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Chace Crawford Went From ‘Gossip Girl’ to Octopus Sex on ‘The Boys’ — and He Loves It

Former Gossip Girls star Chace Crawford has a great time playing one of the most absurd characters on television, no matter how weird it gets — and it gets pretty weird. In an interview conducted for our recent in-depth feature on The Boys, Crawford looks back at his time so far as poor-man’s-Aquaman the Deep, from his deranged duet with his own gills to his romantic, uh, entanglements with an octopus named Ambrosous (voiced, amazingly enough, by Tilda Swinton).

Did you have the slightest idea what you were getting into when you first heard about this role?
No! They sent me two scenes. It was a regular audition. [Showrunner] Eric Kripke was in the room. One scene was a confrontation with Starlight that ended up changing in the first episode. And the second one wasn’t even in the script — it was just, like, the Deep in his therapist’s office going on this monologue about how lobsters are his only friends in the world [laughs]. Before I read the first episode, I read those auditions, and I was like, “Oh God, I know this guy. I just know this guy. This, like, white-privilege, asshole, insecure guy.” And I remember making Kripke laugh a little bit. And within a week it was done. Once we started going, they added that [sexual blackmail] scene of me and Starlight at the beginning, which is a big change from what they had.

It must have been intense to realize that your character was going to plunge into such dark territory right away.
Like, “My God, this is a delicate scene. This is a really big deal. Oh man, this could be like a negative thing.” I was a little bit nervous. ’Cause I’m [pressuring Starlight into oral sex] and then I’m saving a dolphin. I’m like, “Tonally, how is that gonna shift?” They spent so much time on that scene, and Erin [Moriarty, who plays Starlight] is obviously a phenomenal actress. 

I’ve talked to a lot of people who say you’re their favorite character on the show.
Really? That makes my day

But if producers told you in advance that you’re going to be having carnal relationships with the octopus, would you have had more doubt about this part?
Yeah, I would have. It’s so funny and brilliant now, but when that came up, I was like, “Oh God, how’s this going to work?”

The first day that you actually had to do one of those scenes, you must have come home and been like, “This has been a strange day at work.”
I was in total denial about it. And then it got 24 hours out from the first day I had to shoot it and I almost had a panic attack. I called Kripke — he’s so great. He’s got a million things going on but his door’s always open. So I was worried about the scene. I’m like, “How are we gonna do this? What are the angles gonna be? How naked do I have to be?” He changed one shot for me. And it was great. 

Did you have an intimacy coordinator with the octopus?
We have one on set. But not with the octopus. But they treated it like, “quiet everyone, clear out” —  a closed set. But yeah, just the act of picking up the octopus and getting a wet octopus in the bed was so funny and weird. And then it doesn’t come out for a year almost, and you’re like, “How is this going to be received?” But everyone loved it. I saw someone at the gym the other day and he was like, “I’m actually going to show you this.” And it was him in a Deep costume with a pink octopus wrapped around him at Comic-Con or something.  Everyone loved it, man. I get ragged on a little bit, but it’s good.

The Deep has done terrible things, but there are moments where we feel empathy for him. How do you balance that?
I guess it comes from a place, and I think Antony [Starr, who plays the show’s sinister leader Homelander] would agree with this too, where you’re not judging the character. You just feel sorry for him in a way, that he’s just so un-self-aware and so insecure deep down. It goes back to the gills thing. He was teased mercilessly and felt like a total freak. He just never fit in, and he always felt like his superpowers are so stupid and he’s just a fish guy. It’s a pathetic self-victimization place for him. But at least when he’s rescuing the animals, he’s trying. He always fucks it up, but he’s trying.

What have you observed of Antony’s process as Homelander? He is so often called upon to be so scary in your presence. What is that like to see him go in and out of it and to act alongside that?
It’s amazing, man. It’s pretty powerful, actually. He’s taught me a lot, because he takes it so seriously, in the best way possible. He cares the most out of anyone in the room about nailing it. To that degree, he can be intense. There’s an intensity there working with him sometimes. He always talks about how he has to really memorize the lines in advance. I hope I’m not giving way too much, but I like it, because it’s taught me this too — he’ll go for a run or bike ride and just go over the lines in a million different ways. I see him doing that on set. He doesn’t quite know what he’s going to do, but he’s played with the lines so much that he really takes his time in the blocking of the scene. And then we’ll push it far, or pull it back, or find some moment that’s funny or that needs to read a certain way. Then I’ll watch him on his close-up, and then the guns come out. He’s is on fire when he’s in close-up. It’s pretty cool to see. 

Are any of you guys Method between takes?
Not at all. He’s cracking up at his Kiwi accent. No one on set is Method, and he’s not like that at all.

How do you keep from slipping into cartoonishness?
They probably save me in the edit sometimes. I’m always trying to push it a little bit on that line, but again, the character is so ridiculous that just playing it straight is usually the funniest way possible. 

The episode where you’re on a mushroom trip and your gills are singing to you must have been interesting to shoot.
That was a fun day. I was really nervous, though, because obviously it’s just me sitting there. He has to start breaking down and singing “You Are So Beautiful” to his gills. And the singing was pretty funny. There was a guy off-camera singing with me as the gills. And we’re trying to harmonize. He’d be saying to me, like, “What show is this, man? What are we doing?”

The Deep seems to be going way past the point of redemption this season.
This might be my favorite story arc of the show. The Deep gets to assert himself and find a little bit more inner power, inner strength. There’s some cool physical stuff I get to do. But yeah, I just thought it was a really cool place to take the Deep. It wasn’t like, OK, we’re going to retread some old steps. We’re going to move in a different direction. 

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Did you ever hope for more of a redemption arc? Or is that less fun, actually?
It’s less fun. It’s less fun for me. He’s got his comeuppance a little bit, but he’s obviously not redeemed. At all.

There are so many meta aspects to the show, and one of them is, you came from a world of teen dramas, and people assume that some people from that world might be, like, himbos. So there was an archetype that you were able to draw upon.
Absolutely. You know, I love everything I’ve done previously, but you do get put in a bit of a box, in the eyes of people in the industry. So it’s great to be able to showcase such a different side, a different range. It was very meta for me, within this show, to make fun of that type of person.

What do you make of the way the show mirrors the real world?
I love it. It dovetails oddly sometimes with what’s going on in the real world. This season, there are more parallels with what’s happening, as an election year. I think some people get it, and some people don’t, right? Antony’s much better at that conversation than I am, ’cause he’s had to deal with that [more]. I think some people don’t really understand the satire of it at times. Which is odd. And sometimes shocking. But that’s just what it is. You can’t really control what people want to believe about it. But yeah, it’s always been an interesting fun-house mirror to what’s been going on. 

You went pretty far in an audition to play Captain America in the MCU, right?
I was on Gossip Girl, and I got a screen-test deal for Captain America. They were testing a bunch of people that time, probably 10 to 12, maybe more. But then they were like, “He’s on a TV show? Wait, he’s contracted on a TV show?” They had no idea. That kind of killed it last minute. But I guess they had a screen-test suit made. I was probably too young at the time, too. I still looked pretty baby-faced.

Finally, is there one dream you have for the Deep before you’re done with this character?
Just for him to survive. [Laughs.]

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