As a part of Amazon's virtual press day celebrating the girls of The Boys and the girls who write about the show on sites like TV Fanatic, we had a chance to sit with Shantel VanSanten for some insight into her character.
It's about time, right?
VanSanten, who plays Rebecca (or Becca), Butcher's wife and the mother of Homelander's child, still hasn't been fully incorporated into the group of The Boys.
But although VanSanten would appreciate a little more of the camaraderie you get when working within a group, she recognizes and appreciates the cut-off filming experience she's had.
"Exactly that. It feels so unfortunate because I would really sometimes feel like the loser who was left out, and I'm like, 'Well, that's how Becca feels.' She misses all of her food and activities and friends and family and loved ones.
"And so yeah, it's okay that I feel this way and a little isolated because anytime I was filming, it meant everybody else had off. [laughs]
"And it happens that way on shows, but the greatest part was if I just came in to do a scene and somebody else had a scene after, like Karen, and we would sit there and shoot the shit about fashion, or just life, and be able to be like, 'What's a good restaurant in Toronto? What are you doing?' And to get to know everybody in the hair and makeup trailer or in passing.
VanSanten teased, "And as episodes progress, there's a little bit more interaction, I will say. So I got to know a lot more of the actors behind the characters, but that's all I'll say."
Despite VanSanten's distance from many others on the show, she's smack dab in the middle of the drama, creating an unhealthy triangle of a relationship with Butcher, Becca, and Homelander.
She laughed when remembering some of her first thoughts on filming. "I mean, from day one on this show, I stepped on set and had to do a sex scene with Karl Urban.
"And then I went from doing a sex scene to giving birth to a superhero where I had a giant... funnel's not the right word, but like a tube that ran from my neck down my spine out my butt crack, underneath the sheet that just spewed blood on everybody."
VanSanten continued, "And I hadn't read all the episodes. I didn't get to read the graphic novel yet. And I looked at Eric Kripke here. I was like, 'What in the... kind of show am I doing? This is so messed up.' And he's like, 'Exactly.'
"But to know that in between the moments of entertainment, there's undertones making people feel uncomfortable and calling to light the things that are happening in our world and the, if you will, characters of our world currently, I think is so important.
"And they run that fine line where people will still tune in, even though they're uncomfortable and being called out. And I think that I feel proud to be a part of that type of show. But playing Becca, yeah, it was difficult and interesting and a challenge. And it's every actor's dream to be able to do that.
"There are slight moments I wish that I got levity, but that's not Becca's world. Becca doesn't lean into the easy choice. She gets uncomfortable. She faces her rapist; she calls it out. She's not going to live in the gray. And she's also not going to fight for everything that she's fought for thus far."
The Boys Season 1 left Becca's story largely untold, and it had a disturbing effect in that viewers were unsure whether she had cheated on Butcher or something more sinister was afoot. It was something that VanSanten, who feels fiercely protective of Rebecca, wanted out on the table.
"I could tell you guys a story of when I called Eric, and I said, 'Listen, season one, we left what happened to her in a gray area. And I have dealt with fans who are horrifically nasty, and I'm sorry, but for people who are survivors, there's no gray area, and we will not leave it in this area.'
"And I want Becca to say what happened to her. I want Becca to look at Billy with power and say, 'I was raped' because that's the fact of the matter. That's what she has been dealing with on a day-to-day basis, alone, and trying to redeem through this child, through everything, through sacrifice.
"And that is in and of itself, the fight to survive and to thrive is heroic in its own nature as human beings. I think I always felt like she was doomed because I'm like, 'Jesus, can this woman ever get a break?' Even in her day-to-day life, it's like she has to sneak away to have a cigarette. I can't imagine what the fight was to be able to do that. You know what I mean?
"She's in such a controlled environment that she constantly has to remind herself why she's there and what she's fighting for in the unconditional love that she has for Ryan.
