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The Boys: Black Noir actor Nathan Mitchell's surprising superhero inspiration - Exclusive

There's a lot going on behind Black Noir's mask. Of all the members of the Seven, the corporate-backed superhero team at the heart of the hit Amazon Original series The Boys, he's the most mysterious — thanks in no small part to the fact that he doesn't speak. Careful viewers of the series, however, will notice a lot of intriguing details creeping into the way Noir is written and the way that actor Nathan Mitchell portrays him. We see the strange way he interacts with food and drink, the way he gravitates toward certain members of the Seven (particularly Homelander) more than others, and even the ways in which he reveals surprising weaknesses that just might be the key to taking this silent enforcer. 

What all that adds up to for Mitchell is a character who's about much more than standing quietly in a cool costume and doing the occasional fight scene. In fact, when it comes time to embody Black Noir, Mitchell relies on a surprising number of influences to make the character complete, as he revealed during an exclusive interview with Looper.

The most obvious analogue for Black Noir is the Batman to Homelander's Superman and Queen Maeve's Wonder Woman, but Mitchell's key inspirations are actually a little more fun.

"First of all, I would say Black Noir's probably, you take Batman, Deadpool, and Snake Eyes, you mix them together, that's probably the most accurate depiction of Black Noir. But for me, it was actually Raphael and Michelangelo [from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]," Mitchell explained. "And I did Tae Kwon Do from the age of six to 16, and we trained hard to the point where we could snap into fight mode in a second. We'd be locked in like that. You know? We did it so much that when we weren't in fight mode, we could be kids and goof around and have fun and play. But the second our instructor called us to attention, it was like, boom, boom."

He continued, "So that notion of Noir is so connected to his killer instinct, his martial arts ability, that he doesn't have to be on all the time, 'cause he can be on in a millisecond. And so you take that, and that ruthless fighter is Raphael, but when he's not that ruthless fighter, he's goofy, he's fun. There are weird things about him and the way he interacts with the world around him, and that's more of the Mikey side. And so I find it interesting because you get such a singular vibe of this menacing darkness from him that when you see a different element, that's what really pulls you in and intrigues you. So I had a lot of fun exploring that as well."

A cast like a family

That said, as Mitchell told Looper, the way he plays Black Noir doesn't always come from him alone. His performance is also informed by the way he interacts with his co-stars as both fellow actors and friends. The Boys season 2 in particular gave Mitchell an opportunity to work more closely on scenes with Karl Urban, who plays the Boys' leader Billy Butcher on the series. Urban, who has some experience with limiting superhero costumes thanks to his work playing Judge Dredd, was more than happy to offer Mitchell some advice on portraying a character who doesn't say much and never shows his full face.

"It was really an active thing where I'd be making a movement and I could check in with him about how it was coming across," Mitchell said. "And it was just in the moment, he's like, 'Okay, if you lean a little more into this, this is going to show up. If you pull back here, it's going to give this effect.' So it was kind of this real, in-the-moment dynamic where I was learning from his experience of working on a character like that, and that added to the scene."

Collaborating with Urban on Noir's physicality for specific scenes was, for Mitchell, an extension of the family dynamic the cast of The Boys has built up over the course of two seasons of making this wild, darkly funny action show.

"I love them so much. They're my family, and it's so great to get to work with amazing people," said Mitchell. "They're amazing actors, but they're fantastic people and it's so much fun. It's so much fun. And just getting to work with Karl in season 2, I learned things from him, because he did Dredd, so he has that experience. So we talked a little bit about that on set."

He added, "I love, love working with Antony [Starr, who plays Homelander] as well. And I like a little bit of our real-life dynamic to kind of bleed into the scenes a bit. He's like a big brother to me, and so there's a bit of that vibe between him and Noir. And then just with everybody I get to work with, it's so much fun to work with people you love. So that chemistry, it's offscreen, it's onscreen, and it just makes everything better."

The first two seasons of The Boys are now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.