THE BOYS PRESENTS: DIABOLICAL Interview: EP Simon Racioppa Reflects On Making The Bloody Anthology (Exclusive)

The Boys Presents: Diabolical executive producer Simon Racioppa talks about how the show pays homage to iconic animation styles, working with Garth Ennis, exploring Homelander's origin story, and more...

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The Boys Presents: Diabolical is an eight-episode animated anthology series set in the universe of the Emmy-nominated hit The Boys, and all episodes premiere on March 4 exclusively on Prime Video. The fun-size episodes, running 12-14 minutes and each with its own animation style, will reveal unseen stories dreamt up by some of the most creative and bloody brilliant minds in entertainment today. 

Among those working on the series are Seth Rogen, Justin Roiland, Andy Samberg, Awkwafina, Eliot Glazer, Giancarlo Esposito, Kumail Nanjiani, Antony Starr, and Invincible showrunner Simon Racioppa.

We spoke to Simon earlier this week about serving as an executive producer on this animated spinoff, and he had plenty of fascinating insights to share. Among them are what it was like to work with The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke and Garth Ennis, the writer responsible for the comic book series these shows are based on (who actually pens an episode set in that reality). 

He also breaks down his episode - which reveals more about Homelander's twisted origin story - and weighs in on the possibility of the show's new characters making the leap to live-action. Simon even offers an update on Invincible following the news that the animated series is set to return for a second and third season.

Watch our full interview with the executive producer in the player below:

Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. You must be excited to finally share this show with the world.

I’m very happy to finally have it released this Friday. It’s a long process making a show, so, this is the best part. This is the fun part. You feel a little trepidatious because you never know how it’s going to be received, but the work is done, and now it’s just the release!

Well, I know I had great fun with it, particularly due to the fact that each episode has its own distinct animation style. Despite that, it still feels very authentic to The Boys live-action show, so what was the biggest challenge making sure that was the case?

We had Eric Kripke, the showrunner and creator of The Boys. He was involved with Diabolical the entire step of the way, so he made sure we stayed in this world of The Boys. The big thing we took from him was we wanted to be true to things that were true in the main show; Compound V had to work like Compound V. Superheroes are all made in this world and don’t just come from a random industrial accident or born that way or magic. We had to be true to that. Vought had to act like Vought does. So, as long as we had those guidelines in place, we weren’t actively contradicting the main show. Obviously, Homelander had to act like Homelander and The Deep had to act like The Deep. Once we did that, the rest of it was widened and we had almost complete freedom in other ways. It was about being true to the spirit and main tenor of the other show. Otherwise, go have fun. Those are great words and those are the kind of constraints you want. If we didn’t have those, then why are we connected to The Boys at all?

Talking of the animation, I think people will be familiar with the animation styles and what they’re inspired by, but were you guys ever worried with something like that first episode that you’re going to be getting a call from Warner Bros. saying, ‘Look, you can’t be using that [Looney Tunes animation] for a baby blowing all these people up!’ or are you just having fun and paying homage to it?

[Laughs] I mean, there’s a lot of influences, but Warner Bros. doesn’t own that specific style of animation. That would be like saying someone owns modern art. It was a homage, but not just to Looney Tunes; Roger Rabbit, Disney was doing shows, Fleischer cartoons, and things like that too. Those were all of that era and it’s more of a love letter to that era and that kind of handmade cartoon back then. Part of the love letter from us was being as authentic as possible, so we found these great directors that specialise in that style of animation. Our composers for that episode were Steven and Julie Bernstein, who composed for Animaniacs and Tom and Jerry. We recorded a twenty-nine piece orchestra for that to try and be as authentic as possible. One hundred percent, it’s a love letter to that style. It’s us saying, ‘If we’re going to do that style, the kind of style that we grew up watching, let’s do it as hard as we can and get as close to that as we can given our budget and schedule.’

The episode you get to write, the finale, delves into Homelander and his origin story, so how closely did you work with Eric Kripke to make sure you weren’t contradicting what we’ve seen in the show and to build on that for it to be maybe picked up on down the line?