"But I think that sometimes I felt as though, and even when I watched the show, I'm like, 'Am I on the same show as these people? When do I get to laugh? When do I get to, I don't know, sit in the guts of a whale? When do I get to have like some moment that isn't just fight and struggle?'
"But then I remember that she's the metaphor for the human condition. You know what I mean? And she does have moments of lightness and happiness, but those aren't interesting to watch.
"And ultimately it's what she is, she's a fighter, and a survivor, and won't be a victim to her circumstances."
VanSanten's further understanding of Rebecca comes through when she talks about the characters Sophie's Choice -- "staying with Butcher and telling him what's happened, and him having to avenge it, and probably dying in the face of it all. Or leaving her entire life, everybody thinking that she's dead and raising this child" -- which was ultimately her choice.
She said, "Initially, that was one of the most unselfish things that she could do. Now, I think she also understands that in the bigger picture, I remember Eric Kripke explaining it to me as though I was raising the second coming of Christ, or the next Homelander, which would be Homelander Jr., which would also be the devil.
"So don't fuck it up. Good luck. You have all the responsibility of saving humanity. And I remember being like, 'Holy shit, I never thought of it that way.' I was thinking from Becca's standpoint of this being the most redemptive, unselfish thing that she could do.
VanSanten then realized that the bigger picture found Rebecca as Vought's pawn in an experiment to see if a Supe being raised by a loving mother, taught to have empathy, compassion, feelings, love, and a respect for women could give Vought a way to change humanity by offering a hero that people could hold in high regard and look up to.
"And once I understood that, I instantly wanted to quit. I was like, 'I'm probably going to fail at this, I don't think I'm good enough.' And then again, I realized those were all the things that Becca must feel on a daily basis. Is I have to be doing this wrong because she came into it all with her own stuff too.
"And in that way, I find her to be quite heroic because she stepped up to that challenge and faces it fiercely and constantly. And she's one of the only people on the show that really confronts Homelander until Stormfront comes along. But she has her powers, and Becca has pancake making skills," VanSanten laughed.
It was also an incredibly important point of contention for VanSanten that what the audience sees between Becca and Butcher be far more than sex.
She was thrilled that The Boys offered such a collaborative working style and that people were willing to listen to her viewpoint on Rebecca as the person who was living and breathing the character exclusively, especially in light of the sprawling cast writers and producers and the directors have to juggle.
"Fred (director Frederick E.O. Toye), in episode four, and Karl were both so lovely when I very strongly presented my idea that we were going to lay in the back of the car and not sit on the ground.
"And we were going to hold each other because this was everything that she wanted, and waited for, and would think of, and hold on to. Listen, sex, great, that's awesome. But the companionship, what she used to have, that true intimacy of laying in one another's arms, sharing the cigarette, and seeing a small glimpse of maybe who they used to be.
"Or their true, deep love for one another was something I felt I wanted to fight for before I knew the scene that came next. Because it is. That's the turmoil of loving and not ending up together. That's one of the greatest heartbreaks of your life, is when it just... fuck, you love each other so much, and it just doesn't work. And that's ultimately where we leave them, and maybe we'll see each other again."
#GirlsGetItDone was the theme of this unique and female-centric press day, and VanSanten offered valuable insight on the bonds that tie all of the women of The Boys together.
"Women, in general, finally want to have their voices be heard. Whether it's about your gender, whether it's about your sexuality, whether it's about your experiences, your trauma, your perpetrators, we are fighting to be heard. We've been fighting to be heard for how long in our nation?
"And I think too, whether you wear a cape or not, whether you have a power or you're a mortal, you have your voice. And you can step up, and you can fight injustice by saying it, by calling it to the mat, and by not being a victim of circumstance. And I think that every woman I know in my life is empowered by one another.
"And it's something that, even though our show is called The Boys, it's about the girls. It's our time. It's our time to speak and to come forward and to fight for things. And to know that we're just as capable, if not more than men."
Don't forget to be back here on Friday for a full review of The Boys Season 2 Episode 7!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.