Jensen Ackles on Finding the Nuance in Soldier Boy – Exclusive Interview

The season 3 finale of The Boys was a tour de force for the entire cast and crew, from the writing to the directing to the effects to the score, and certainly the performances from every single actor. I’ve been a Jensen Ackles fan since Supernatural premiered way back in 2005, so I know how powerful his acting is, but to see him bring to life an entirely different character in this season, who is so very not Dean Winchester, has been eye opening nevertheless. He brings to Soldier Boy not just the toxic masculinity we were expecting, but a vulnerability that is unexpected, with subtle expressions and gestures and tone of voice, showing us so much more than we would have understood from the dialogue alone.

SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SEASON FINALE!

In the finale, Soldier Boy opens up to Butcher as the two drink together, perhaps sensing that they share some big time daddy issues.  As a manufactured superhero who’s had to hold up a fake persona for literally a century, Soldier Boy seems relieved to tell the truth – the Soldier Boy Story movie was BS. He wasn’t a poor kid with a heart of gold on the streets of South Philly who woke up with abilities; his father owned half the steel mills in the state.

Soldier Boy: I went to boarding school. Got kicked out of boarding school. Because I was a fuck up. But he made sure I knew it.

This Butcher can relate to, intimately, asking if he used a belt (like Butcher’s father did).

Soldier Boy: Never laid a hand on me. He couldn’t be bothered. Said I was a disappointment. Not good enough to carry his name. So I went to his golf buddies in the War Department and they got me into Dr. Vought’s Compound V trials.  I became a superhero. Strongest man alive, fuckin’ ticker tape parades when I came home.

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He says it all with bravado, trying to keep the persona up even as he’s finally telling the truth. What did the old man say then, Butcher wonders.

Soldier Boy: Ah. He said I took a short cut. That a real man wouldn’t have cheated.

That toxic masculinity that Soldier Boy has been embodying all season laid out in his father’s brutal, intentionally cruel accusation, fueled with misogyny and homophobia, cut deep. That disgust that his son wasn’t a ‘real man’ and that complete rejection, even after Ben had transformed himself completely into what he was certain his father wanted him to be, must have been devastating. He must have thought that his father would surely love him then, only to be rejected once more.

The pain he still carries from that rejection is clear on Soldier Boys’ face, the way he hangs his head, suddenly feeling vulnerable.

I spoke to Jensen Ackles in an exclusive one on one interview about that scene in the finale, which is one of my favorites of the entire season. In typical Jensen fashion, he gave credit to all the talented people who collaborate to make the show so special.

Lynn: Hearing the backstory of how his father treated him, I felt like I started to “get it” a little. Not that it excuses his behavior, but it starts to explain it. And you made the decision to play the character with a lot of nuance, vacillating between vulnerability and trying to connect to others, and then just erupting in rage. It’s dizzying to watch all that happen within the space of seconds, but the best part of the character is that you really pulled that nuance off. Was that an explicit note to make that nuance part of the character or something you inferred?

Jensen: A lot of that is in the script, it’s just really good writing. Kripke is such a vivid storyteller with his words, and he does it in such a precise, almost surgical way, that in reading it – not just Kripke but his whole writing staff is so talented – that a lot of that nuance is either right there on the page or certainly implied. And they allow us to kinda navigate it and find it. So I definitely was looking for that, and that’s a note that he’s been giving me since the beginning of Supernatural.

Lynn: It was so much a part of Supernatural also, yes. A big part of why I fell for Dean Winchester so hard.

Jensen:  It’s nice to know he’s still encouraging us to find the nuances of the scenes and make those moments in between the moments count.

Lynn: Well, you did. I was a little angry at you, like damn it, I knew he was gonna put just enough vulnerability in there that I was not gonna be able to just outright hate this character. And the entire fandom has been flailing along with me with the same quandary, so good job, good job.

Jensen: It was fun to play those colors, to be just such an outwardly gross character, but to play him in a way that you do feel bad, you feel bad for this big guy’s journey even though you shouldn’t.

