Jeffrey Dean Morgan and ‘The Boys’ Creator on That Kessler-Butcher Twist: ‘We Didn’t Want to Save It for the End’

SPOILER ALERTThis story contains spoilers from Episode 6 of “The Boys” Season 4, currently streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video.

Welp! If you were among “The Boys” fans who guessed that CIA agent Joe Kessler (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) was a figment of Butcher’s (Karl Urban) V-induced-brain-tumor’s imagination, give yourself a round of applause and a frothy glass of milk as your prize after Thursday’s Episode 6 reveal.

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But if you didn’t see this diabolical twist coming, we can’t blame you. “The Boys” showrunner Eric Kripke and his writers’ room decided to handle the I-See-Dead-People twist a little differently than the trope has often been employed in media: Kessler’s part in Season 4 becomes even more important now that you know he’s Butcher’s Tyler Durden leading into the finale in just two more episodes.

“We were always going to reveal it in Episode 6 — we didn’t want to save it for the end of the movie,” Kripke told Variety. “Because now Kessler has this new role to be literally the devil on his shoulder, and really be twisting the knife and saying really cruel things to Butcher that all happen to be totally true — which is always great when your villain can be a real truth-teller.”

The reveal in question happens as Butcher is having a fight with Kessler about the ethical dilemma of unleashing an airborne version of the lethal supe virus. Kessler is fully in favor of this, while Butcher is hesitant to do it thanks to the voice of reason embodied by his dead wife Becca (Shantel VanSanten), whom he’s also been hallucinating all season. And as Becca is trying to keep Butcher on the right path, Kessler turns to her and tells her to shut it — making it clear that Kessler is an imaginary friend himself.

“I think every time that someone turns out to be imaginary, the first draft is always like another character walks into the room and says, ‘Who are you talking to?'” Kripke said. “So I’m sure that was our first draft when it was originally up on the board, Hughie walks in and he’s like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ But we said, ‘Well, everyone’s done that, so can we do something different?’ And Becca is this imaginary character. So what if the two imaginary characters just start yelling at each other? And that would be a new way to do that kind of reveal.”

Morgan recalls how quickly that reveal was shot, and how “locked into each other” he and Urban were on the day.

“I think we shot that and another scene in one day — the scene where Kessler gives the big speech sitting down on the crates, and they’re talking. We shot both those in the same day,” Morgan said. “I remember it was like a six-page scene. And I’ve played this game before — I played dead Denny [on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’], so I knew some tricks, which kind of came in fucking handy.

“But really, him and I were so locked into each other, it didn’t fucking matter who else or whatever was going on in the scene,” Morgan continued. “We were having so much fun. There’s very few times that you walk on a set and you immediately bond with somebody. In romance, it would be your soulmate, and Karl was like my fucking soulmate. And immediately we knew that we had something really fun and special here and let’s just have fun and play and enjoy it.”

Because Morgan is among the alums of the Kripke-created “Supernatural,” fans have been clamoring for him to join the cast for multiple seasons now, and got even more demanding after Jensen Ackles played Soldier Boy in Season 3. But Morgan has been pretty booked up recently with his longtime role as Negan Smith in AMC’s “Walking Dead” franchise, so it took an act of “The Boys” God Kripke to make Morgan’s role as Kessler happen.

“There was an overlap of like four months where I was shooting my new show ‘Walking Dead: Dead City,’ so I missed filming the first four or five episodes, and so when I wrapped my show, I ran over there and the directors came back from those episodes and and then we went to work, which is really rare,” Morgan said. “I feel really lucky that they allowed that to happen, because you’re not able to lock a show — the directors might not be available. There’s all sorts of fucking issues with that. And the fact that Eric was like, ‘We’re gonna do it for you,’ it was the coolest thing in the world.”

As for how Morgan took the big Kessler twist when Kripke first revealed it to him….

“While he’s telling me about the part, I’m realizing there’s a past-tense switch happening and I’m like, ‘What the fuck is he doing?'” Morgan said. “And then he tells me the secret — and I’m even more intrigued. But doesn’t matter, really, ultimately, what was said or how it was pitched me. Because I was gonna do it.”

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