Very closely. Again, Eric was on every email. We talked often through the course of production, so even that script, I pitched him that idea. It was the last episode we wrote and we wanted to keep that slot empty as I knew I would fill that with something I felt was missing from the show. All the other episodes went out to writers and as it started to fill up, we started to get a feel for the kind of stories we were getting. Thankfully, it was a mix of very comedic, very serious, and dramatic episodes, but in the end, we felt like we wanted something else that was dramatic. Not a comedic episode, but something a little darker. Eric talked about how he’d love to see an episode with an early mission showing Homeland and Black Noir together before The Seven came about. That lit a lightbulb in my head and we said, ‘Why don’t we just write Homelander’s first mission?’ He said ‘Great,’ so I pitched him the rough idea and went off and wrote it. I trepidatiously gave him my script because I was a fan of The Boys before I started on this show, so I’m writing his character and an origin story for him. I wanted to make sure I got that as right as I could, and he was gracious and wonderful to work with, giving me feedback and we then shot the script and got it to where it is. He was 100% involved in the whole process, not just for my episode, but along the whole way.

There are so many great characters introduced throughout these episodes, and having served as an executive producer on the show, are you hopeful they might come back either in another season of this show or perhaps in live-action?

That would be wonderful. My hope for a second season of the show is to do something all-new. That’s not to say we wouldn’t continue a storyline, but let’s say we were picking up a storyline from season one in that we were going to do another episode of Laser Baby. I would want to give you something you haven’t seen; I don’t want to just continue that story and give you another Looney Tunes-style episode. Maybe that’s the episode we change and do in live-action in season 2. Maybe we give it to you in a completely different manner. Maybe we make it computer-animated. Maybe we do it as a puppet show. I don’t even know, but I want to make sure Diabolical, if we get a second season, doesn’t repeat itself from season one. That’s the promise of the show; it’s a grab bag in creativity, but we don’t repeat ourselves and give you something new and we don’t do what the mothership does either; we’re something different. That’s the reason for our show to exist. To give you the stories you’re not getting from the mothership or any other spinoff.

I’d say you did a fantastic job of that. Another favourite episode of mine was that Garth Ennis one which was very comic book-inspired with Simon Pegg coming in to play Hughie; what was it like to work with them and give Garth the chance to tell another story in that world?

I think the first writer we went out to was Garth. Obviously, once we started talking about the series, we went, ‘Well, we have to do Garth’s version of The Boys.’ Eric took so much from Garth’s books, but it’s a different animal. There’s translation and it’s changed somewhat. We wanted to do Garth’s version, but animated, so we went to him early on. I’m a huge fan of his going all the way back to The Boys and even earlier with Judge Dredd. I’ve been reading his work for years, so it was a treat for me. He was the nicest, best person to work with and said, ‘This sounds great. I would love to do it. When do you need a script by?’ We said, ‘Well, we’ve got some time,’ and four days later, his script popped up in my inbox already written and finished by him for the show. Just like that. And it was great. We kept him involved with the whole process so he saw early designs and gave feedback. He was part of casting as we started putting who we wanted forward to play those roles, so he had input on that and input on the music. We kept him as involved as we could through the whole run of his episode. Bringing Simon Pegg in wasn’t even a decision. That was just logical. Who else would play Wee Hughie? I worried, ‘What if he’s too busy or he can’t do it?’ Thankfully, he said, ‘I will absolutely make time for this’ and we sent out a recording crew to his house and recorded him there because of the pandemic. He was amazing and we got it all. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

This series deals with some hard-hitting topics and another show you’ve worked on that blended ultra-violence with timely issues was Invincible. While I have you, is there anything you can tease about seasons 2 and 3?

You can see all the books right there. My collection! We’re working hard on it. The one thing I’d tell people is we’ve been working hard on it for a longer period than I think they think. A lot of people assume we’ve just got started on it, and that’s not true. We’ve been working on it for a while now. But, it’s a big show. To do it properly takes time. We’re still in the pandemic. We’re hopefully coming out of it, but that makes things a little slower too. Everybody is working very hard on it; I think you’re going to be very happy with it. I hope so. We want to make it as badly as everyone wants to see it. We’re deep in. I wish it was already done and I wish it was finished, but it’s just not. We’re deep into it; literally, this afternoon, that’s what I’m doing - more work on that show! Right after these interviews, I’m back on to Invincible.

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