Lynn: I think that’s exactly it. I felt bad even though I kept saying, what are you doing? It got to the point when I thought he might die and I was yelling at the screen no no no no don’t die don’t die!

Jensen: (laughing)

Lynn: This episode was painful to watch because of all my conflicting feelings. But Supernatural was also painful, so I guess maybe that’s just me…. Don’t judge.

Jensen: (laughing) Maybe that’s what we should be delving into, Lynn. What does this say about you?

Lynn: Oh no, let’s not go there…

Luckily, he let me off the hook.

In the end, Soldier Boy can’t accept what his son is offering, even though he has wanted a chance to raise a child and “do it better”. But Soldier Boy is confronted with a son who personifies all the things he hates most about himself – all the things his father accused him of. It’s tragic that, in the final moment, Soldier Boy can’t shake loose of his father’s brutal definition of what it is to be a man. All he can see is Homelander looking weak. A disappointment. All those things that his father called him, and that he constantly fears in himself, and so he can’t bear to see that in his own son. So he lashes out, recapitulating his own father’s rejection and cruelty.

But he does it with no joy; his face reflects the pain he too is feeling, his inescapable disappointment in himself. And of course, there are tragic consequences.

At least he’s not dead – Eric Kripke has said that Soldier Boy will definitely be back at some point and Jensen has said that if Kripke asks, he’ll come running. I  swear, I could hear the sigh of relief from the entire fandom from all over the globe at that moment. Thanks for making us care so much, Jensen and Eric. I think.

Stay tuned for my deep dive on The Boys season finale – coming later today!

Caps: javkles

– Lynn

You can read Jensen Ackles’ thoughts on fandom,

Dean Winchester and Supernatural in his chapters

in Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be

Peace When You Are Done – links here or at:

Jensen Ackles on Soldier Boy and ‘That Scene’ in The Boys Episode 3.7

This week’s episode of The Boys let us get to know Soldier Boy a lot better – in all sorts of ways, some for the better and some for the worse. When I spoke with Jensen Ackles about his portrayal of Soldier Boy, we touched on a few of the scenes that happen in this episode, “Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed.”  The episode is a deep dive examination into toxic masculinity and how cultural norms of violence fueled by misogyny and homophobia have left many of the male characters on this show emotionally damaged and with ready access only to anger and rage.

SPOILERS AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE EPISODE YET!

Butcher, Homelander and Soldier Boy are all struggling with those messages and what it means to be a man, but it’s Hughie who is willing to call BS on some of them in this episode. As he and Soldier Boy walk through the woods in pursuit of more revenge on Payback, Hughie shows concern for an unconscious Butcher. Soldier Boy ridicules him for it, first asking how hard Butcher must have sucked his dick for all that worry, and then saying they’re on a mission and have to just get the job done, like he did when he fought the Nazis and stormed Normandy.

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Soldier Boy: You wanna know what I do when I’m sad or scared? Fucking nothing. Because I’m not a fucking pussy.

That’s a pretty good description of toxic masculinity and its roots in raging misogyny, and it’s a mantra that Soldier Boy has adopted wholesale. It’s also tragic, leaving him with no outlet for legitimate feelings of sadness and fear and a lot of reasons to project so he doesn’t have to even recognize those emotions.

Hughie has had it with fear keeping him back though. He gets in Soldier Boy’s face, saying he didn’t storm shit and that his whole Marlboro Man act is fucking crap.

Soldier Boy punches him in the face – which is the perfect toxic masculinity response for sure!

I spoke with Jensen Ackles in an exclusive interview about that scene and the theme of toxic masculinity that Soldier Boy embodies in this season of The Boys.

Ackles: He’s a character from a time when men were supposed to shut up and not have feelings and not cry and be manly and be tough, and women were supposed to know their place. And I think he’s using it in a way which only Kripke can, in his satirical voice of pulling back the curtain on what we’re dealing with as a society to a certain extent now. Kripke uses Soldier Boy to represent that old ideology.

He touched on the scene in this episode where Soldier Boy and Hughie confront each other about how to handle emotions and what it means to be a man.

