‘The Boys’ Star Aya Cash Took Inspiration From YouTube, TikTok and Steve Bannon to Play Superpowered Nazi Stormfront

TheWrap awards magazine: “You never join a cult — you join something you think is good. I think that’s the trick of Stormfront”

Aya Cash The Boys

This story about “The Boys” star Aya Cash first appeared in the Comedy & Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

In the comic book version of “The Boys,” Stormfront is an eyepatch-wearing supervillain who sports a Nazi insignia on his chest and sometimes a swastika on his back. The character is the first superhuman — “supe” in the parlance — ever created by the Hitler regime. All of which is to say, he is not subtle. The character’s name is Stormfront, for crying out loud.

The version of the character that appears in the Amazon series, however, is probably even more disturbing. Played by “You’re the Worst” alum Aya Cash, TV’s Stormfront is bright, engaging and social-media savvy. She knows how to weaponize a livestream and win over the public with memes. And, yes, she is still a Nazi. “My agent was like, ‘This is a very complicated character, and I don’t know if you feel comfortable…’ There was a lot of that kind of language,” Cash said. She joined the second season of the Amazon series before the first had even premiered, and the sides given to her for the audition only hinted at what was to come. Similar to how the season itself plays out, the Nazi reveal didn’t come until later.

“It didn’t stop me from being interested, but made me want to make sure that it was going to be dealt with responsibly,” Cash said. So she asked for some time with creator and showrunner Eric Kripke to discuss the direction of the character and the overall arc of the season. “I was auditioning, by the way,” she said. “This was not an offer. But I was like, ‘Can we talk a little bit about the character as well in the audition? Can I have a few extra minutes to sort of just, you know, audition each other a little bit?’”

The Stormfront Kripke described in that audition was not your grandfather’s Nazi. She may have been born in 1919, but her style is 2020. “Eric was talking about what he was seeing in this current moment, and how he wanted to update Stormfront into someone that we see now,” Cash said. “These social media stars, YouTubers and TikTokers who are creating really interesting, exciting content to eventually teach you how to hate. That was what I really responded to.”

Cash compares Stormfront’s careful radicalization of her followers to the behavior of modern-day cult leaders. “You never join a cult — you join something you think is good,” she said. “I think that’s the trick of Stormfront.”

There were a few moments throughout the first half of the season, before Stormfront’s backstory is fully revealed, when the show hinted at darker motivations for the character. A few were tried and cut, including a moment where Stormfront wipes her hands after greeting a Black superhero.“ There are things that definitely didn’t make the cut, where I’m winking at it a little more,” Cash said. “I kept trying to get in the line ‘a rose between two thorns,’ which is something Steve Bannon says anytime he takes a picture with a woman and two men. Just those little things to remind myself that she’s a disgusting, horrible person. She might be saying things that sound like they make sense in certain contexts, but it’s all just a useful tool for her.” Even with a girl-boss feminism marketing campaign, white supremacy is still white supremacy.

“What I love about fantasy and sci-fi is that it allows us to look at our own world depersonalized in some way, and to actually think about these situations without being reactive,” Cash added. “I hope that it’s very clear that she is a villain who gets what’s coming to her, and that the harm that she does is in no way acceptable or OK.

“I understand it may have been hard for people to watch, especially in the last year. But the truth is, it should always be hard to watch.”

Read more from the Comedy & Drama Series issue here

FOR STORIES Comedy & Drama Series EmmyWrap 2021
(Clockwise from top: Maya Erskine, Charlotte Nicdao, Punam Patel, Hannah Einbinder)


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