‘Doom Patrol’: Matt Bomer Reports Back for ‘Abstract, Absurdist & Hilarious’ Duty
Doom Patrol returns today with a lot of new ground to cover, dropping on the DC Universe streaming platform and HBO Max. But don’t worry, based on the first three episodes being made available today, the rag-taggiest, raunchiest DC Comics adaptation hasn’t lost any of its anti-social charms by any stretch.
Picking up with most of our semi-heroes still in a shrunken state after taking on Mr. Nobody (Alan Tudyk) last season, only Larry Trainor, aka Negative Man, remains right-sized and their only hope of embiggening them. Of course, size isn’t the only matter on their minds. Early into the episodes, it becomes clear that Season 2 is making space from some major emotional excavation, exploring the horrors inflicted upon the team not just by Nile Caulder’s The Chief (Timothy Dalton), but also by their own past choices.
We spoke with Matt Bomer, The Sinner and White Collar vet who voices super-powered radiation victim Larry, about this arc, as well as his journey into comic-book content, bouncing between a thousand projects and collaborating with Matthew Zuk, the actor underneath Larry’s bandages on screen. Oh, and teenage crushes. Don’t judge.
Now, did you ever imagine that you’d end up doing a comic-book show?
Matt Bomer: No. I mean, well…
Well, there was that almost Superman gig…
Yeah, having been cast as Superman [for an unfilmed project] when I was in my early 20s and I think I tested for a couple of other comic-book films over the course of the years, but having just finished The Boys in the Band on Broadway, it certainly wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. It wasn’t like, “Now I’ve got to do a comic book show!” [Laughs]
But Greg Berlanti and [showrunner] Jeremy Carver called, and I heard about the character and how fully realized and three-dimensional he was. When I read the script, I was just like, “Oh, my gosh, this is the most abstract, absurdist, hilarious, amazing thing I’ve read in a long time.” I hadn’t laughed out loud that much reading a script in a while. So I thought, “Oh, this is a no brainer. We’ve got to do this.”
It’s not even that it’s so much a comic-book show, anyway. Yes, there are costumes and effects and super villains and all that. But this is just a really demented family drama.
Absolutely. I realized very quickly how big the budget was when I got there and they had the full-sized mock up of the jet I was flying and there were cameras in every direction. But outside of that and a few of the special effects or stunt-driven things I’ve done, you really feel like you’re in a prestige drama. The scenes are filled with pathos and pain and humor and humanity.
Absurdity! Yes, absolutely. [Laughs]
By the third episode, it becomes clear that they’re digging even deeper into the backstories of the team.
Yes, they are. By and large, it’s a season about trauma. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t lost its sense of humor by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, I would say it’s funnier than the previous season, but as many incredible external villains that there are, it’s [these characters] realizing that often times the biggest villains are what’s inside of us. And so in order to deal with everyone’s trauma and the trauma they’ve caused another, you have to dive a bit deeper into their lives.
What Larry is faced with is heartbreaking. Not a lot of shows that deal with characters who are immortal or out of their time really visit the idea of them losing their loved ones because they’re outliving them.
Yeah. There is a scene that perfectly sums up the whole show, in terms of Larry’s experience, in terms of being both absurdist and profound. It’s him reconnecting with a son who has now out-aged him while he’s still a 1960s version of himself. That is some really interesting material to dive into as an actor, you know?
He is realizing the generational fallout that’s happening because of the decisions he’s made, because of the decisions the Chief made and trying to heal those [hurts] and move past them. And then there’s someone he meets along the way that deeply affects his relationship with his Spirit—not only trying to hear what it wants for Larry, but what it wants for itself. And I think that’s a big navigating factor for him over the course of this season.
How does this work for you? Because it’s almost like you’re doing voice work for an animated series…you’re not there on set seeing the stuff being acted out, correct?
Yeah. There’s really no precedent for it. We were doing this before The Mandalorian. So I was looking around like, “Well, it’s kind of like voicing animation,” but it’s not. Because you’re dealing with another actor who’s embodying you physically, you know?
