Jack Quaid knows what you’re thinking. Yes, he is the son of Dennis Quaid. Yes, his mother is Meg Ryan. And yes, he’s watched that scene in When Harry Met Sally, but only recently and only because he needed to prep to star in his own rom-com, and you can’t do that without witnessing the iconic deli scene. Quaid, who’s gearing up for a busy summer when his comedy, Plus One, co-starring Pen 15 breakout Maya Erskine drops June 14 before his Amazon series, The Boys, lands July 26, is completely comfortable fielding questions about orgasms and murdering superheroes and sometimes playing a “f*ckboy” on screen. He’s even more comfortable leading two projects as inherently different as a rom-com and gritty surrealist superhero drama.
Quaid’s got an everyman vibe on screen that translates into likable characters with surprising layers — guys you’d readily have a beer with and only later discover they’d shoved a makeshift bomb up some dude’s a**hole (it happens in the Garth Ennis comic adaptation, not the rom-com, in case you were wondering). We spoke with Quaid about adding to his mom’s rom-com legacy, weird cast bonding exercises, and why he thinks you won’t mind seeing him kill a superhero or two this summer.
With so many rom-coms coming out this year, what did you appreciate about this story and the character you play in it?
I think it brings up struggles that a lot of people in my generation have. I think there’s an over-idealization when it comes to relationships. I’ve always thought of Ben as a guy who has watched too many romantic comedies and took away all the wrong lessons, in thinking that people have to check a certain amount of boxes for them to be the person for you, and that’s not really true. Really, you just want to find someone that you can connect with and hopefully not screw it up. I’m proud that this was such a great take on the rom-com genre, which does tend to idealize things to a fault.
Did you feel any pressure, following in the footsteps of your mom?
Well, the funny thing about that is that I had never seen When Harry Met Sally before I did this movie.
It was shameful. Okay, but when you’re growing up and your mom has one of the most famous orgasm scenes of all time, as a child, you tend to avoid that movie. But I figured I’m about to do a rom-com. I need to watch the rom-com. So one day, before rehearsal with Maya, I sat down and watched the movie. By the time the movie was over, I was bawling. I think I was so proud of her and I learned so much from that. After I watched it and I called my mom, I went to rehearsal and I was still crying. So, yeah, watching the banter back and forth between my mom and Billy Crystal in that movie really helped me get the rhythm of this.
Because this is a film that relies so much on the chemistry between you two, how did you create that off-screen?
When I first met Maya actually, the two directors had us and them go into a wizard-themed escape room, which was great. There’s no better icebreaker than that because you can’t be self-conscious when you’re using wands to, you know, solve puzzles. Then we went to Boiling Crab in Koreatown and again, eating with your hands, everyone, you know, looking like a goblin — it was great. Maya and I bonded a lot, but it was really the four of us. It was like a team effort that’s what every day felt like.
You’re going to be in a series this summer from Garth Ennis about comic book-type superheroes gone bad. Are you a fan of the superhero genre?
I’m a huge superheroes fan. I am in a show that is very much making fun of the genre, but I do genuinely like them. I was a teenager when Iron Man came out. I love the Marvel movies. I do feel like, you know, there is a little bit of an overload. In the world of The Boys, a superhero can fly past your window. Whereas, in our world today, you know, we see superheroes everywhere. You see them on billboards, you see them on buses. So, we do without, without realizing it, live in a world where superheroes feel real.
Both your character Ben in Plus One and Hughie in The Boys feel like regular guys in over their heads with these surreal situations. How do you differentiate between the two?
I feel like Ben is a romantic, but on the other hand he’s kind of like the ultimate f*ckboy, in a weird way. Hughie is not like that. Hughie’s sheltered and he has a pretty good life. It’s not much but he likes it and then his whole world gets upended. I think the way I wanted him to come across is the way that he’s written, he’s just, he’s an average guy trying to make sense of an insane situation in an insane world.
Hughie’s our window into this world of superheroes-turned-villains, and things get crazy pretty quickly. How do you keep it grounded enough for fans to relate to him?
It was important for me to have Hughie be a person that we could still sympathize with, even if he is doing pretty insane things. I think the situations dictate that his hand is forced in a lot of it. He does feel intense remorse about some of the things that he’s done, but that’s what I love about him. He’s very human. He’s just doing the best that he can, but he lacks a certain experience and a certain confidence.
Are you worried people might hate you for killing off these supes?
I mean, when they see our superheroes, they’re going to understand where I’m coming from.
‘Plus One’ arrives in limited theaters and on-demand on June 14. Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ will stream on July 26.