MAN OUT OF TIME
Jensen Ackles talks Soldier Boy
After 15 seasons of Supernatural, what made Soldier Boy a role you could sink your teeth into?
Any opportunity to get to play in a world created, or shepherded by, Eric Kripke, is one that I will blindly sign up for. I love the experience that he gives the audience. I love the experience he gives his characters and his actors. When the opportunity came up, I hadn’t even seen what the role was. I knew nothing about it. He said there was something and I said, “Tell me when to jump.” That’s what it really boiled down to.
How would you describe your take on the character?
He is the analogue version of Homelander. He was the original guy. There was no template for him. He created the template. You will probably see some of those similarities between Soldier Boy and Homelander, or even a multitude of the Seven. This was the trial-and-error guy. He did a lot of things great, and he did a lot of things greatly wrong. It’s interesting being the new guy on set, but playing the character who has been there the longest.
The character should be Soldier Grandpa at this point. That gave me some real texture, some fun notes. It’s that older generation mentality. It’s an analogue guy trapped in a very high-tech digital world. He certainly doesn’t belong. That doesn’t make him happy. That generally makes people grumpy, curmudgeonly and angry.
Soldier Boy basically embodies toxic masculinity. What was it like exploring that social commentary?
I am in my forties, and I believe I might be one of the last generations that really witnessed that toxic masculinity without any repercussion. It’s just what we were taught. You stand up, you dust it off and you be a man about it, not really knowing the implications that might have on a person. That’s just how I was taught and how my dad was taught.
That came down from his father, who served in the Second World War. It was the generational mentality of, “That’s who we are. Suck it up. Men don’t cry.” For me, born and raised in North Texas, that was very normal to me. I remember not getting just whipped or spanked when I did something wrong, but I would get paddled in school. I remember when that changed. I felt I got a good idea of where to go with that type of character.
How do Soldier Boy and Homelander size each other up?
Homelander is the new iteration of Soldier Boy. He’s the new kid on the block in Soldier Boy’s eyes. Going back to that toxic masculinity: very true to form, one of the first things that ever comes out of Soldier Boy’s mouth after he looks at a big poster of Homelander is “What the fuck?” It’s just looking at the world around him, knowing he doesn’t fit in and knowing things are different. And there it is, personified in this statuesque red, white and blue superhero. He’s not thrilled about that.
The relationship is immediately contentious. They have their words.
Soldier Boy starts out gruff, with this Grizzly Adams-type beard. How did you go about figuring out what his look would be?
It was pretty simple. Kripke just goes, “Don’t shave and don’t cut your hair until you get here.” He told me that in the fall of 2020. I didn’t get there until April 2021. I had a good five or six months just to let it go. That’s not a new thing with a lot of actors. They just let the hair grow, let the facial hair grow as much as they can until they get their next job. Then, you can shape it into whatever you want that character to look like. If you can avoid wearing wigs and avoid wearing a fake moustache… that stuff is inhibiting.
What was your impression of the costume?
What I really liked about it was it wasn’t your one-piece, tights and capes type of thing. It was almost a hybrid of a superhero/military style. It gave me some room to move so I wasn’t just locked into a rubber suit. I was able to be physical in the outfit. That was certainly important for this season. Don’t get me wrong: it was hot and it wasn’t the most comfortable thing. But for what it was, it’s a work of art. Being able to exist in that was pretty fun.