Erin Moriarty was already busy filming season two of The Boys—the highly rated Amazon Prime series about a team of vigilantes trying to take down a group of corrupt superheroes—before she even knew the show was a hit. It was a result of the Toronto production bubble, she tells me. There was, however, one indication of its rapid success: Her Instagram was suddenly blowing up with new followers and DMs from rabid fans. Shortly after, she shot to number one on IMDb’s StarMeter chart for four straight weeks, a ranking calculated from the number of visits to one’s IMDb page, and landed on its Top 10 Stars of 2019 list alongside the likes of Margot Robbie and Brie Larson. The show was definitely a hit, but Moriarty even more so.
At first glance, one might think The Boys is just another superhero show, but in truth, it’s anything but. It’s irreverent and dark, showing a likely more-realistic version of a world where superheroes exist. And moments of unexpected but well-timed humor make it a truly enjoyable watch. Moriarty, who is clearly a fan favorite, is a standout as Starlight, the girl next door and newest recruit of The Seven, an elite group of superpowered individuals run by the corporation Vought International. The performance is considered to be the New York native’s breakout moment, but we’ve known about Moriarty’s on-screen prowess for years. Fun fact: Our first interview with the star was in 2013!
Back then, she told us she was in an exploratory phase with fashion, but 2020 isn’t all that different for Moriarty, save for the heavy rotation of sweatpants. She admits she’s still figuring things out when it comes to her style, which she currently describes as a nice hybrid of New York and Los Angeles. I caught up with the actress before The Boys’ season-two premiere to talk about her bicoastal fashion influences, the role that quadrupled her social following, and the importance of challenging female-superhero tropes.
What I love about The Boys is that it turns the typical superhero narrative on its head. What were some of the standout elements for you when you were first reading about this project?
When I first got the script and I read the logline, I was like okay, this is going to be another superhero show. I love superhero shows, but we have so many of them, and so I thought this has to be something really special with the genre if it’s going to be able to stand out. Sure enough, it was a totally satirical approach to the genre and, I feel, a little more of a realistic approach because it asked the question: If superheroes existed, would they be good? The reality is probably not. Most of them probably wouldn’t be, because power is corrupt. When I read my audition sides specifically, I got pretty excited because I think one of the cool things about Starlight is that at first glance she seems like she is going to be a typical ingénue, and she really ends up turning that stereotype on its head as well. So just the show in general and the character both turning what you assume of them on their heads made it more appealing and a little more special to me.
Plus, the social commentary aspect of it, I thought, was really cool. As a young woman in this industry and someone who is consuming documentaries and the news when it comes to politics and men in high places taking advantage of their own mission, I’m so sick of it. To be a part of a show that comments on it and maybe makes the subject less taboo is really enjoyable, and it gives it a greater purpose than just being a TV show, which is cool.
In the first season, your character, Starlight, faced a lot of adversity after joining The Seven, the country’s elite group of superheroes, and because of that, her morals were often challenged. What can Starlight fans expect going into this next season?
What I loved about Starlight’s character arc is that she used what she went through to make the world a better place, which has been her objective the entire time. She achieved that despite this huge adversity she goes through. I think it ultimately does strengthen her, and instead of feeling rejected as a result of it, it lights a fire under her ass to do good within The Seven, even if that means, to a certain degree, taking down the corporation she works for and exposing them. In addition to the adversity she goes through at the beginning of season one, which is being sexually abused, she finds out that everyone she loves or has fallen in love with has been lying to her. She goes from being this character who has been sheltered her entire life to being exposed to the big, bad world in an accelerated, really intense way. But the cool thing is that, true to herself, she continues to let it strengthen her motivation to make the world a better place. She has just changed her method to achieve that. Season two, you get to see a lot of sides to her that even she herself is unaware exist within her. You get to see her dark side because she learns that, in order to play the game and achieve what she wants to achieve, she needs to tap into that darker side of herself. She fits into the gray area a little bit more in season two instead of being just an angelic character in a really dark, corrupt world.
What I love about season two is that, despite the name of the show, it’s really about the girls. A new member of The Seven, Stormfront, challenges a lot of the stereotypical female-superhero tropes, which is something Starlight really admires. It’s great that, with this show and films like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, we’re seeing more narratives with women at the forefront and owning their strength. How do you think the industry can be improved even further?
