July 25 (UPI) -- Amazon Prime's The Boys is a comic-book adaptation that wickedly imagines what could happen if superheroes' good deeds were dictated by corporate sponsors, elected officials and fickle fans.
Set to debut Friday, the adult-themed, action-dramedy is based on a graphic novel by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. It stars Chace Crawford, Antony Starr, Dominique McElligott, Jessie Usher, Nathan Mitchell, Alex Hassell and Erin Moriarty as the elite, crime-fighting force, The Seven.
Writer-producer Eric Kripke told UPI in a recent phone interview that he loved the 2005 book's irreverent spin on the wholesome hero mythology.
"With all the superhero stuff that is out in the world, it was enticing to create a show that would just puncture that balloon," the show-runner said.
He and his fellow scribes quickly realized how many real-life, contemporary issues they could explore using greedy, fame-starved and reckless superheroes.
"It became about the intersection of celebrity and power and politics and social media and movie stars and professional athletes," Kripke said. "We are in such a pop culture-obsessed world now, to the point that politics has pretty much adopted the gimmicks of pop culture and entertainment to feed their political points to the masses."
Crawford, who plays The Deep, described the comic book's themes as "prescient" and said the filmmakers expanded on the ideas "in a grounded way, in an actual world."
"Having corporate superheroes running around," the Gossip Girl alum said, "turns it all on its head, the genre."
Jack Quaid plays Hughie, an ordinary guy who gets caught up in a vigilante plot to take down dangerous and narcissistic superheroes after one kills his girlfriend.
Quaid said the show strives to entertain, but offers more to viewers who pay attention.
"There are all these deeper meanings and allegories and metaphors that our show is tackling," The Hunger Games actor said.
Former Jessica Jones actress Moriarty plays superheroine Starlight. Her storyline touches on hot-button issues such as sexual harassment, parental pressure and online reputations.
"It's so relevant and I think it's so amazing that the past couple of years these subjects have gone from being totally taboo and only spoken behind closed doors to being out in the open," Moriarty said.
"We are able to take the situation that Starlight finds herself in and apply it to the MeToo movement in a way that we are able to keep shedding light on the situation, keep the conversation going and do it in a way that empowers women."
Laz Alonso -- whose credits include Detroit and Southland -- plays Mother's Milk, one of the vigilantes and someone determined to help the powerless.
"The guy starts off in a detention center trying to help young men that society says are broken," Alonso said of his character. "He's trying to fix them. So, for me, the imagery and the content jumped off the page. It spoke to something bigger than a superhero show. It was more of a narrative on society and what we should be trying to do."
Elisabeth Shue, who plays the superheroes' corporate employer, Madelyn, maintains that the show doesn't sermonize about social issues, even though they are woven into every episode.
"I love that it connects to the world we see around us every day. It's not hitting you over the head. It's really a roller coaster ride," she said.
Moriarty called Hughie and Starlight the "human heartbeats" of the show, while Quaid described them as an "audience surrogate," meaning they are the characters with whom viewers will most likely first connect.
"Hughie is a normal, mortal person within this world" who finds out "all at once how depraved these superheroes are," Quaid said.
Starlight initially is optimistic about her new job, but becomes disenchanted with the deeply flawed members of the perfectly packaged squad.
Moriarty was drawn to the role because Starlight is not a typical ingenue.
"She ends up being this kick-ass, strong character," the actress said.
"Annie [Starlight], at the end of the day, is extremely earnest and extremely pure in terms of her simple desire to be part of The Seven, be one of the best people in the world and just save people. And that is an anomaly on the show," Moriarty said.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are Shue's Madelyn and Starr's Homelander, who seem trustworthy at first, but whose squeaky clean images mask sinister motives.
Banshee actor Starr said Homelander intentionally promotes himself as the "American dream."
"Baseball, apple pie, but, under that, is a seething mass of insecurity, aggression and violence and psychopathy. It's a hell of a lot of fun to play that. In fact, I would much prefer to be doing something like that than being the good guy," Starr said.
Shue agreed with a laugh.
"I have been saddled with many good-girl roles in my past, and it's really fun to play a character who is driven by darker forces," said the actress famous for her roles in The Karate Kid and Adventures in Babysitting.
Crawford said he enjoyed playing a complicated character who could behave abusively toward a young woman one moment and save people from impending doom the next.
"I tried to make it nuanced and layered as much as I possibly could," Crawford said. "There's also some absurd scenes with a dolphin and I had a lot of fun with that, as well. I leaned into the dark comedic side to it."
Kripke -- whose credits include Supernatural, Revolution and Timeless -- developed the series with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Rogen and Goldberg previously worked with Ennis to bring his Preacher books to the small screen.
The Boys already has been renewed for a second season. Season 1 co-stars Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Jennifer Esposito and Karen Fukuhara.