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Lizze Broadway as Emma Meyer in a closeup shot in her dormroom in the Prime Video series Gen V Photo: Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

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Gen V’s giant dick wasn’t even the hardest thing to build

Ears are more complicated than penises, who knew

Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

A tiny character can make for a huge amount of fun for a TV show’s practical effects team. Gen V, Prime Video’s excellent college-set spinoff of The Boys, is fortunate enough to have a character just like this in Emma Meyer (Lizze Broadway), a student with the ability to shrink (or grow) based on how much food she consumes or expels.

As a show set in the world of The Boys, Gen V has certain standards to uphold — namely, it has to live up to one of the most arrestingly lewd black comedies on TV, where an Aquaman-esque hero fornicates with an octopus and a shrinking man walks into a sexual partner’s urethra (built to scale).

Gen V does this and more in an early scene where Emma hooks up with a guy who asks her to get in bed with him after shrinking. The result is a very funny, very explicit sex scene where Emma scales a giant penis, one Gen V brings to life thanks to the talents of prop and prosthetics team led by Colin Penman.

Emma Meyer attends a party in a fancy dress with her hair in a bob in an episode of Prime Video’s Gen V Photo: Brooke Palmer/Prime Video

Penman, however, would be starting from scratch — his team did not work on the penis tunnel built for The Boys.

“This was our first experience with a giant dick situation,” Penman told Polygon via Zoom. And like with any project done at a massive scale, you have to start small.

“Our prop master went and bought this big dildo and we had a little doll, and we were sort of working out the logistics.” Penman says. “Then we figured out the size [for the final model], which was I think it was about 6 feet, in the end.”

Once Penman and his team had their plan worked out in miniature, they could go big with the real prop, sculpted from foam, clay, wire, and silicone. Then came a surprise stress test: Broadway stopped by the set when the giant prop dick was finished but not yet painted and leapt on it, terrifying the prop team.

“We all kind of made a huge gasp and we thought, Oh my god, but it wobbled and she stayed on and nothing broke, nothing tore. It was awesome.” Penman says. “That kind of dictated what she was going to be able to do on the [shoot] day, because I think originally she was going to be dancing beside it.”

Less risky for Broadway but more challenging for the props team was the giant ear they had to build for her to swim out of after a scene where Emma kills a guard by leaping into his ear. A massive production, the 15-foot ear was built by making a cast of the actor’s ear, which was then scanned and made into a giant multi-part mold by another company in Alberta, Canada.

The finished ear was then sent back to Penman and his team piece by piece, where it was assembled, fleshed out with paint and prosthetics, and filled with fake blood.

Two craftspeople assemble a mold of a giant ear in a behind the scenes photo for Gen V
The giant ear is assembled.
Photo: Colin Penman/Prime Video

“They built this giant rig that pumped about 1,000 gallons of blood into the ear; it would fill up from underneath and then pour out and then it would get pumped back up and recycled,” Penman says. “So you just keep it going all day long, and Lizze would get in and dunk herself under and pop out.”

It is, in other words, not easy being an actor who plays a tiny person. But it’s just as challenging to erect (not sorry) a world capable of convincing an audience that their shrinking hero is capable of doing shocking and hilarious things they could never do when full-size.