When Chace Crawford tells me he works out only five days a week for 45 minutes at a time, I can’t help but laugh. His bicep, a throbbing cantaloupe, is not the result of my identical gym routine. But he is, after all, playing a superhero for the first time on the new Amazon series The Boys. It’s an irreverent look at what happens when a group of superheroes are treated like gods and begin abusing their superpowers. (Think an Avengers-type of series for the Sausage Party crowd). And what is a superhero without a melon-sized bicep?
Crawford plays The Deep – an Aquaman ripoff whose hobbies include, but are not limited to, flexing and talking to water-dwelling creatures. Still, he seeks to be taken seriously. Despite being a part of the famed superhero league The Seven, The Deep is constantly hit with jibes from fellow supers like “Why don’t you ask the dolphin what happened?” (He does.) Sporting a wetsuit as a superhero costume and talking to sea life doesn’t do him any favours: but it does make for solid comedic fodder.
“It was sort of a subversive look at the superhero genre even though it’s not necessarily a superhero show, but I thought I could bring something to the character that was funny,” Crawford tells me on a recent New York afternoon while sitting in a Chelsea studio. The Deep, though, is deeply problematic: he uses his status to coerce new recruit Starlight (Erin Moriarty) into giving him a blowjob. He silences her by threatening to say she attacked him with her powers. For Crawford, the assault scene was nerve-wracking: “Even though they don’t [explicitly] show anything, it’s implied.”
“Just because it’s a superhero show doesn’t mean we can’t speak on real issues through that lens,” he says. “And [the showrunner and producers] didn’t want to glorify it, they didn’t want to sensationalise it. It was tough, it was a very dark scene.” He’s well aware that with the #MeToo movement, The Deep’s behaviour is “familiar in a ‘creepy sense.’”
“I’m sure it will turn some people off to the show, but again, that’s their call,” he says, his arms crossed against his chest. “[The showrunner and producers] want to deal with these issues head-on within the context of the show.”
And The Deep? He lives life with no consequences: until (spoiler) he does. “Outside of some dark stuff that goes on, this guy’s pathetic. What makes a person do something like that?” he says.
Crawford, 34, lives in Los Feliz, Los Angeles where he’s been since 2014. For a while, he had a love-hate relationship with LA – he did after all live in New York for seven years during his reign on Gossip Girl – but he’s come to love it. “I was in West Hollywood for so long, and I just wanted to get out and have a switch-up,” Crawford says. He’s since become an east LA guy.
The Texas native got his big break starring as heartthrob-playboy Nate Archibald on Gossip Girl in 2007. Following the show’s conclusion in 2012, Crawford starred in the short-lived 2015 TV series Blood & Oil and simultaneously began taking on more indie film roles, like an abusive cop who sleeps with the titular Nina in All About Nina and as Charles Manson’s infamous right-hand man, Tex Watson, in Charlie Says. With its recent debut gathering steam, The Boys has quickly become his first hit series since Gossip Girl.
Crawford was immediately drawn to the project. “It was Amazon; it was Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and kind of before I even read the script, I knew, I was like, ‘This must be pretty interesting,’” he says.
He honestly thought his time had passed to play a superhero, but he was drawn to the complexity of the characters and plot. “I wasn’t interested in playing or being in a show where the superhero themes and tropes were sort of on the nose,” he admits. “I wasn’t really interested in playing the ‘good guy’. [The Boys] was weird and a bizarre show and very dark, very dark comedy.”
Even with his new role, Crawford is used to being known as “Nate from Gossip Girl”. But he’s not bothered by it. “I had the best time on that show and that was such a good experience – it opened a lot of doors,” he says. With the recent announcement of the Gossip Girl reboot on HBO Max, Crawford would even be open to reprising his role on the series. “Now I’m on [The Boys], and I know [the original cast] all has our own little things going on, so I would have to work that out. If [the showrunners] wanted to work that out, we could talk about it. I’d definitely be open to that,” he says.
He does, however, wonder if the role that launched his career has been a double-edged sword for him in terms of casting. “The only thing I hope that it doesn’t do is close doors,” he admits. “I would hope that people don’t just see me as this guy [Nate] and would always give me an opportunity to come in and prove them otherwise, whether that’s in the audition or a meeting.”
The actor’s status as “the heartthrob,” admittedly, has followed him. After shooting Charlie Says, he was told by director Mary Harron that they didn’t want to cast him. It wasn’t because of Gossip Girl, but because “the way he looks is too pretty, too good-looking.” Whatever their hang-ups, he changed the crew’s minds and the American Psycho director paid him the highest of compliments about his audition saying, “You were just the best one in the room.” Crawford has worked hard to prove he’s more than just his chiseled jawline. “I can’t change the way I look, [but] you definitely ended up getting cast for roles that you’re right for.”
That said, Crawford will need to maintain his superhero physique, pumping a bit more juice into those melon arms. He’s already in the midst of filming a second season of The Boys in Toronto. “We can finally talk about it, we got picked up,” he says with a sigh of relief. “We’ve been shooting since June.” The cast, he says, has become like a “big family.” It’s a good thing he’s comfortable in that wetsuit.