Spoilers for The Boys Season 3 follow!
For over a decade now, superhero stories have dominated both the big and small screen, which makes it all the more impressive when a wholly new take emerges. Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys – adapted from the comic series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson by showrunner Eric Kripke and executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg – is an example of exactly that. The show’s gory irreverence and down-to-earth style have allowed it to stand out in a moment where audiences are inundated with stories about superheroes and their personal struggles. One of the most significant pieces of that puzzle in The Boys comes with its complex characters, which is perhaps most clear in Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), the powerless human lead who is drawn into the fight after a careless superhero kills his girlfriend.
The opposing superpowered and powerless characters of The Boys, led by archenemies Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Homelander (Antony Starr) respectively, have become incredibly fully formed over the Prime Video original’s three seasons and present a totally different perspective on this world than the leads of many other superhero shows and comic book adaptations. Hughie’s status as an outsider forces the audience to understand these super-powerful beings as a physical, and eventually political threat. The Boys Season 3 sees those lines blur as Hughie and his previously powerless team are introduced to an experimental solution created by Vought International that temporarily provides the user superpowers, Hughie himself gaining the ability of teleportation. This causes a strain in his relationship with supe Starlight (Erin Moriarty) but unlike teammate Butcher, Hughie eventually gives up his use of the chemical that is revealed to be mortally dangerous.
Hughie Campbell is brought to life by Jack Quaid in The Boys, who provides a real sensible charm while also being able to hold his own against characters who could kill him in an instant. Quaid, the son of esteemed actors Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, made his acting debut in 2012’s The Hunger Games but has since played a romantic lead in the severely underappreciated Plus One, offered a killer side in 2022’s Scream, and emerged as a reliably charming voice actor amongst other exciting projects. The actor is also known for his fan-favorite leading role on the animated Paramount+ series Star Trek: Lower Decks, which he is also playing in live-action for the first time ever in a special crossover episode of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds this June. Additionally, Quaid is next set to appear on the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer this summer.
Looking at the ways Hughie Campbell has changed across the show, we sat down with Jack Quaid to discuss tapping into the darker side of his character, what might lie ahead in The Boys Season 4, and what fans can expect from his take on Superman in the upcoming animated series, My Adventures with Superman. This is the first part of our FYC interview series with The Boys cast, featuring Jessie T. Usher (A-Train), Laz Alonso (Mother’s Milk), Karen Fukuhara (Kimiko Miyashiro), Tomer Capone (Frenchie), Chace Crawford (The Deep), and Jensen Ackles (Soldier Boy).
Exclusive FYC Interview with Jack Quaid for The Boys on Prime Video
So in The Boys Season 3, we see a darker side to Hughie. What was that transition like considering Hughie has traditionally been the moral center of the show? Do you think it’s a release for him, do you think it’s a temptation?
Jack Quaid: I really welcomed it, to be honest. I love playing the moral center but I think that you don’t really quite earn the right, as a character, to be the moral center of a show until you’ve been through the fire – until you’ve made some mistakes, wrestled with that, and come through to the other side and realize that you made a mistake and you’ve changed. Hughie was a very good character, and still is a very good character. But if we don’t see that goodness tested, then what’s it all for? So I really thought that was great and when I got the scripts, I very much welcomed it. I think that Hughie is a very relatable character as well and is very much the audience’s way into the story.
You can relate to Hughie more if you see him be more of a human, and part of being human is making mistakes and letting your ego drive you. I like exploring all those different shades of him because if he was purely a goody-two-shoes, then that makes him a slightly less interesting character. So that was really awesome. Credit to the writers and [showrunner] Eric Kripke for giving me the opportunity to stretch. I also loved that the reason why he’s being tempted into this dark side is all because of temp V, and I loved being able to actually play with a superpower. Granted, I had to get naked for a lot of it, but it’s a solid trade-off because Nightcrawler is one of my favorite X-Men and I got naked for Nightcrawler powers!
What do you think Hughie is getting out of it personally? You sort of already touched on it. Is it merely change?
Jack Quaid: I think what he’s getting out of it is that he’s always felt completely powerless in his life. He was powerless when Robin died. Hughie hasn’t really had a lot of agency as a character, and he finally felt at the beginning of the season like he had some sort of power and that he could do it the right way. He could take supes who were corrupt out of the equation, and he could do it with the backing of the US Government. Then when he finds out that Victoria Neuman [Claudia Doumit] is, in fact, a supe herself, and an evil one, it rocks his whole world and he’s right back to feeling completely powerless, like he can do absolutely nothing. And taking the temporary V gives him a jolt of that power. He’s sick of feeling weak. Ultimately, that’s his ego talking.
