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Paul Reiser Initially Turned Down His Role in The Boys

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Throughout his career, Paul Reiser has bounced around movies and TV across an array of genres, and his appearance in The Boys as fan-favorite comic-book character the Legend nods to the actor, writer, and producer’s 40 years in the business. His surprise cameo as the gleefully vulgar, shruggingly sex-positive cocaine-snorting former vice-president of hero management at Vought International in “The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies” is an amusingly against-type role for the former stand-up.

Reiser has done villainy (Aliens, of course), comedy (the Beverly Hills Cop franchise, Mad About You, The Kominsky Method), and Daddy (My Two Dads, Stranger Things), but as the figure responsible for covering up an array of Soldier Boy’s (Jensen Ackles) crimes in The Boys, he’s never before been this skeezy or this smug. It’s a delightful turn, though Reiser is self-deprecating when I tell him it makes sense, given his lengthy filmography, that he would be playing a character named the Legend.

“It’s a really nice way of saying, ‘Oh, he’s much older,’” Reiser laughs. “That’s a very nice insult that comes wrapped in a compliment, like, ‘I used to watch you when I was a kid,’ and I’m like, ‘You’re 57. What the fuck? What do you mean, when you were a kid? I was a kid when you were a kid!’ But it’s very nice. When anybody knows you from anything, it’s nothing but flattery.”

Speaking on Zoom from Dublin, where he’s currently filming the movie The Problem With People — a “long labor of love” that he stars in, co-wrote, and is producing — Reiser discussed initially turning down the Legend role, the character’s ties to Paramount Pictures producer Robert Evans, and the DGAF appeal of the Legend’s elder-statesman outfits.

How did the role come to you? Were you familiar with The Boys comics or the TV show?
To be honest, I had not heard of The Boys. I have a very hip 21-year-old son who is very much into the world and the comic. I said, “I just got offered this role on The Boys. Have you heard of The Boys?” And he said, “Oh, it’s great. You’ll hate it.” I watched and I said, “Oh, you’re right, it’s great, and” — [grimaces] — ooh, aah.” I was so impressed with what they’d done, but it’s a world that is not at all my world. I’m so not a comic-book guy, but I thought, Oh, they’re deliberately being wildly violent and graphic. Okay, that’s cool. And then I saw how funny it was and how great everybody was, and the production was great. And to be honest, the role, when I first read it, I was like [sharply inhales]. It was a little bit rough for me, and I politely passed.

But I had a very smart agent who said, “Well, why don’t you talk to Eric Kripke?” My thing is, as a writer and a creator of content myself, I went, “I don’t want to talk him out of what he wrote. He wrote it because that’s what the character is, so why would I try and make him change it?” But Eric said, “Well, why don’t we take that sentence out and that sentence out and that sentence out? What do you think now?” And I said, “Well, that could be fun.” It was a bit of rolling the dice that he was willing to respect what I was comfortable with and what was out of my comfort zone. And once I got on the set, I had watched more episodes and I felt I knew my way into the world. Nothing I could come up with would be too far or in bad taste. With those parameters, it was really fun to jump in and go, This guy can say anything.

I know that comic-book fans are — what’s the word I’m looking for? — passionate about their worlds, so I wanted to tread carefully. But I had to let Eric and the writers tell me, “He wouldn’t do that; he would do that.” I had a great time. I only shot a couple of days; I was in Toronto for over a weekend. But the other thing that was surprising was it was a very light set. It wasn’t at all indicative of the content. I thought of Karl Urban, He’s going to be horrible. He seems like a very mean person. And there was never a bigger pussycat. He’s such a sweet guy. And Jack Quaid and Laz Alonso were great. It was nothing but a fun couple of days.