I think we have a long way to go until ultimate equality is felt among genders and race. I think starting with the superhero genre—which is accessible to kids a lot of the times, maybe less so with The Boys but more so with films like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman—it sends out a subliminal message that those characters who are really within their strengths are not just owned and taken up by men. So I think we do have some examples that are being portrayed in mainstream media. The Boys is cool because, like you said, it’s ironically opposed to the title, but there are really strong females in it. Especially in season two, they continue to be at the forefront of the strength that is displayed in our show. Look. I think that we still have a long way to go, and I think what’s going on in our world at the moment, in terms of what our leadership is and what’s kind of being exposed, for the most part, it’s really negative. But we can’t ignore that misogyny and racism are still present in our society. I hope shows like The Boys and movies like Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel, especially the success of these types of things, prove that people want to see women in strong roles.
Stormfront makes a comment during a press interview about the women’s uniforms and how they don’t have pockets. Starlight has probably the most revealing uniform of all the women, which was something she was forced into when joining The Seven. Do you think this is something that will change as time goes on?
I do. Season two is largely Starlight having to put on a façade for the sake of going undercover, and that involves playing the game and putting on a mask for Vought in order to appease them and essentially distract them from what is actually going on underneath. She has to put on that Vought Barbie persona and that aesthetic, but I think she recognizes—and hopefully the audience will recognize it too—that, if she’s going to achieve her goal of eradicating or lessening the misogyny in Vought, she is willing to play the game for the moment. But I do think we can all feel assured that she will come back to her true self in many ways, including her aesthetic self.
I went deep into the WWW archives and found a feature we did with you back in 2013! In that interview, you said you had gone through a lot of crazy phases in terms of your personal style and were still finding yourself. Are you still in an exploration phase?
I think, to a certain degree, I will always be in a little bit of an explorative phase, and I say that because I now wear things and have certain aspects of my style I thought I never would. I did that interview with you guys when I was, I think, 18, and my childhood and upbringing were still very much reflected in my style and my aesthetic. The more time I spend outside of my upbringing, the more I come into my own as an individual instead of feeling the influences of my parents. When you leave home, it takes a while, but eventually, you realize who you are outside of the influences of that home. I would say that growing up in New York City very much shaped the clothing I wear, and I do fall into the stereotype of always wearing black and gray. And in the summer, I’m often in white. I do wear color, but for the most part, I love those neutral, charcoal, and black tones. I also love a very functional look that I know I can go out and be comfortable in, which is very much a New York City component because you are walking all day and taking the train, and it’s a little bit more of a depleting lifestyle. But yeah, the explorative side, I think I will always have it. The really fun thing about fashion is that you change as a person, so therefore, your aesthetic changes because, often, it’s a reflection of who you are internally. And that’s why I think fashion is actually really important and goes beyond being superficial.
You were born in New York City but currently live in Los Angeles. Would you say your style changes depending on the city you are in?
Definitely. It’s sort of inevitable in ways that I’m aware of and some ways that I’m not aware of. They are two very different cities and two very different climates for the most part, and I think I adapt to my surroundings. I definitely think that living in L.A. has made an impact on me. I am lucky because I have a lot of friends who have a really good aesthetic, and you look to your friends for guidance. It’s funny because most of us aren’t from here. We’re either from the East Coast or London or Australia, so we’re kind of this amalgamation of people from around the globe who influence each other with our home looks and California looks, and it’s created a hybrid that I think is cool.
I think, for a lot of people right now, comfort is key. What have been some of your wardrobe mainstays during this period of time?
Oh man. I am wearing so many sweatpants! James Perse has really nice sweatpants that are beautiful, but they still allow you to sit in your apartment all day and feel comfortable. There is nothing to me more offensive than the image, or that actual act, of wearing tight jeans when I know I’m going to be working from home all day. It just doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. There’s a heat wave right now in Los Angeles, so I’m definitely wearing a lot of shorts and tank tops from Fred Segal. It’s been nice because I’m often either in this really tight superhero costume that has really high heels or I go to events and I’m expected to wear heels and a full face of makeup. So it’s been a little bit of a reprieve.
I saw on your Instagram you are a fan of the HBO series I May Destroy You. What are some of the other shows or creators on your radar right now?
I also binge-watched all four seasons of the show Insecure, and I think it’s just so good. The style is really cute, and the soundtrack is amazing. Issa Rae is brilliant and really creative, and I think she is someone to pay attention to. I would definitely say, if you have not watched it, to binge it. I also watched all of Succession, and that was really brilliant. I think it was also the New Yorker in me getting her New York finance world fix, but I think that world is fascinating. Oh, you know what I thought was great is Normal People. It was such a good contemporary love story. The co-writer and co–executive producer is this young Irish writer named Sally Rooney. You need to watch her show but, almost more importantly, consume her novels. She is just so good. I would say those are my top quarantine watches.
Photography: Antony Starr
Styling: Lauren Eggertsen
Hair: Aaron Light
Makeup: Kira Nasrat