using any words, she gives a fully lived-in performance, demonstrating how to do more with less.

Over on the “light” side of this superhero universe, the famous group known as the Seven are undergoing some changes. With a new focus on the team’s women, especially with the arrival of the straight-talking Stormfront, played by the charismatic Aya Cash, the shining facade of heroism continues to crumble. Antony Starr as Homelander proceeds on his unhinged tear, bringing his own family into the mayhem in a particularly gut-wrenching series of scenes. While Stormfront challenges Homelander’s sociopathic tendencies, Erin Moriarty as Annie January (aka Starlight) straddles the line between her duty to the Seven’s corporate overlords and those trying to expose the company’s evils. The actors bringing these characters to life have the difficult task of playing up their heroic alter egos to adoring crowds and then flipping the script to show their real, often sinister intentions as they exploit their positions of power.

And then there’s Chace Crawford as the Deep, beginning the season exiled in Ohio, where he hits rock bottom. The Deep’s emotional journey is perhaps the most pronounced on the series as he tries to climb out of the hole he dug in Season 1 via some rather nontraditional methods.

Honorable mention goes to the non-super humans working in an official capacity throughout the story. Colby Minifie’s Ashley Barrett gets a promotion in the second season, but it turns out not to be the empowering, authoritative role she thought she was stepping into. Then there’s veteran actor Giancarlo Esposito, who brings his trademark ability to unnerve you while remaining calm and collected on the surface to his role as Vought CEO Stan Edgar. Out in Ohio with the Deep are non-Seven superhero Eagle the Archer (Langston Kerman) and Carol (Jessica Hecht), who are out to rehabilitate the fallen hero as members of the cultish Church of the Collective.

The morality dynamics at play in “The Boys” dominate almost every plotline and create a dichotomy in nearly every character. It’s what makes the show must-watch television, but it’s also what makes each actor’s job difficult. As a result, each performance feels edge-of-your-seat exciting; you never know what’s going to happen next.

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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