Antony Starr grew up in New Zealand and spent his days with the surf and Shodokan Aikido. This martial arts background came in handy when the actor starred in Banshee and directed his role as The Homelander in Amazon’s new superhero series The Boys. These days when he’s not filming he still walks in the surf. So while a few people still know his name, not much has changed.
Before the boys
One of my first big roles in New Zealand was a drama series in which I portrayed a rugby player. I didn’t have a lot of time or resources to exercise, but I wanted to get in as good shape as possible given the physical stress of the sport. I haven’t always played Superfit guys, but I’ve always felt that staying in shape is important, regardless of the role, especially when filming long days at strange hours. Exercising was rarely a required part of my job so early in my career, but it was something I had to do to feel good about myself.
That changed when I got banshee. The kind of fight sequences and stunts we did on this show surpassed anything I had done before. The show became known for this, so we all pushed ourselves to the limit. The situation was made worse by the fact that I was faced with guys who are absolute monsters in real life. I consider myself spectacularly average when it comes to body types. I was lucky to have a background in Shodokan Aikido, which I studied for about seven years. There was a lot that allowed me to do these moves … but getting knocked down and hurt was just part of the job.
“I consider myself spectacularly average when it comes to body types.”
I got used to leaving the set in pain. I remember a scene we shot over the course of two days. it was cut into a five-minute fight sequence. My character competed against an MMA fighter. In the end, I was completely flushed. I spent nights in an ice bath after that, stretching and doing bodywork.
Suitable for the job
I was intrigued by the idea of playing a superhero, but I was really interested in the characters in The Boys. They needed to find someone quickly as building the suits for the characters can take months. I rolled a tape, posted it, and got the gig. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into back then.
I showed up pretty soon after to do a cast for my suit, but the timing was unfortunate because I was coming from a movie in New Mexico that I lost a lot of weight on. They scanned my body and started making it. I made the decision that I wanted to train for the role so they had to adjust a little later.
I always stay in pretty reasonable shape, but I decided to use the six weeks I had before filming to get really strong. I always find that I am more productive in the gym when I have a specific goal that I’m working towards, something specific that motivates me. I trained big and loaded carbs. When I showed up for the set, I definitely had a different body than the first scan. The last suit they made looked amazing.
I also learned pretty quickly that filming with a suit on was a particular challenge because it wasn’t easy to move. It feels like armor because it’s so rigid. Not only that, but it wants to pull forward for some reason, especially in the shoulders, so that you land in that boomerang position. My neck, back, and shoulders were arched most of the time, so I had to put in a lot of work to correct this. Because the suit is so tight – there is no way to fit a marble into it – I have to maintain the same level of fitness while filming.
Go with the “flow”
By the time I went into season two, I was more in tune with the type of preparation that was needed. I toned down strength training and put a lot more emphasis on stretching and yoga. I’ve been doing yoga for years, but increasing the frequency before production was incredibly helpful. The main goal is to be as flexible and smooth as possible when I come to Toronto where we are filming.
I started a tradition when I traveled to the set: I go to a thrift store and try to find a bike in good condition. The last few times it was a mountain bike because I had a pretty bad fall from a racing bike before shooting our first season. I tore my right side open, which made putting on the suit all the more painful. I really enjoy cycling. I don’t think there is a better way to train for me there. Toronto has some really beautiful routes, especially one that I take from the city south to the lake. It’s probably about 70 kilometers and I’m doing it at a pace that will take me a couple of hours.
The nice thing about cycling is that it is not only great as an experience, but also protects the body, which I need after days on the set. I don’t have to hit the sidewalk with my legs, which are punished quite often.
Training in the waves
The other secret for me to stay lean and flexible is to surf as much as possible. When I was a boy in New Zealand I worked as a lifeguard on one of the beaches near where we lived. I remember seeing these guys out in the surf and wanting to be out there. My parents let me do a surf rescue course first. I’m grateful because I came out as a much stronger swimmer and when I was done I got to hit the waves.
My relationship with the ocean has grown from then on. My first surfboard was just a massive piece. It was cheap. It was big. And it was crazy just getting up. The water was usually shallow, but occasionally a thunderstorm would strike. There’s a reason people fall in love with surfing and it leads them into a tangent of life where they just want to be on the waves. The ability to interact with nature on a higher level while staying fit is something special. The benefits it has for the mental state are incredible. On the fitness side, it’s just amazing for your whole body, especially your back and shoulders. Those muscles got stuck on the set of The Boys and are fighting this suit.
I try to spend a lot of time on the water these days and it’s nice to be able to say that I do it to get fit for the show. I bought an RV earlier this year, which was an incredible decision. I got a Dodge Sprinter fitted out by this San Diego company called Vancraft. They are great at outfitting campers for this special purpose and they all live that surf life. I bring my rescue dog Maxine and throw the boards in the back. Spend days cruising up and down the coast chasing the surf. There is no better way to spend a weekend.
The Boys is now streamed on Amazon
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