Ackles: In that scene where he’s talking to Hughie in the forest and he says, wanna know what I do when I’m scared? Nothing. Cause I don’t get scared. It’s like he doesn’t allow himself to have those feelings because he can’t, he was told to be tough.

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Exactly. As were Butcher and Homelander, with similar results. And that’s pretty tragic.

I also asked Jensen about the lines he didn’t want to cross in the show and that he eventually worked through with showrunner Eric Kripke, which I was fairly certain had to do with some scenes in this week’s episode. He said there was a scene that got cut that started out with Soldier Boy “going in hot and heavy” making out with an older woman who was a maid at the motel, in the scene when Butcher and Hughie walk in with snacks.

Ackles: That wasn’t the line, but that was the jumping off point of when we see Soldier Boy in The Legend’s bedroom. That was supposed to be … a lot more interactive, we’ll say…

Me: That was my guess!

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Ackles: Soldier Boy had a thing for women in their older years and maids for some reason. We were supposed to be in a … much more compromising position… when they walked in. But I was like, I don’t think any of us are gonna be comfortable doing this.

In typical Jensen fashion, he was more concerned about the actresses, who he said he was pretty sure didn’t want to be doing that either!

It’s clear that The Boys is every bit as much of a collaborative show as Supernatural always was, so of course they made some joint decisions about what would fly and what wouldn’t (apparently with the help of some stick figure sketches in those ‘compromising positions’ Jensen mentioned.  Personally I thought the scene as it was aired worked perfectly.

Stay tuned for my deep dive recap and review of this episode coming up soon, and more from my exclusive interview with Jensen Ackles after the finale of Season 3 airs at the end of next week!

– Lynn

You can read Jensen Ackles’ thoughts on fandom

and Supernatural in Family Don’t End With Blood

and There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done – links

here on the home banner or at:

 

 

Exclusive Chat with The Boys’ Jensen Ackles – Season 3 Premieres Tomorrow!

Prime Video’s Season 3 of the hugely successful series ‘The Boys’ premieres tomorrow, and anticipation is through the roof. It’s been a month of press appearances and red carpet premieres and following the cast on a whirlwind European tour, with The Boys social media wizards rolling out daily content that has kept the fandom more well fed than Supernatural fans would have been in a bloody YEAR! I am not at all used to this, but I could get spoiled pretty quickly.

It’s clear from the sneak peaks and ‘leaked’ Public Service Announcement outtakes and teaser trailers that Season 3 is going to be amazing – but let me tell you, having watched the entire thing, it is BEYOND amazing. I felt like my head was going to explode from the twists and turns and revelations, and from the unexpectedly strong (and mixed) emotions I kept experiencing – and I assure you, Victoria Neuman was nowhere nearby. I loved that Supernatural was always a roller coaster ride for me, and The Boys takes me on the same kind of journey. With even more blood and guts and ALOT more non-G-rated content!

There have also been a slew of interviews with the cast, and yesterday I joined in the fun. I had a lovely chat with Soldier Boy himself yesterday afternoon, aka Jensen Ackles. Mostly I wanted to delve deep into understanding his new character on The Boys for its third season, and that part of the interview will have to wait until it’s not so spoilery, but we also had time to reminisce a little about his last show (and my favorite show of all time), Supernatural, and how working on The Boys was both different and similar.

When you watch a show for 15 years like I did Supernatural, you get pretty familiar with your favorite character (that would be Dean Winchester) and the way in which an actor portrays him (that would be Jensen). I used to play a game where I’d try to figure out what lines were ad-libbed, since that happened a fair amount on Supernatural. They were inevitably some of my favorite lines. According to Ackles, my track record was pretty good. Soldier Boy, on the other hand, is a brand new character. I don’t really “know” him that well, so it’s harder to pick out those improvised moments. I asked Jensen if he could think of any examples off the top of his head.

Jensen: There were some, I’m trying to think – I just watched the whole season through this weekend.

Me too, Jensen. It was a bloody wild ride!