When you were discussing the character with Eric, did it come up that the Legend is partially based on movie producer Robert Evans? 
We sort of came to that when we were talking about wardrobe and look. I don’t think it was meant to be a send-up, but they said, “He’s the old-school guy, really big in the day, but his day has come and gone.” We thought that was a really nice reference, and Robert Evans was such a huge figure. I had met him at the tail end of his life. I didn’t know him well at all. But the Legend was a bit of a caricature; the character was so locked in to his look and his legacy in Hollywood history but didn’t feel of the moment. I was fascinated by that. That was really fun, to play this guy who prides himself on who he knows and where he is in the pipeline of things but clearly has a lot of baggage. I love the shots of me with Lee Marvin and Roy Scheider; it was so the time period of the ’80s. We came up with all those references on the spot.

Were you able to give suggestions about how you wanted those photos — with the likes of Carrie Fisher, Grace Jones, and Dennis Hopper — to look? 
I think they just found pictures of me and tried to match them with what would work with pictures of those people. It took me a minute to realize Carrie Fisher was not Kristy McNichol. They looked kind of the same for a few years. And I knew Carrie, but I went, I don’t know who that is. But they were well done. Sometimes you see them in shows, and it’s like, Well, that’s clearly Photoshopped. And obviously these were Photoshopped, but some of them, I went, Oh, look at me with Steve McQueen. Good for me.

Were you able to pick the accessories?
Yeah, I met with the great wardrobe team, and someone came to my house in L.A. One of the first things pulled out of a bag was a bright-purple smoking jacket, and I went, Ooh, that’s cool. And I’ve never, ever been a guy that thinks about wardrobe for a character, other than, I think I can take this jacket home with me afterward. That’s the extent of my thinking. But I went, This says so much.

I’ll tell you what I’ve learned. I haven’t applied this in my life, but a velvet smoking jacket, that’s the way to go. That’s the way to live. If I could somehow curate my life in such a way that I can pull off wearing a smoking jacket and a cigar, I will have succeeded.

It’s just an absurd concept. A whole category of wardrobe designed for one activity. There’s no drinking pants, you know what I mean?

But maybe there should be. 
There should be. Why don’t you get on that? “Yes, it’s an eating shirt.”

Unfortunately, all my shirts are eating shirts.
Yes, after the fact, they become eating shirts. [Gestures at imaginary stains on his shirt.] “Ah, he was obviously eating.”

But a smoking jacket! I can’t even do the math on how that came to be. But I put it on, and I enjoy cigars, so when they said, “He smokes cigars,” I said, “Oh, I’ve never been happier.” But they were fake cigars. You can’t smoke tobacco on a set, so you have to smoke — I don’t know what’s in there — corduroy? It’s just a dollop less enjoyable.

I’m wondering how you got into the mind-set of this guy who, as you said, is very much a portrait of a certain time.
Well, you know, more and more, I find myself closer to that. [Laughs.] I was talking to a couple of other actors my age, and we went, “Have you noticed you get on set and you’re the oldest guy by far?” It used to be I’d be on a set — and I’ve worked with so many people that are legends in my life: Al Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Carol Burnett — and I always felt, Oh, I’m the up-and-coming, I’m the young guy. And it’s like, Oh, am I … ? Not that I’ve achieved anything like they have, but in terms of chronology, I look around the set and think, 30, 28, 30, 34, 65. Oh my God! I guess I’m that guy. I remember working with Jerry Lewis when he was 67, which at the time to me — I was in my 30s — I went, That’s so old. So there’s a bit of that. I feel like just by showing up, I’ve already halfway done the homework. I’ve felt like I was 80 since I’m 25.

The Legend mentions two different real movies in his scene: Marathon Man, with Dustin Hoffman, and Entrapment, with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Do you have a preference between those two?
I don’t think I ever saw Entrapment. I loved Marathon Man. I remember it came out — I think I was in college — and my roommate had seen it. I said, “Don’t tell me anything about it!” And he said, “I’m not going to say anything, but I’m just going to tell you this: When you think you’ve figured it out, you haven’t.” So I watched the movie, and I went, Ah, that’s what he meant, so it must be this. And then, you know, 11 steps later, I went, Oh, I had it figured out, like, a half-hour ago. I love that movie.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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Paul Reiser Initially Turned Down His Role in The Boys