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Simon Racioppa on ‘The Boys Presents: Diabolical’: ‘Not a bridge in terms of narrative’ 

Simon Racioppa

Simon Racioppa | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

All who are waiting for June 3 for Season 3 of  The Boys have tasty little appetisers in the form of  The Boys Presents: Diabolical. The anthology series of eight animated shorts, examines the world around  The Boys, according to showrunner and executive producer, Simon Racioppa. 

Speaking over a video call from Los Angeles, Racioppa says, “ Diabolical is not a bridge in terms of the narrative. We do not continue or pick up any of the stories. We are showing you other stories that could happen around the seasons. Some of the episodes are a little too different and may exist in other dimensions. They do not take place in the same world of  The Boys.”  

Without a doubt 

A huge fan of  The Boys, Racioppa says he immediately said yes when asked if he would be interested in working on the spin-off. “I was wrapping up another animated superhero show,  Invincible, for which I was the showrunner. Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen were two of the executive producers on the show. I have known Evan for a couple of years now. We have done some other work together. He is also a producer on  The Boys with Eric Kripke. Evan asked me if I was interested in helping them create this new show for  The Boys. A spin-off that we could do very quickly to come out before the new season of  The Boys as a treat for the fans.” 

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Script and style 

Each of the eight episodes has different animation styles: from classic American animated shorts in “Laser Baby’s Day Out” to an homage to the original The Boys comics in “I’m Your Pusher”. “We chose different animation styles because the scripts all seem to be best expressed through a different style. If we did them all in the same style, they would not have come out quite as well. As we started talking about the stories, as the writer started working on the scripts, we tried to find the best possible style to express that idea.” 

The name of the series,  Diabolical, Racioppa says is a phrase that Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) uses fairly often in the show, often with an expletive. “It is his catchphrase. We thought it would be a great title for this series.”  

Time enough 

The episodes are about 12 minutes each. “We could not make them any longer because we did not have enough time. Our schedule restricted us to eight episodes of about 11 to 12 minutes each. It also felt like a good length— enough to get an interesting idea across in a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with enough emotion but not so much that the idea gets tired or boring.”  

Diabolical has an enviable voice cast from Awkwafina, Don Cheadle and Jason Isaacs, to Elisabeth Shue, Christian Slater, Antony Starr and Simon Pegg. “It helps when you have Seth Rogen as one of your executive producers because people want to work with him. Once we got a few actors on board, it started to snowball and we started to get more and more people interested in the project. We have a great casting director, Linda Lamontagne, who is tenacious and goes after actors aggressively to get them interested in the project.” 

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Racioppa, who has also written the “One Plus One Equals Two” episode for Diabolical, says they had an easy time with their wish list. “We started asking for people, like, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we had Randall Duk Kim in this role.’ We asked him and he said yes. That is how it worked for most of our actors.” 

Terror strikes 

Each episode begins with Billy Butcher’s dog, Terror. “Every episode is completely different and I wanted one thing that would link them together. So the viewer is aware that they are all part of  Diabolical. We decided to do that little opening sequence. We wanted to make it very short because our episodes are short. They are all about eight seconds long. We wanted them to pay tribute to the episodes, which we do with the background, which has elements and props from different episodes.” 

They were trying to come up with something for Terror that is reflective of the episode, but is not crazy, says Racioppa. “In each one, he does something a little different, but he is still a dog and not a cartoon dog.” 

Happy sound 

The music was one of the happiest parts of the show, Racioppa says. “Normally on a television series, you hire one composer for the whole series. On this series, we hired eight, so every episode has a different composer or a team of composers. It was a huge undertaking. To find eight composers who were the right ones for each episode meant going through probably 60 or 70 different composers, finding the right person and interviewing them.” 

The score for Andy Samberg’s “John and Sun-Hee” was a Korean instrument-focussed score, says Racioppa. “The composer, Hyesu Wiedmann, just made everyone cry with the wonderful score. On the other hand, for Awkwafina’s “BFFs” composers Zach Robinson and Leo Birenberg created a poppy, synthy, J-pop score.” 

Recording Christian Slater who is in the Justin Roiland’s episode, was particularly fun, Racioppa says. “He started to show us his toy collection on camera. He said, ‘I really like Star Wars. Let me show you some of the things’ and he was pulling out the Star Wars models. He has a Stormtrooper statue in his bedroom. That was amazing because I grew up watching his movies. When you chat with him, you realise he is just a shy geek.” 

No right order 

While the  Diabolical team has selected an order in which to watch the episodes, Racioppa concedes they can be watched in any sequence. “We tried a mix where we had a funnier episode and maybe something more dramatic, something sad and something funny again, but I am happy for people to watch them in any order they like.” 

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Still from The Boys Presents: Diabolical

Animation versus live action 

Choosing between live-action and animation to tell a superhero tale depends on the story, Racioppa says. “ Invincible had to be animated because of the scope of the story. We could not have done it live-action and made it as big and emotional as we wanted it to be. You also have Marvel’s television shows which are live action and a little smaller in scope but are still excellent, wonderful and very watchable. Some stories are naturally going to be animated just because of the things you can do in animation. Other stories are a natural fit for live action maybe because of the specificities around the story or the acting.” It is an early decision, Racioppa says. “There is no wrong decision. It depends on how you want to tell that story.” 

Invincible, Racioppa says, has been picked up for season two and season three. “We are making it right now. I am working on it as we speak, in between these meetings. You can see all the books for reference,” he says indicated the colourful volumes of comic books by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley the show is based on. 

The Boys Presents: Diabolical is presently streaming on Amazon Prime Video


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Printable version | Jul 12, 2022 4:17:18 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/simon-racioppa-on-the-boys-presents-diabolical-not-a-bridge-in-terms-of-narrative/article65192778.ece