Jensen: There wasn’t a whole lot of room for that though, given the character and given the type of scenes we were filming.  I know like all of the stuff that we did, like the PSA that got ‘leaked’, that was just me and Phil (Sgriccia) messing around.

Me: I totally should have called that one.

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If you missed the priceless PSA outtakes and Ackles’ perfectly grumpy delivery, I tweeted it when it was released and kept the fandom gif makers very very busy.

PSA Trailer

Sgriccia has directed on many of Eric Kripke’s shows, including being a long-time director on Supernatural. I once had the great privilege of being on set when he was directing and sitting behind him to watch. (Jensen introduced him as “the man, the myth, the legend” and believe me, I didn’t need to be reminded to be in awe! In fact, I guess I was more or less frozen in silence so as not to interfere with filming, because eventually Phil turned around in his chair and exclaimed, “you are the quietest person I’ve ever met!” Which, I am NOT – but it was Phil Sgriccia!)

That PSA has Ackles ad-lib written all over it. No wonder I love it so much.

At that moment in our chat, Ackles began laughing.

Jensen: You know what’s funny? I’m driving [with a driver] to the airport right now and literally looking up at a billboard and I see my face right there on the Y – and I look over there and there’s another one, literally right across the street, the same one. Like my face is right here in the middle of LA!

Me: OMG that’s so bizarre. Savor it, not many people have that experience, that’s for sure!

(He posted the moment on his Instagram a little while later haha)

I also asked him what it was like being “the new guy” on set after having experienced the Supernatural set for fifteen seasons, with a cast and crew who were essentially family after all that time.

Me: It was a special set.

Jensen: Yeah, it was. And you know, this was fun for me. It wasn’t basically being the co-leader of a set for fifteen years, and it was kinda interesting – almost refreshing – to be the guest on somebody else’s set. Being the guest at the dinner table. And it was nice to kinda sit back and watch somebody else lead and set the tone for that set. I think Karl does an amazing job, Ant does an amazing job, they are all really great – not just at portraying their characters, but also providing a really healthy fun and creative space to make the show. So it was nice to kinda plug myself in.

Me: You can tell that you all got along well. Even the interaction in the press interviews and the way everyone can tease each other. It seems like it worked out really well.

From Claudia Doumit IG
From Jensen Ackles IG

Jensen: It’s great and I had a lot of fun and again, like everybody who I was working with, they just brought it. It’s a different level. I felt like it was the same great energy level that I was so used to on Supernatural, but on a much bigger stage.

He is definitely right about both the energy level and the size of the stage – don’t miss Season 3 of The Boys, premiering tomorrow on Prime Video.

And stay tuned for much more about The Boys and more of my exclusive interview with Jensen coming up!

– Lynn

For more from Jensen Ackles on fandom

and how that’s impacted him, and on

Supernatural, you can read his chapters

in Family Don’t End With Blood and

There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done

 

 

A Little Fandom Fun – Dudes Who Have Crushes On The Supernatural Cast

It has been nine months since Supernatural ended, and a lot of that nine months has been contentious to say the least in the Supernatural fandom. Maybe that’s why in the past week, everyone fell in love with Chance Terry’s TikTok account bursting with his amusing and simultaneously heartwarming declarations of man crushes on the Supernatural cast.

First it was Jeffrey Dean Morgan, then Jared Padalecki, closely followed by Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins.

Not only did fans love the videos, so did the actors. Morgan proclaimed having a man crush right back, Padalecki responded #TruthBomb and Ackles left a message of appreciation. It was Misha’s birthday and he was at a convention, but I’m sure he’ll appreciate his too.

What’s so happy making about Chance’s little videos is that they’re full of heartfelt affection for the guys at the same time as they are often hilarious. In an era where toxic masculinity seems to rule the internet most days, Chance (and his equally appreciative girlfriend) are a breath of fresh air. It’s all for fun, but when he says he’d like to ‘put a finger on it’ everyone watching gets it.

