Alongside a Seth Rogen cameo, Friday’s episode of The Boys finally unleashed Soldier Boy upon the world. So far he hasn’t done too much beyond walking around, wreaking havoc on his surroundings, or taking vengeance on an old flame. But in typical Jensen Ackles fashion, he’s striking nonetheless. If you’re not admiring the hair (pre- or post-cut; that’s between you and your deity) then you’re hearing his voice, with that old-timey boom.
Soldier Boy’s tone isn’t that far off from Ackles’ regular low voice. But Soldier Boy certainly speaks with a notable affect; it’s grandly confident, resonant even when he’s not speaking all that loudly. The tonal quality was a choice, Ackles said, that he made after doing some research for the role.
“I went back and I actually got a list of old movies and old actors from [...] largely the ’50s and the ’60s. And I watched some of those — not even the films, but like, interviews actors would do about their films,” Ackles tells Polygon. Though Ackles stresses that he wasn’t trying to copy any one person in particular, he did point to some of the names that came up as he poked around the era: Robert Mitchum, Edward G. Robinson, and Lee Marvin.
“There was just a different cadence in which they spoke back then. And I wasn’t necessarily trying to copy that, but I just let that influence how I was speaking as Soldier Boy a bit.”
The result is a man that instantly sounds like he’s plucked from the past. He speaks methodically, but not robotically, sonorous and commanding even as he’s saying (possibly) the most batshit things you’ve heard from a superhero. Ever wanted to hear Robert Mitchum rap off-beat on a variety show while dressed like Captain America? Of course you have.
Ackles is no stranger to modifying his voice for a role. While on Supernatural, Ackles spoke about how he lowered his voice to play Dean, specifically to emulate Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who played his father on the show). It’s a choice he admits regretting a bit, given Supernatural’s lengthy tenure.
Either way, the voice Ackles uses for Soldier Boy clearly communicates how he assumes dominance, whether over his fellow Payback members or the cultural zeitgeist (of his time). Of course, that superiority only extends so far — there are still five episodes left of The Boys season 3, and it’s possible he’ll meet his match.
Not to mention Soldier Boy is navigating a 2020s world in which he no longer jibes the way he once did. Not only has The Oprah Winfrey Show come and gone since Soldier Boy went missing, but there was another Soulja Boy who cranked his way to the top of the zeitgeist for a moment. Of course, whether in-universe Soulja Boy would have changed his name (or whether his name would be an ironic sendup of a long-dead supe), we still don’t know. But suffice it to say: It’ll take more than just some explosive powers to get Soldier Boy back on top.
Additional reporting by Pete Volk.