Let's hear it for the 'Boys': From 'Lucifer' to 'Lovecraft,' these unlikely heroes rule TV
Holding out for a hero? We’ve got a few good men tailor-made for a tumultuous year.
In the realm of sci-fi, horror and fantasy TV, it takes a special dude to take on racist monsters and creepy creatures in Jim Crow America, so-called superheroes who are anything but or pesky demons and the heavenly host that is your family. And a very strange year in the real world like this one – with pandemics and other craziness, too – needs a certain type of good guy.
“Heroism in 2020 is caring about someone or something other than yourself in a world where selfishness and greed are more prevalent than ever,” says Jack Quaid, star of Amazon’s “The Boys” (streaming new episodes Fridays) whose character Hughie Campbell reflects a sense of empathy that's needed nowadays. “Our leaders have almost none, and you can see that sentiment trickling down toward the people."
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These three unlikely heroes – including one of the Boys – are doing it the best they can:
Atticus Freeman, ‘Lovecraft Country’
"Tic" (Jonathan Majors) is a Black Korean war veteran dealing with a ritualistic cult, ancient beings and 1950s-era bigots on the HBO drama (Sundays 9 EDT/PDT). When we first meet him, however, he’s got his nose in a book, not knowing he’ll soon heed the same call as the adventurous do-gooders in his favorite novels.
“He's a hero who’s an introvert,” Majors says. “The story is, in many ways, him against himself. I love how he's just calm, in his element, and then he's disturbed and he's gotta get busy. Because inside he has such a heart and he has such a connection to his family and to his people.”
Rekindling his friendship (and something more) with childhood friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett) also is a blessing. “They've both been to war together, and they've seen the worst parts of each other,” Majors says. “The craziest part for Atticus is she actually loves him and shows affection and cares for him.”
Hughie Campbell, ‘The Boys’
In the first season of the bloody and subversive Amazon series, Quaid’s character lost his girlfriend, grappled with his squad who keeps the corporate "supes" in check and even falls for one of them, Starlight (Erin Moriarty). A fugitive in the second season, Hughie’s “desperate to hang on to the people he still has in his life,” Quaid says. “He’ll stop at nothing to protect those he cares about while simultaneously trying to figure out what he wants out of the terrible mess he’s in.”
Two people make the affable Billy Joel fan a better hero. One is his ruthless leader, Billy Butcher (Karl Urban). “Hughie’s always admired Butcher’s ability to do the things he says he’s going to do. Sure, it gets him and everyone around him in trouble sometimes, but it’s a quality that Hughie occasionally lacks,” Quaid says. The other is Starlight: “Hughie says to her on their first date that she’s ‘literally the nicest person.’ She's what he aspires to be.”
“The Boys” proudly takes on real-world issues through a superhero lens, and this season Hughie and Co. tackle white supremacy, “a terrible systemic issue that needs to be eradicated,” Quaid says. “Some people either refuse to believe the problem exists or agree with the white supremacists. If we have to impale a whale with a speedboat to get them to listen, so be it.”
Lucifer Morningstar, ‘Lucifer’
It’s OK to have sympathy for the devil. In the popular Fox-turned-Netflix series – which will continue its fifth season with new episodes soon – Tom Ellis has kept the mischievous streak yet wiped away other expectations for the occasional king of hell (and frequent solver of crimes). “He was an angel, he was a brother, he was a son, he was all of those things that the rest of his family are, except he's been defined by the sort of punishment and the job he was given,” Ellis says. “We've been able to strip that away slowly but surely over the years to find the softer side of Lucifer.”
His relationship with Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German) has revealed new aspects of his persona. “The notion that love conquers all is something that – certainly within the Christian faith about God and what his dad represented to him – is completely lost on Lucifer,” Ellis says. “I think he always had love, but there are so many things that have been piled on top of that over the millennia for him.”
Lucifer’s seen his twin brother Michael (also played by Ellis) come back into his life and now, in the midseason finale, his Almighty father (Dennis Haysbert). “We really dive into the notion of unconditional love this year,” says Ellis, who teases that the upcoming dynamic between Lucifer and God “really goes to the core of what Lucifer's issues have been and what Lucifer needs to learn or let go of, basically.”