 

Chance and his man crush declarations did something that’s too rare these days in the Supernatural fandom (and often in any fandom) – brought everyone together to agree on something. Mostly anyway. (If you read enough comments on the internet, it’s impossible to hang onto any of your sense of well being).  Chance seemed pleasantly surprised and nearly overwhelmed with the Supernatural fandom’s enthusiasm, and in turn fans welcomed him as part of the SPN Family. Not sure if he realizes there’s a door to get in, but good luck finding the one to get out!

The popularity of Chance’s TikTok videos reminded me of another amusing man-crush-on-a-Supernatural-actor video from a while ago – the Elf Pirate’s ‘Sex With Jensen Ackles’ video. It made the rounds in the fandom when it came out, to some people’s delight and others’ consternation and probably others’ what the hell is this? It made me laugh, and it’s undeniably catchy too. Similar to Chance’s videos, though taking it to the next level for sure (a Winchester sandwich with an angel on top, anyone?), the Elf Pirate’s video also does some of that same challenging of norms using comedy.

Several people put it on my timeline yesterday again and reminded me of it, so I thought I’d share a little conversation I had with the Elf Pirate about that video.

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The Music of Supernatural – Composer Jay Gruska on Scoring the Emotional Series Finale and More

I have long said that the music of Supernatural has had a significant impact on the show – making it memorable and especially giving it the emotional resonance that it had for all fifteen seasons. That’s not something that every genre “horror show” can say, and I’m not sure any can say it with as much pride as Supernatural. The music added so much to the emotional impact of the series finale, so I was excited to talk to composer Jay Gruska about scoring that episode and the emotional episode ‘Despair’, as well as his fifteen years working on my favorite show.

As with many of the  people working on SPN (and another thing that made it so unique and wonderful), the same two composers worked on the show for its entire run – Christopher Lennertz (now working with Eric Kripke on ‘The Boys’) and Jay Gruska. I’ve talked to Jay several times over the course of the show – he contributed to ‘Supernatural Psychology’ for the chapter on music in the show – so I know how insightful he is about how music is used on the show. Chris and Jay tend to alternate episodes, so Jay scored all the even numbered episodes of Season 15, including the final episode, ‘Carry On’, and episode 15.18, Castiel’s goodbye episode, ‘Despair’.

The week before we spoke, I had done a Supernatural music panel at the Southwest Popular Culture Association conference with two friends and colleagues devoted to the most recognizable musical theme in the show, ‘Americana’, which Jay composed. We had invited him to do the panel with us, but he was unable to make it due to a family party. Luckily he and I were able to coordinate our schedules for a phone chat afterwards though.

Jay: That’s amazing about the panel, and kinda flattering and sweet. I’m so bummed that I missed it, I would have loved to share my experience from my end.

Lynn: I don’t think that many composers get an entire panel devoted to one single piece of music at an academic conference – but that’s how important ‘Americana’ is to Supernatural fans.

The Emotional Rollercoaster of ‘Carry On’

Lynn: I know you read my review of the series finale so you know that I loved the barn scene even though it was incredibly painful to watch, but it was such a masterful scene. I was talking to Jensen about it recently and said that he and Jared killed it, and also that the music makes it so much more emotional. That whole piece, the piano then the strings, and then the most familiar part of Americana in the middle…

Jay: Right. As you know more than anyone, I try my best to not use Americana just at the drop of a hat. I try to really respond to when a scene is asking for it. I’ve probably made a misstep or two along the way as far as some fans are concerned – I used it once with Jack, but boy, I heard from people right away like hey, he’s not family! And I was like well yes he is to me! But don’t mess with the Supernatural fandom.

Lynn:  So true. We’re passionate, that’s for sure. And some people would definitely agree with that and some wouldn’t.

Jay: But let’s start with those performances (Jensen and Jared). Because I’m gonna be crude right now and say that without performances like that, which don’t come along often, if there’s a scene where someone is not pulling it off? You’re basically polishing a turd with the music.

Lynn: lol

Jay: My job and particularly that scene, which I count as in the top two or three if not the most emotional, well acted, just hearts-on-their-sleeves as actors and as humans moments in the whole run of the show…

Lynn: I agree!

It’s okay, Dean, you can go now.

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