Jensen Ackles dons a star-spangled supersuit and shield to play Soldier Boy in "The Boys."

Jensen Ackles talks toxic superhero, ‘Supernatural’ spinoff

Jensen Ackles knew Amazon’s “The Boys” was a wild and crazy superhero show before he signed on, and the buff actor’s onscreen entrance – mostly in the buff – threw him in the deep end on his first day.

Ackles’ character, Soldier Boy, emerges from a large metal capsule after several decades in storage and “in true ‘Boys’ fashion, they don’t keep their superheroes contained with clothing on. Why would they do that?” Ackles says. “So I stepped out in front of my brand new cast and crew with nothing between me and them but a sock.”

After 15 seasons of “Supernatural,” Ackles goes from battling demons to wielding a star-spangled shield in the third go-round of “The Boys” (first three episodes streaming Friday, then weekly ). His Soldier Boy is a macho 1980s-style superhero in the vein of Captain America – although not nearly as nice a guy – and a hugely popular American celebrity who’s long been thought dead. Now he’s sought by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid) in their efforts to take down psychopathic super man Homelander (Antony Starr).

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But Ackles, 44, isn’t done with the “Supernatural” world: He’s the narrator and, alongside wife Danneel, an executive producer of CW’s “The Winchesters,” a prequel spinoff premiering this fall focused on the monster-hunting parents of Ackles’ Dean and Jared Padalecki’s Sam. The Texas native has also joined the ABC crime thriller “Big Sky” for its upcoming third season as new Montana sheriff Beau Arlen.

Ackles talks with USA TODAY about “The Boys,” toxic masculinity and his affection for Reba McEntire.

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Question: Your “Boys” introduction was sans clothing, but what was it like filming a superhero orgy scene where you’re in your spiffy suit surrounded by a bunch of naked extras?

Jensen Ackles: I’m not necessarily a modest person, by any means, but I do remember walking onto the set,  and let’s just say that I felt the need to stare at the ceiling more than I’ve ever felt in my life. Avoid eye contact, just don’t look down and you might get through this day.

Q: Was that an interesting exercise going from Dean Winchester to Soldier Boy?

Ackles: Dean was the unlikely hero in flannel that you would walk by a million times on the street and never know. He was fighting the good fight in the shadows, whereas Soldier Boy, he pretends to fight the good fight in the spotlight. Much like Homelander, this is a guy who believes his own hype and battles with his insecurities and internal demons, and doesn’t do it very well. We’re dealing with a lot of toxic masculinity,  and Soldier Boy definitely gets to embody that.

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Q: Why is that an important issue to discuss now?

Ackles: We teach girls all the time (that) it’s OK to be tough and it’s OK to stand up for yourself, and you can do everything a boy can do. But it is not the same on the flip side. Princess dresses are not for boys, painting your nails is not for boys, playing with dolls is not for boys. The discouragement just because of what has been handed down generation after generation is something that we should peel the layers back and understand maybe on a deeper level where’s that coming from, and why are we still holding on to that as a society.

Q: You’re joining Reba McEntire as new series regulars on “Big Sky.” Is there a duet in your future?

Ackles: (Laughs) If Reba McEntire wants to make me sing with her, I’m a big enough country fan to do everything I can to not let her down. She’s an icon, she’s legendary, she’s country music royalty. 

Q: What tune would you pick to sing?

Ackles: Oh, man. I would just do anything I could to get her to sing “Fancy.”

Q: What is it about “Supernatural” that keeps you coming back?

Ackles: It’s a world that’s always interested me. There’s obviously been several attempts at a spinoff for the show, because I do think that there is a strong desire to continue to expand this universe. Any time you’ve got a fan base and even a cast of characters like this that have really put so much time and effort into building this world, you want to see other parts of it – at least I do. 

Look, I wasn’t ready for “Supernatural” to die. I just needed a break. (Laughs) I wasn’t ready for it to necessarily be done done. I just needed to go stick my toes in the sand for a minute.

Q: Do you have big Father’s Day plans now that you’re back home in Austin?

Ackles: No, my Father’s Day plans are pretty much whatever (my family is) going to do for me. I’m on board with that. I’m not the planner in my family. My wife is the commander in chief, and she lets us know where this ship goes. I just wait for my marching orders.

Q: So, you’re a Soldier Boy through and through?

Ackles: That’s it, my friend.

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