He’s wrapping it up with these excuses like, “Oh, I’m doing this to save you.” But deep down, a part of him really wants to be strong because he didn’t grow up with a quote-unquote traditionally strong father figure. At the end of the season, the lesson he learns is that everyone who projects strength in that way – someone like Soldier Boy [Jensen Ackles] – they’re lying. No one is that strong. I think a big lesson of The Boys is a lot of things that people would traditionally call “weakness,” like vulnerability and willingness to change your mind, that in itself is actually a strength. It’s the opposite of what you would think. He’s dealing with toxic masculinity, essentially. Just because a man is vulnerable doesn’t make him weak. It actually makes him stronger than most. I love communicating that lesson through a character like Hughie.
I guess that’s almost like a thesis for the whole series. This was kind of touched on in the last question, but Hughie has obviously changed a lot as a character across all three seasons of The Boys. Did you have an idea of Hughie’s trajectory when the show began, or has it been more of an organic development?
Jack Quaid: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it’s so rare that you find a showrunner who’s willing to take in your suggestions. Obviously, he doesn’t take all of them. He has the right to veto any bad suggestions that we actors might come up with, but what I love about Eric is that his willingness to hear you out gives you so much agency. You really do feel, especially in the beginning, like you’re a collaborator in creating this character, which allowed all of us to feel a certain confidence and a certain agency in the construction of our characters. Eric knows that the writers are brilliant but he also knows that actors have to communicate their characters, so they should have at least some say in where they go.
Sometimes, something will come along and it will bump us for some reason, like, “I don’t really see the character that I’ve created for these past three seasons doing that.” Eric is willing to hear you out, or if you’re wrong he’s willing to explain why, which is so unbelievably great. So shout out to Eric Kripke and all the writers, really, for letting us come in there and make suggestions because they don’t have to listen to us, but they do. Our writers are phenomenal and the show would be great without our input, but just having that freedom is so amazing. It could have been a great experience, but it’s an incredible experience now because we all feel like we have some ownership over it.
Hughie and Annie have always seemed to understand each other on a level we maybe don’t see anywhere else in The Boys, and in season 3, they seem to be drifting apart. Where do you think that leaves Hughie emotionally and as an actor what was it like to play the strain of that relationship?
Jack Quaid: That was another thing that I welcomed because it was a new flavor that you weren’t really used to seeing with them as a couple. Erin Moriarty, by the way, is one of my favorite scene partners I’ve ever had in anything. We’ve gotten really close and we obviously talk through everything before we start shooting, but she’s one of the only people I can start a scene with and even if we don’t talk about it beforehand, I know how it’s going to go and I know what she’s going to do. She’s such a giving scene partner and so unbelievable on the show. But we’re very aware of not repeating ourselves. That’s another reason why our writers are so good, because they’re trying to make it so that we don’t repeat ourselves. We don’t want to keep giving the audience the same thing.
So to really play a very strained Hughie and Annie, we’ve had big fights before, but this is like Hughie really changing before he ultimately learns his lesson for a whole season. Navigating these new uncharted waters with Erin every day was just so interesting. We’ve seen these characters more or less at their best. Now, who are they at their worst? We got to explore both sides of that actually at the beginning of the season when we see Hughie and Annie genuinely happy with their lives and themselves as a couple, and that was a new flavor as well. So that felt weird, and then to turn it over to them being so strained felt weird as well. But that’s the kind of thing that I think keeps the show fresh. So shout out to the writers for pushing us in an interesting new direction.
A lot has been said about Herogasm because it’s a huge episode. But one of the standout scenes for me was A-Train’s apology and Hughie’s reaction to that. What do you think that punch really meant to him? Was it a moment of weakness, was it a display of dominance, or was it something totally different?
Jack Quaid: Hughie is dealing with a lot in that scene. He’s on V, which is bringing out some of his worst traits. When he’s on V, he gets more of a chip on his shoulder than he typically does. We’ve seen this little quiet rage in Hughie from season one where he punches the wall, and when he’s on temporary V that part that he keeps hidden is now out and in full display. When he sees A-Train, I don’t think he in the past would have confronted him. But now he knows he can get out of there quickly, he has some powers and he’s feeling himself a little bit. So he starts the confrontation and it doesn’t go the way that Hughie thought it would go.
