NOTE: This story discusses spoilers for Season 1 of The Boys
Chace Crawford didn’t really know what he was getting into when he first auditioned for The Boys. “It’s a pretty wild show, huh?” he says as we unpack Amazon’s eight-episode entry into the superhero genre over the phone.
Developed by Supernatural’s Eric Kripke, executive produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and based on the comics by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, the show centers around The Seven, the premier team from superhero corporation Vought International, and the vigilantes (the titular Boys) aiming to expose their classified evils. “It was sort of interesting for me to see it in retrospect, to see what we got, how it landed tonally,” he says. “Because there are so many different tones all over the place, from the action and the intensity of The Boys to The Deep in therapy, to the Homelander, to what Starlight is going through and all that.”
We’ll get to ‘all that.’ First, let’s talk about Crawford’s so-called “supe,” as they call them on the show, an endearing moniker that takes on more meaning when you realize, in this world, caped crusaders can be described as neither super nor heroes.
The Gossip Girl alum sheds his Upper East Side prep school sheen to play The Deep, the amphibious member of The Seven. “I kind of describe him as a Zoolander-Aquaman for the first part,” Crawford says, perfectly capturing his character’s reliance on his looks, modest lack of intelligence, and water-based powers, before noting the less flattering: “He's obviously not very self-aware and he's a little bit pathetic and I think he's sort of got an identity problem.”
His identity problem lies, more or less, in his privilege, bestowed upon him by society for his ease on the eyes and super-human abilities. He’s the kind of guy who has never been challenged about his perception of right and wrong, never had to give in exchange for his taking, never had to figure out who he is. Moving through life in this way has turned The Deep into the living embodiment of the Privileged White Male trope we’re only now beginning to recognize as problematic. And so, in the very first episode, when he sexually assaults his new female coworker, Starlight, by demanding she service him or lose her dream job, it’s a narrative that, terrible as it is, makes sense to us.
The Deep and Starlight
He’s not a villain, per se. At least not more so than any of the other supes. He's just, as we’re so often led to believe in cases of assault, a boy being a boy. “He sort of comes into it like, ‘This is the way it always worked for me,’ you know?” Crawford says. “I feel like even in real life, in situations that are really happening, sometimes these people feel like they're the victim even after all that happened. So it's kind of a bizarre mental process there.”
The bizarre mental process follows The Deep throughout the season, but his isn’t a dark story. Like Crawford said, his character is reminiscent of Zoolander, not Weinstein. He’s, essentially, too stupid to understand that his actions have consequences. “We're making fun, obviously, of that privileged male, white guy,” he says, and as such, The Deep’s privileged dopiness is played up for laughs as he laments to his therapist about being the underappreciated “diversity hire” and as his rogue dolphin rescue attempt results in said aquatic mammal soaring through his windshield and becoming roadkill. Even after Starlight publicly shares her #MeToo moment and gets The Deep relocated to a small, crime-free town, his happy-go-lucky attitude persists.
The Deep inside Vought headquarters
Eventually, karma intervenes to balance The Deep’s impermeable idiocy, sending him a sexually aggressive hook-up with a fish fetish. Despite his cries to stop, the one-night-stand sees The Deep’s gills on his washboard abs and pounces, fingering him with such enthusiasm that watching is viscerally upsetting. “It was the most uncomfortable scene ever,” Crawford says, describing the life-like cast he wore so that his assailant could fit her hand into his torso. “It literally made me feel kind of nauseous, I'm not going to lie.” Off camera, a man sat behind Crawford pumping air into his fake chest to imitate shortness of breath and the director instructed all to orchestrate the perfect shot. “It was just so weird and uncomfortable. I could not have gotten out of there faster that day. So, yeah. It was pretty wild.”
While Crawford’s reaction was to flee, The Deep’s reaction to the event was to get drunk off Mai Tais and cathartically shave his head in front of his bathroom mirror as R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” soundtracked the scene. "I was sort of cracking up that that was the song choice," Crawford says. Even in what should be his darkest moment, we’re reminded that The Deep is nothing more than a ridiculous caricature of a person.
But as Crawford points out, and perhaps what makes The Boys so thrilling, is that his character is but one small part of the show’s extensive landscape. “It's such a big cast and The Deep's almost on his own other movie, a whole other thing compared to The Boys. I mean, I never even worked with them on set,” he says. “With everything combined, it's not even a hundred percent a superhero show, it's just a world in which superheroes exist.”
Queen Maeve and Homelander greeting fans
It’s true — if you compare the number of people the supes save to the number they harm over the course of the season, you’d never consider this to be a superhero show. (It doesn’t help that Homelander, The Seven’s most profitable leader, at one point flies away while an entire plane of civilians crashes into the ocean, nor that he manufactures super-terrorists in the same way Vought manufactures heroes.) The Deep’s predatory behavior looks like peanuts in comparison to Vought’s greater evils, where drugging newborns to give them powers and manipulating the government into giving them military contracts is the norm.
The corporation’s corrosion turns inward at the end of Season 1, when Homelander learns that Vought spent years hiding from him the fact that he has a son. He kills his boss — who was set to lead the entire company — in retaliation, leaving the state of Vought, The Seven, and Homelander’s general sanity in question.
Elsewhere, The Deep is plotting his way into Season 2 — “If you had a hundred guesses, you probably couldn't guess,” Crawford teases — trying to find his way back into a structure that seemingly no longer exists, a superhero on a mission to regain the only purpose his privileged life has ever shown him: power.