I think it took us about five or six episodes to really figure it out. But getting to collaborate with Matthew Zuk is really one of my favorite aspects of the process because it is so unique to the job and collaborative. I can do my pre-record, and he can get a sense of what I feel about the scenes, but then oftentimes when you’re staging something on set, it can take on a whole new life. So then I’ll go in and polish, feeding off of the decisions and choices he’s made as an actor physically. It really is a back-and-forth collaboration. And we’re in touch over the course of the season, “How are we going to play certain moments?” or “How do we want this to be realized?” It’s really fun that way.
When you’re recording, you’re not even recording off another actor?
Well, what first happened, I’m only telling you this, this is an exclusive. [Laughs]
What first happened was, I was laying down the tracks, and they were just kind of leaving those alone, regardless of what Matt [Zuk] did. And I was like, “Guys, no. We’ve got to polish this. I need to see when this is staged… how far away I am from another actor?” I needed to see what the shot size is. If it’s a close up, I’m going to play differently than a wide shot, you know? So we were really figuring it out as we were going. And like I said, I don’t think it was until maybe the fifth episode that we really figured it out.
That is so crazy. And now, this is not a show your kids can watch?
[Laughs] No. As much as I want them to, and as much as I think they would love it, I think they… I mean, our 15-year-old could watch it.
He’s 15 already?
I know. Can you believe that? But I think our 12-year-old, in another year or so, could probably handle it as well. I just have to fast-forward past a couple of parts.
Like pretty much anything Brendan Fraser has.
Exactly! He is so funny on the show. Oh my God, I love his performance.
And now, what have you been doing during all of this time? With three kids, are you and Simon [Halls, Bomer’s husband] still homeschooling?
We’re so grateful that we’ve all—knock on wood—maintained our health and try to be as responsible as we can. And the kids have just been absolute troopers through it all, thank God. My heart goes out to anyone out there struggling and we’re trying to stay in a place of real gratitude for the positives. We’ve gotten a lot of really great uninterrupted family time and been able to kind of bond and reintegrate our responsibilities around the house and all that, and really work as a team. Kind of like the Doom Patrol.
But without all the F-bombs.
Exactly. [Laughs] I’m not going to lie, the homeschool struggle is real, but we’re able to figure it all out. Our son’s starting high school next year, so my prayer is that he won’t have to start that virtually, that he’ll actually be able to be there and meet everybody at school in person. But we’ll see. We’ll have to just wait and do the responsible thing.
So, but we really can’t complain. I did a large portion of my voiceover and ADR [additional dialogue replacement] for this project from home in the quietest room I could find, with a blanket over my head, talking into my iPhone. It was really wild. And then I had a writing project that I sold. And so that was nice to have a chance to still get to work on something creatively.
I want to see a show from the mind of Matt Bomer.
Well, I would say the one I’m working on now, should it ever come to fruition, is definitely much more from the mind of Matt Bomer.
Nice. Now was there anything that you would be working on now, if things hadn’t been shut down?
Honestly, I kept my dance card pretty open. Because I had gone straight from filming the first season of Doom Patrol into the whole rigmarole of selling a project that I’d written and then straight into The Boys in the Band on Broadway, and then straight into The Sinner…and Will & Grace. So I needed to kind of just let everything land and then sort of go from there. So for better or worse, I had kept my dance card pretty open.
And now you have summer vacation free with the family! Before you go, can we talk about your Instagram post about the Beastie Boys documentary on Apple TV+.
Oh, I loved it.
View this post on Instagram
I loved this documentary so much- it has so much to say about friendship, creativity, and personal and artistic growth. Plus it stars my childhood crush Adam Horowitz aka Ad Rock and is directed by my grown up (talent) crush Spike Jonze. Love these guys- RIP Adam Yauch. Beastie Boys!! @beastieboysstory
So good! And Adam Horowitz, your teenage crush. Hello? Yes.
Oh, my gosh. Come on. Absolutely. I’m really only here to talk about Ad-Rock. [Laughs]
Doom Patrol, Thursdays, HBO Max