The Boys‘ A-Train got a new outlook on life during the show’s third season. Unfortunately it wasn’t much better than the previous life he had. Murdering Blue Hawk got him a replacement heart, but vengeance cost him his brother’s love. His ludicrous attempt at giving himself a different image didn’t go any better, either. He then ended the season by staying loyal to Homelander, which might eventually get him killed. And in the middle of all that he filmed the dumbest ad ever made. All of which gave us plenty to talk about with A-Train himself, Jessie T. Usher. He told us what was going through his character’s mind during his biggest moments this year, what it was like playing such a wide spectrum of scenes, and what he thinks should happen to the world’s fastest killer.
(Note: Jessie T. Usher has one of the best, most joyful laughs you will ever hear. We demand someone crack up A-Train in season four.)
Nerdist: A-Train got the full range of The Boys‘ experiences in season three. He filmed the world’s worst commercial, became a joke with an ill-conceived rebranding, fought another superhero, suffered personal heartbreak, killed someone, betrayed another, and he even grew personally. Which of those moments are the most fun for you as an actor and which ones are the most challenging?
Jessie T. Usher: I think the most challenging aspect would be those in-world moments. Because then you’re almost being a character within a character, but you can’t forget the character that you’re ultimately playing. Like for example when A-Train is doing the commercial. Yeah, he’s doing the commercial, but he’s doing it for a specific reason. He feels a certain way about being a part of that project and the way it’s being received, and the way it’s being developed and taken over by Vought.
And all these things, you have to keep in mind as an actor who I’m playing in those moments. It’s easy to get caught up in it and say, “Yeah, this is like a joke. We’re just having fun, and it’ll fit in where it fits in.” But that’s not really the case. This is still a person with a consciousness and a trajectory that we cannot forget about even in those moments. So that’s pretty challenging.
But it’s fun to see him grow. It’s fun to change his perspective a little bit. It’s fun to almost feel those moments in real time, to hear another character on the show say something that’s never been said and have A-Train process it. Those are things that I enjoy. It’s always different and I love that.
Speaking of different, you had a sincere moment of reflection, guilt, and remorse with Hughie. What was it like to finally show a more mature, unselfish side of A-Train?
Oh man, that was a very interesting moment. I didn’t necessarily know how that was going to go. Reading it on the page it just sounded crazy. We’re at Herogasm and all this stuff is going on. But in that moment, all the weight that has been on A-Train’s shoulders from when we meet him til now kind of rests on that moment. And he’s never been able to be honest about it. At all. Not with Hughie. He didn’t trust him enough to finally open up. And he could never say anything publicly without incriminating himself even more. It was just one of those things where it was the undercurrent of a lot of things that he did and said. So to finally rip that back and kind of just let it go?
There’s something about working alongside Jack [Quaid] who’s very raw and honest in his performance. I didn’t expect it to be that emotional. I just thought it would be a thing where he takes a breath and he says it, but it felt like so much more. So I’m really eager to see where the writers take it from there, because it kind of cuts abruptly and we don’t get a chance to finish that moment. But it’s one that definitely needs to be finished.
Your character gets a new lease on life by getting a new heart, but once again he loses the person he’s closest to. Now that A-Train has recognized the pain superheroes cause, but doesn’t have his brother or someone who really loves him, what do you think he wants from life going forward?
I think like a lot of the characters on the show he kind of just wants to feel some genuine love. It’s misconstrued. These characters are so huge, so famous, so rich, they’re numb to a lot of things. And the love that they’ve been getting has been artificial for a very long time. They’re making these crazy decisions and choices, and it’s really just they’re looking for something very, very simple.
For A-Train he’s always been looking to his brother for that stamp of approval. It’s that unconditional love that, “No matter how screwed up I am, I know I can always turn to my brother and he’s going to make me feel better about it.” He doesn’t have that anymore. So where’s he going to get that from? I have no idea. But it will be interesting to see what type of fight he puts up for his brother, because I know in my mind how much that means to him.
It’s interesting you say that, because it brings another question to mind. Does A-Train hate himself?
That’s a good question. I think at the end of the third season, no. I think at the beginning of the third season, yes. I think a lot of his trajectory in this season was him realizing that yeah, he kind of does. He kind of does hate himself. He hates the position that he’s in, he hates what he’s doing, he hates the people around him. It’s just not what he thought it was going to be. Yeah, he may have made it seem like, “I’m going to do this thing for my brother” or “I’m going to do this because it’s right” but none of that means anything to A-Train.
Let’s be honest, he does not care what’s right or wrong. It’s what feels good. And in that moment that felt like something he needed to do to feel better. And it’s because of how badly he felt about himself up until that point.
I think now, at the end of the third season, being weak and torn down and vulnerable, he’s finally able to feel something else. I just don’t think it’s hatred.
It’s funny you’re talking about where he is at the end, because despite all the bullying and threats, your character was very loyal to Homelander this season. But A-Train also saw firsthand what happens to anyone who gets close to Homelander. So what was your character thinking while sitting on that couch during your final scene of season three?
He was thinking, “Somehow, someway, I still managed to screw up.” (laughs) I know—I know—that A-Train just knew that doing the right thing was going to have the right outcome. But somehow it still feels like a screwup. And I think he’s just baffled at how deep and dark this environment is and if it’s even possible to ever really live the life that I think he’s trying to live now.
At some point—this is a show that this reference would only work for—there had to be a Nazi who looked up one day and said, “This just isn’t right.” But you’re still a Nazi. So the rest of the world, no matter what— you can turn on Hitler—the rest of the world is still going to say, “You’re a Nazi.” And I think that’s A-Train’s moment of like, “I’m doing everything I possibly can, I basically killed myself to do the right thing, and I’m still here. How is this possible?”
It’s funny you say that, because my next question isn’t about A-Train, it’s about you. When you start reading a script for the first time, how much do you fear that this episode, or this arc, or this season, could be it for A-Train? And how confident were you that he was going to survive season three?
Oh man, you never really know. (laughs) You never really know. And this is another one of those show’s where it’s kind of like Fantasy Island, where I can know in my heart that A-Train is going to survive, but what does that look like? I don’t know. It might not be an ideal situation.
I love that, though. It’s kind of a thrill. From page-to-page I’m like, ‘”Oh shoot! This might be where he goes!” (long laugh) Or you know, he may never be able to walk again, and all of a sudden I’m playing a totally different character. One episode he can be A-Train. The next episode he could be Reggie Franklin and never see A-Train again. We honestly don’t know. But that’s the fun and the beauty of it. I’m here. I’m here to play him.
Objectively, what do you think would be the fairest, most just ending for A-Train? And how is that different from what you want for personally want to see happen to him?
Initially I was thinking, like in the comics, he dies. I was thinking there’s some justified version of that, but I don’t think that’s the fairest. I think the fairest is for him to lose everything and then still live to have to deal with that. He has to spend the rest of his life cleaning up the messes that he made, because they are lifelong messes. Him just sacrificing his life is the easy way out. What happened with Blue Hawk would have been way too easy. There’s so much more behind A-Train he has still yet to address. If he were to lose his powers and have to live with it I think would be for him the end of the world, but if that’s something he has to live with it justifies a fair ending for A-Train.
Personally, for the show, I want to die in an epic way. (big laugh) I want something legendary to happen. (more laughter) I don’t know, like some slow motion scene, something crazy that only we can do on this show. I want to see something cool, that’s all.
Whatever A-Train’s fate is we hope it a) makes Jessie T. Usher laugh and b) we get to see him watch it.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.