In the morally intricate realm of Prime Video’s The Boys, where heroes and villains are far from mere archetypes, a particular antagonist often emerges as a fan favorite. Whether it’s Homelander, The Deep, or Stormfront, this outrageous series refuses to present its characters in simplistic black and white terms. Among them, A-Train, portrayed by the talented Jessie T. Usher, stands out as a character whose depravity is enthralling. Possessing superhuman speed, A-Train embodies the fallen sports hero clinging to his waning glory with every ounce of his super-powered might.
In an exclusive conversation for Awards Radar, we had the privilege of dissecting the persona of A-Train with Jessie T. Usher. We explored the show’s satirical commentary on our celebrity fixation and the intricate dynamics of power and vulnerability. Usher illuminated the essence of A-Train’s character and how he infused the typical sports celebrity with a slightly malevolent edge. Listen to our full conversation at the bottom of this article.
Jessie – “I didn’t necessarily model it after any sports heroes, but in talking with Eric Kripke, and the beginning development of this character, they were talking a lot about Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps. There were these guys who were getting ridiculed for performing under the influence. Kripke was trying to find, with A-Train, where he was a little bit more vindictive, or a little bit more evil. He’s plotting and giving himself an advantage based on his use of compound V. But also coming from a place where no one can really understand what it is that he’s up against. He’s in a world of people who are using and abusing compound V. It’s just the masses have no idea about it.
We spoke a lot about bodybuilders who, from the outside we hear about, or this baseball player has been on steroids, but they’re on the inside saying “everybody’s on steroids”. So that’s where A-Train was living. And we just looked at a couple of those stories and those incidences and just seeing how those people teeter that line a little bit. And we just sort of sprinkled a little bit of that into A-Train.”
The indelible image of A-Train’s devastating collision with Huey’s girlfriend in the pilot episode serves as our chilling introduction to the unapologetic murderer. A-Trains destructive path becomes the catalyst for Huey, an average dork, to embark on a quest for vengeance against superheroes. Over three seasons, we witness the characters’ relentless pursuit of each other, leading to a climactic confrontation in Herogasm. Reflecting on the dynamic between A-Train and Huey, Usher expressed his admiration for working alongside Jack Quaid and the intricate intertwining of their characters’ narratives. He shared:
Jessie: “Man, I mean, you know, from season to season, working with Jack Quaid has been incredible. I feel like we haven’t had so much on-screen time. But our stories are so intertwined that when we do have each other, in the same scene, face to face, all of these things from my backstory that I’ve been thinking about and working on, I finally get to address with this person. His perception of it is always a little different than mine. So I spew it out the way that it’s been brewing in my head for the last two years. And then he comes back with something totally different. I’m like, ‘oh, wait a minute, I didn’t see that coming’. I really enjoy those moments. Because there’s enough space in between them for those moments to live in our heads before they actually get to be played out. And I really enjoyed that.”
After 2 seasons, the magnitude of A-Train’s destructive choices seemed insurmountable, leaving little room for redemption. Yet, as Season 3 unfolded, A-Train gradually transformed into someone capable of growth and at least a modicum of introspection. Usher was as surprised as I was to see that side of A-Train.
“I personally was kind of hoping he would redeem himself. But then by the end of season two, I was thinking there’s no way you know, there’s just absolutely no way he can undo what he’s done. He’s ruining too many lives. And even giving his own isn’t enough. And then by the time we got into season three, I started to see it happening. And it just started from the inside out. And then it made sense, like, he was affected in a way that made him change. And the way he then interacts with the people that he hurt, allow them to see something different inside of him. I praised the writers room for being able to do that with this character, because they were spiraling him out of control. And, you know, I was rooting for him too. I was hoping, maybe, maybe he’ll be genuine for a moment. It’s just so tough for him, you know, he just can’t really do it. But I had a lot of fun playing with that, because it was so much of this, this facade that he was putting on, he was always wearing this mask. He was always portraying this character when he’s out in public, and then finally he’s able to just be raw and real and honest. And it was a rare moment for him. And I loved it.”
I inquired about A-Train’s future and whether he would continue his path of redemption or descend further into darkness. While Jessie couldn’t disclose any spoilers, he contemplated the significance of A-Train lying in a hospital bed with Blue Hawk’s heart beating in his chest – the heart of a racist individual whom A-Train ruthlessly murdered by dragging him to his death. Reflecting on this intriguing scenario, Jessie shared:
Jessie: “At the end of season three, when A-Train is speaking with Ashley in the hospital, and she’s very passively implying that ‘Vaught has done this for you.’ We’ve given you a second chance in life. Now have a new heart, thanks to us. So, there’s this implication that ‘you owe us your life,’ essentially. And it just leaves A-Train in a place of, well, I’m alive. But the very last decision I made was that dying was worth redeeming myself for, and now death isn’t even a way out. So now I’m back in this shit, in the very same spot that I killed myself in. It’s a very ‘The Boys’-esque way of keeping a character alive because now he has this weight on his shoulders that he never really asked for.”
To catch up on all the thrilling episodes and witness A-Train’s transformation firsthand, viewers can stream The Boys on Prime Video. With its nuanced exploration of power dynamics and morally ambiguous characters, this hit series continues to push boundaries and captivate audiences with its dark and twisted take on the superhero genre.
Listen to more interviews with the cast of The Boys, other industry guest and tons more superhero/sciFi/fantasy coverage on The ‘Verse! podcast.