Quaid knows what it’s like to be a fanboy. He’s a self-avowed “superhero nerd” who dressed up as Luke Skywalker for Halloween as a kid, so he’s more understanding than most when it comes to this kind of stuff. Not even the seething hatred of Hunger Games fans – he played Marvel, a villain who killed off fan favourite Rue – who still berate him for his fictional sins ten years later, could turn him sour. And, the way things are panning out, he’ll be making trips out to San Diego’s Comic Con for years to come, having played parts in some of the most heavily-stanned franchises of all time – as a lead on animated series Star Trek: Lower Decks, the aforementioned Scream (which is returning for a sixth outing next year) and The Boys, which is fast becoming the biggest superhero phenomenon outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In The Boys, Quaid plays Hughie Campbell, a tech store employee living in a world dominated by the worst superheroes ever – they’re shallow, greedy, borderline psychopathic, completely corrupted by the power that they wield, and marketed as gods by a giant corporation. It’s a cynic’s answer to the MCU, which satirises both current day politics in the USA (lead superhero Homelander, Superman spun through a Black Mirror episode, has more than a bit of Trump about him) and the doe-eyed world those films exist within. Hughie is a powerless everyman who becomes radicalised against the superheroes when A-Train, a stand-in for The Flash, runs into his girlfriend while zipping through the city, exploding her into flesh and blood confetti (this is not even close to the grossest thing that happens in the series). Hughie then joins up with the titular Boys, a group of vigilantes led by Karl Urban’s Billy Butcher, who are determined to take down the Supes.
Despite the show’s cynical nature, Quaid has nothing but nice things to say about its fanbase. “The Boys fans are very sweet,” he says. “A big thing with Hughie this season randomly is that he can’t open this one jar of mustard. So they keep sending me all these Amazon pages for like how to order can openers and how to open jars. I just love that they’re able to enjoy being in on the joke.”
Quaid speaks about his work with the joyful, slightly self-conscious reverence of a competition winner. It might have something to do with the fact that he is what Gen Z might blithely call a “Nepotism Baby” – he is the son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, which will come as no surprise if you’ve had one look at his face. When he decided to get into acting – a school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream gave him the bug – he knew that his lineage was going to be a huge help, but he was desperate to earn his place on his own. He refused representation from his father’s agent and just got to work, eventually getting his start in sketch comedy while studying at NYU. “I never wanted anyone to basically say to me ‘I know how you got that job,’” he says. “Obviously I’m not gonna say that my position is without privilege – of course it is. It’s there. I wanted to make sure that I got there as much on my own as I possibly could.”