The Boys Season 2's VFX Supervisor Talks Head Pops And More

The Boys Season 2's VFX Supervisor Talks Head Pops And More

Warning: The Boys Season 2 spoilers below.

With Season 2, The Boys proved that it’s one of the best shows on TV–as well as one of the goriest. If you’ve ever wondered what it would really look like when Superman directed his “heat vision” someone’s way, or what would happen to a whale if a pointy speedboat hit it broadside, full tilt–not that that’s a normal thing to wonder about, but still–The Boys is the show for you.

That level of blood and guts doesn’t get cobbled together in an afternoon, particularly when heads are popping like bubble wrap in a crowded congressional hearing. To find out just how much work went into those effects and more, we jumped at the opportunity to chat with The Boys associate producer and VFX supervisor Stephan Fleet.

With light editing, our full chat is below. After you find out everything Fleet had to say about heads popping, faces melting, and just how desensitized he’s become to all the gore, check out our The Boys Season 2 ending explainer, everything you might have missed in the season finale, our interviews with Shawn Ashmore (Lamplighter), Claudia Doumit (Victoria Neuman), and Nathan Mitchell (Black Noir), and our in-depth video breakdowns of the full season.

GameSpot: The comics are so gory and insane, and I’ve read that you’ve basically had to tone it down from the comics. The show is pretty over the top. But I think the comics even more so.

Stephan Fleet: Yeah, I mean, I think from the very beginning, Eric Kripke, and Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg], at the very, very beginning when I was talking to them, Eric definitely came in with his own take on the comic book where he, I think, found a really clever way to balance honoring the sensibilities and the tone of the comic book, but also bringing in his own sensibilities and tone. And I think from the beginning, he said, like, “We’re not going to go as belligerently insane as the comic book,” just in the sense of the sheer gore and violence and stuff. We have ramped up the gore [in Season 2], I think–we have like a gore dial, you know what I mean? I think one thing that Eric’s very good at doing, and we work on in post a lot and in production, is like, how much or how little gore are we going to see, to sort of give the sensibilities of the comic book and give the comic book fans what they want, but then also pull it back into the world that we’ve created. So you get these pockets of sort of fun gore that we definitely work on a lot in visual effects. But yeah, you know, it’s become its own thing. It really has.

I mean, I would say the gore in this show is maybe toned down only in comparison with the comics. Compared to anything else, it’s pretty intense.

It’s funny man, you say that to me–I’m so desensitized to it because I have to work on this stuff frame by frame, that for me, it’s like, “OK, cool, could we put a little more brain in that head over there? Can we get an eyeball like, falling out of this thing?” For me, it’s just like a Wednesday. But I’ve noticed that when I look at a lot of the social media and stuff about the show, people are like, “Holy s*** it’s so gory.” And I’m like, oh, yeah, I guess it is.

Episode 6, in particular, had had lots of little nods to the comics, with all the supe patients at Sage Grove. Was it fun recreating some of the powers from the books, like the acid vomit guy and “Love Sausage”?

It was a lot of fun. I got to second unit direct a lot of the stuff with the people in their cells. They were so busy filming, we actually had three units going on at the same time. So I was the third unit doing that stuff. And it sort of fell upon me–if you read the script, it had a lot of suggestions for powers for the people in those cells. But Eric and the director, Sarah Boyd, who’s amazing, by the way, sort of turned to me and were like, “Since you’re gonna be the guy making these powers and you’re pretty close to it, you want to pitch us a bunch of powers?” And so I ended up doing a whole spreadsheet of different ideas for powers that I thought would fit our world.

We tend not to go too over the top with the superpowers in the show. We try and downplay it, but at the same time, we have to have them. It’s a really interesting line that we try and ride there. And there were a few that we ended up editing out. We had a person with a sort of toad tongue effect grabbing a fly, and it just felt a little too comical for our world, so we cut that one out. But it was fun to bring back our tiny hero from Season 1. That was one of my pitches–let’s bring back the little guy, put them in the corner, just as a little nod to Season 1.

And then beyond just this stuff on the screens, we had a lot. That was one of my hardest episodes to do actually, in visual effects, just because we had so many unique superpowers, but we have to treat each one like it’s as important as one of our hero superpowers. We don’t spend any less time researching and developing the one guy that blasts the van versus like, Homelander’s eyes. We spend the time–we make sure that everything’s quality and comes from some sort of motivated reasoning or perspective in our own internal logic.

Speaking of high quality, we have to talk about the head popping. The hearing at the end of Episode 7 was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen on TV.

That was one of the most rewarding sequences for me. The whale [in Episode 3] was very rewarding–I don’t want to skip over the whale. But I will say that it was another situation where it heavily fell upon me to figure out the logistics of how we were going to shoot that day, working with Stephan Schwartz–another Stephan, the director–he did the Believe Festival episode in Season 1. He had a lot of trust in me and vice versa. So we had a good time shooting that sequence. And Dan Stoloff, our [director of photography], is really great. The three of us were tasked with like, how do we do 20-something head pops in this courtroom scene. And I think we had like two days to shoot it or something like that.

So it was a combination of really figuring out what our hero shots were, the first two guys [who explode], and finding techniques to film the rest of the scene. And then our [assistant director Jack Boem] was also really great, because he figured out a way to time all the background extras, like he would go one, and then the jerk to the left, and then two, and then jerk to the right. So it was kind of fun to just watch in real life how it all happened.

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