I think he expected A-Train to be a dick and maybe he would have punched him then, but instead, A-Train goes the other way and actually apologizes for what he did. I don’t think Hughie was expecting that. So that scene is really interesting in a lot of ways. I think the reason Hughie punches him is his rage gets the better of him, and he was probably going to punch him anyway. But for a brief second, there’s a little bit of understanding between these two guys. To me, that’s the most interesting part of the scene. For a second, Hughie actually does see that A-Train is a human being who’s dealing with an immense amount of pain himself, and you can see it for a split second. He understands that and can empathize with that, and then he remembers everything that A-Train did to him.
Jack Quaid: The punch kind of had to happen eventually. Hughie had to get that out of him. It doesn’t happen often, but I love every time I get to have a scene with Jessie because he is just another wonderful scene partner. They’re not quite Butcher and Homelander, they’re not that unbelievably antagonistic towards one another. Obviously, A-Train killed Hughie’s girlfriend, which is unforgivable, but their rhythm is a little different than Butcher and Homelander. I always love exploring those scenes because it’s so interesting to me, like this guy that did something so horrible to Hughie. How does Hughie move forward at all? How does he address him? And Jessie’s the greatest, we play a lot of video games together!
Are you playing Zelda yet?
Jack Quaid: Yeah, I’m only a few days in. It’s overwhelming but it’s so fun. I’m building machines. I’m getting used to it, exploring the depths. Yeah, good stuff!
I recently spoke to Jessie T. Usher and one thing that came up was the way that the character relationships in the show can mirror your relationships behind the scenes. His dynamic with you came up and the way your characters have developed together, but are there any other examples of this that have stood out to you?
Jack Quaid: First of all, I want to say that Jessie and I have never hated each other. But, yeah, it does mirror. This is such a cliche, but it’s a wonderful thing when a cast is so bonded together, like it really is a family. I know that’s a cliche, but we all love each other and then we get to hate each other on camera, which is such an interesting thing to play. For instance, we just mentioned Zelda. I have a whole text chain with Chase Crawford about how much we both love Breath of the Wild. And now that Tears of the Kingdom is out, that thread is active again. But I never have a scene with Chase! I have never worked with him and yet I feel so close to him.
What makes a job really special is when everyone is so bonded, not only amongst each other but we feel bonded with the crew and the people that make the show. Shout out to Eric Kripke again. He does foster an environment that creates a family, which is just so wonderful because the opposite could have totally been true. We could have been trapped together for seasons with people that we don’t like. But everyone is a wonderful human being. Despite how atrocious they may be as a character, everyone is a wonderful human being.
So you’re sticking around in the superhero world since you’re playing Clark Kent in My Adventures with Superman from Adult Swim and Max. How did you find the experience of taking on the Man of Steel and finding your own spin on such an iconic hero?
Jack Quaid: The people working on that show are truly wonderful, and they’ve created a Clark/Superman that goes back to the roots of how nice of a guy Clark is. The Boys is very sarcastic and ribbing the genre of superheroes, and it’s interesting to go from one show like The Boys that’s very much taking the piss out of superheroes to this other show that is the most earnest and genuine take on a purely righteous superhero. It’s been very fun to play two sides of that coin and get to be so genuine and honest with a superhero character like that.
I auditioned for that role in my closet, which was kind of a makeshift voiceover booth. My attitude towards it was very much like, “Oh yeah, sure, I’ll play Superman” and it worked out. I still don’t really believe that I’m Superman, at least vocally. But I’ve been going into the recording booth, doing ADR sessions, and getting to see the actual show and I love it. It’s so sweet without being overly saccharine. There are so many little amazing Superman easter eggs that fans are going to pick up on. There’s also some anime influence within the animation that is so fun and interesting. I can’t wait for people to see that show, and I feel so lucky that I get to play these two drastically different sides of the superhero coin.
I guess there is something of Hughie in what you want out of that character.
Jack Quaid: Especially the Clark side of him, I think Hughie is kind of just Clark Kent with worse luck.
Obviously, you’ve worked in a lot of different spaces. You’ve done big TV shows, big films. You worked with Christopher Nolan this last year on Oppenheimer. Is there anything else you want to tackle or any other spaces you want to move into?
Jack Quaid: I’m an aspiring writer and I have a group of people that, obviously, we’re not really doing anything now. We want to be in solidarity with the WGA, but we were working on a couple of things we have in development. I think my goal is to be in a movie that I actually had a hand in writing. I don’t know how long that’ll take, but that’s my goal – a movie or a TV show that I had a hand in creating and writing. We have a couple of ideas that I’m really excited about. Who knows if they’ll ever come to fruition, but I would love to move into that space.