Karl Urban’s been kicking butt in big-screen comic book adaptations for 20 years. His resume reads like a Comic-Con line-up, but he’s taking on one of his most challenging roles yet in Amazon’s highly anticipated superhero drama, The Boys. Urban plays the gruff Billy Butcher, a man hellbent on gaining revenge against the “supes” who have made his life miserable. Of course, we’re not sure what Butcher’s personal stake in the game is when the show begins, but we know these caped crusaders must’ve done some bad sh*t to deserve the beating Butcher’s delivering.
The character of Butcher is an iconic Garth Ennis creation and one of the comic writer’s favorite anti-heroes, so stepping into his shoes brought its own set of challenges for Urban. We spoke with him about taking on the mantle of The Boys, the trickiest fight scenes of his career, and how even he was surprised by the amount of violence on the show.
You’re playing another comic book icon. What appealed to you about The Boys?
I sort of remember when the graphic novel came out. I remember seeing it, and it piqued my interest. Then I read the pilot and was so blown away by how fun and how progressive it was. It’s just a solid, character-driven story offering this take on the superhero narrative that’s currently massively successful. But the bottom line was I was hugely drawn to the character of Billy Butcher, who was this fun, roguish character.
He also happens to be Garth Ennis’ favorite creation so no pressure.
Yeah, Eric [Kripke] told me that at one point. I really didn’t need to know that.
You’ve taken on some recognizable roles in other franchises. Did you feel prepared to kind of shoulder that responsibility?
Yeah, listen it’s not the first time I’ve been in a situation where I’m dealing with a property that has a fan base. I really, you know, have to make the character my own, and that’s what I did. I drew a lot from the wonderful work that Garth had done and, and obviously, a huge amount of work was really done by Eric because he’s the one who adapted the story from the comics and transferred it to a different medium. The character of Billy Butcher in the TV show — there are subtle but important differences to the character in the comics. So, at the end of the day, I really kind of felt that it was important to honor what had been created by Garth, but then also kind of Eric’s vision and create something out of that.
Adapting a story like this to TV means changes must be made. Were there any big changes in terms of Butcher and his journey this season?