It's hard to imagine how The Boys' second season could top the first, but thanks in part to the hard work of those like stunt coordinator Tig Fong and his team, it's lived up to the hype every which way and then some. With diverse projects from The Expanse, Titans, and Killjoys, I spoke to him about what the expectations were from season one to two of the superhero series from Sony and Amazon, the extra work involved setting up season two's memorable scenes, and how surprisingly more involved a comedy series like What We Do in the Shadows is.
"The mandate from season one with Amazon and Sony, who were very happy with what we did and what they just said was, 'Listen, we just want more, lots more,'" Fong recalled. "While we increased our shoot schedule to add another couple of days per episode. Doing that really for the entire episode and when we're trying to double the amount of action, we've only increased the days by a couple. I think that was the real challenge in trying to get all that to happen within a TV timetable." Fong laid out what drew him to The Boys and what his stunt team had to adjust for season two. "I think the changes were more than anything in scope, not so much in frequency in the storytelling of season one," he said. "There's really excellent writing, which is really what gravitated me towards that project in the first place. [The show] is an irreverent approach to the whole superhero genre. It was fascinating to me and they would just punctuate the storyline with action throughout season one. Through season two, we really kind of made these larger, more tentpole, big action scene sequences which includes the infamous whale scene followed by the one at the apartment complex."
The coordinator also contrasted the series' use of special effects. "There's so much destruction that happened there both real and CG," Fong said. "We did have real explosions and fireballs and we pulled people through walls. That requires a lot of testing. It requires a lot of rigging on these types of shows. In any superhero show, one of the key components to stunt work is usually aerial rigging, whether it be people with superpowers that allow them to fly or even just motivating bodies through the air if they get thrown by these super-powered people. So there's quite a bit of that. That's one of the most time-consuming things you can do, is doing wire rigging."
When it came to coordinating the TV series, Fong naturally used graphic novels as inspiration for the sequences. "For anyone who's a fan of the show, but also read the graphic novel series, they will know that we also took some liberties and changed some of the characters," he said. "When I'm creating action designed specifically from the perspective of shooting it, I find a lot of inspiration in graphic novels in general with their use of forced perspective, like very low and close, wide-angle perspectives or overhead bird's eye view perspectives and then followed by tensions. I tend to incorporate all those things into the previs that I do. If I execute those previs well enough in designing those fights, then very often you're going to see those in the finished product. I'm very proud to say that a lot of what we did in our previs was nearly shot for shot the same in the final product. I'm very happy about that."
As far as the most difficult sequence to film, Fong admitted it was early on in the second season in the episode titled "Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men". "Most people who watch season two would agree, episode 203, directed by Steve Boyum, a stuntman himself in his early days, OG stuntman-turned-coordinator-turned-director," he said. "That episode featured the whale sequence and also followed by the apartment complex. Those had so many moving parts. You have old-fashioned stunts, I guess if you will. You have a helicopter chasing a boat on the water. It's so very 007. We did those things practically, of course."
Tig Fong Breaking Down The Boys Infamous Whale Sequence
"You've got whales coming and jumping out of the water, which is CG," Fong continued breaking down the sequence. "You do have to have the element of The Deep (Chace Crawford) riding on the whale, which we did have to shoot separately at some point. You had the boat even crashing into a 50-foot whale model, where our special effects team towed that boat right into the side of that whale with a crew of stunt people riding it as doubles. That's a lot to do. Getting to the building again, the amount of destruction that happened there on the sets and the shooting that we did on location were real pyro-effects, explosions, and drone shots. Kenji's [Miyashiro] (Abraham Lim) leap from one building to the other, as performed by Abraham's stunt double Chris Mark, that's a real jump with a 60-foot gap and 30-foot drop. That required three days of rigging, a lot of planning, drawing, and the incorporation of a 110-ton crane and high-speed electric winches. So it's a lot to build. Keeping in mind that we didn't have a double episode to do that. We actually did that all in the regular timing of one episode."
It wouldn't be far-fetched to say "there's no rest for the weary" when it comes to stunt work and Fong would be the first to tell you that when he found out his next project, the FX comedy What We Do in the Shadows. "When I had finished season one of The Boys, the line producer had asked me, 'Hey, listen, we've got this little vampire comedy we're going to do right after this show wraps," he recalled. "I was exhausted coming from Titans then to The Boys and I was pretty burnt out. He assured me it's going to be easy. It's a little bit of floaty vampire stuff, maybe a gag or two every couple of episodes. It didn't work out that way at all. In every episode, you've got vampires floating either inside the house on set or perhaps on an exterior location. The most time-consuming thing you can do in stunts practically is doing wirework. I had the same stunt rigging team which I carried over from The Boys to work on What We Do in the Shadows. They were constantly working–rigging, rehearsing, and setting up wire gags. In terms of complexity from an aerial rigging point of view, it was just as complex as working on The Boys, one would not expect that from a seemingly smaller action show."
The Boys is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.