Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Beyond Soldier Boy: Jensen Ackles

Authors: Mal, Jules, Kenedi

With the return of Prime Video’s hit series The Boys, fans have been looking forward to (or dreading?) the arrival of Soldier Boy. The so-called original Supe, Soldier Boy will almost certainly cause complications for all of our favorite characters. Soldier Boy is played by Jensen Ackles, reuniting with Supernatural creator Eric Kripke. While the actor is well known to Supernatural fans for his role as Dean Winchester over 15 seasons (a role he will soon reprise on spin-off The Winchesters), there are plenty of other projects that fans of The Boys will want to check out after seeing Ackles as Soldier Boy.

As part of our Beyond series, we’re taking a deep dive into Ackles’ filmography to pull out some gems that any fan of The Boys should watch next.

Ten Inch Hero (2007)

Battle Ground
- Advertisement -

The definition of a hidden gem, Ten Inch Hero is an indie romantic comedy that is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming. The film follows Piper, an artist who gets a job at a sandwich shop and finds herself surrounded by a quirky cast of characters. Ackles plays Boaz Priestly, a rebel rocker who is always ready with a quip and a graphic tee. While it seems Priestly is incapable of sincerity, over the course of the summer he begins to fall for Tish (played by his now-wife Danneel Ackles, then credited as Danneel Harris) while she deals with heartbreaks of her own. The chemistry between the real-life couple is apparent from the start, and it’s a big part of the appeal of Ten Inch Hero. Ackles is able to show Priestly’s soft side alongside the prickly exterior, making him memorable in a film with a talented ensemble cast.

Batman: The Long Halloween Parts 1 & 2 (2021)/Batman: Under The Red Hood (2010)

BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN, PART ONE © 2021 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. BATMAN and all related characters and elements TM & © DC.

Ackles’ onscreen talents are legion, as evidenced when he turns his attention to animated projects. Not just a pretty face, his voice acting capabilities are impressive too!

Since way back in 2010, Ackles has had a long running, lighthearted link to Batman. He first dabbled in the DC Comics media universe as the voice of Jason Todd, a.k.a. Red Hood, in the 2010 direct-to-video animated movie Batman: Under the Red Hood

In Under the Red Hood, there’s a mystery afoot in Gotham City: a new vigilante has come to town. The unknown newcomer is using an old Joker alias, “Red Hood.” The problem is that Red Hood doesn’t seem to follow a moral code that Batman can get behind, instead killing the bad guys so that he can take over. Batman is still dealing with the grief of losing Jason Todd, a boy he took in and trained to be the new Robin, and he begins to notice similarities between Gotham City’s new vigilante and his supposedly deceased sidekick.

- Advertisement -

Ackles was lauded by critics and co-stars alike for his turn as Red Hood. Troy Baker, who has voiced Batman himself several times and gave life to The Joker in Under the Red Hood, said that Ackles “walked in and met this with the full arsenal of his experience, talent and passion.” It shows. Under the Red Hood was almost universally loved by critics and audiences alike.

A decade of Batman jokes and brilliant Halloween costumes later, and Ackles came back to DC, this time to don the animated mask of the Caped Crusader himself.

In The Long Halloween Parts 1 & 2, a brutal series of murders take place in Gotham over the holidays. Batman teams up with police officer James Gordon and Harvey Dent, the district attorney who will later become Two-Face. Ackles excelled in this role. At the time, IGN called it, “a compelling story adapted with care and performed with conviction. Taken together, both parts make for not merely one of the best Batman animated movies, but one of the best Batman movies, period.”

Ackles has said he’d like to play Batman again, so who knows, we may not have seen the last of him in the DC franchise. Given the strength of his prior performances, let’s hope so!

Dark Angel (2000-2002)

FOX

Before there was Dean Winchester, there was Alec McDowell. Dark Angel (created by James Cameron) followed Max (Jessica Alba), an escapee from a corporation creating genetically enhanced super soldiers by experimenting on children and babies. It was the latest in a new wave of feminist sci-fi on TV in the late ’90s and even inspired a spin-off series of novels and a video game. The series was ahead-of-its-time both for its ambitious, cinematic production scale and its representation. It featured the first transgender character played by a transgender actress ever on television with Jessica Crockett as Louise, while Max’s best friend Original Cindy (Valarie Rae Miller) was one of the first lesbian series regulars of color on broadcast TV. 

Ackles first had a memorable one episode guest arc in the first season as Ben, a dark and manipulative character with a deep connection to Max’s past. The producers (and audiences) loved his interactions with Alba and decided to bring him back as a series regular in season 2 in an entirely new role: Alec, Ben’s clone. Alec, in contrast to Ben, was named for his “smart aleck” attitude. His easy chemistry with Alba and the rest of the cast is a highlight of the second season, with Ackles’ ability to play both comedic and dramatic beats on full display. Alec’s past, much like Max’s, is not pleasant. Though he masks his pain well with sarcasm and brushes off those who try to dig deeper, it’s clear there’s more to him than meets the eye. 

Unfortunately, Dark Angel was canceled after season 2 with its storylines later wrapped up in the novelizations. Ackles moved on to a recurring role on Dawson’s Creek, but Alec lived on in his later portrayal of Dean Winchester (particularly in the early seasons).  

Supernatural (2005-2020)

Jensen Ackles in ‘Supernatural’/The CW

And of course, who could forget Ackles’ infamous role as the one and only Dean Winchester on The CW’s Supernatural? As one of the leads on this production for an impressive 15 years, Ackles got to flex his muscles in the unique way that only portraying a character for such an extended time can afford. Dean Winchester is a complex character of complex motivations, and Ackles’ choices for the character adequately reflect that.

At first glance, the eldest Winchester sibling is nothing more than a skilled yet dangerous hunter, with a penchant for sarcasm, booze, and women. While these things are all true to an extent, when you peer around Dean’s rough exterior and the macho bravado he projects to hide his internal battles with his past, you find that he’s protective, caring, loyal, and will do just about anything for the people he loves, even if it puts him in danger — especially if it keeps others out of danger. However, due to the weight of so many expectations and so much responsibility put on him at a young age, practically raising his younger brother in the wake of their mother’s death and being thrown into hunting via his father’s revenge mission at the tender age of four, he definitely has trouble demonstrating this softer side of him in a straightforward manner.

As you spend more time with the character and learn more about his tumultuous upbringing, you can visibly see on Ackles’ face in some moments these two conflicting natures warring with each other. The character choices the talented actor makes from improvised lines to his mastery of microexpressions really demonstrates Ackles’ ability to understand and embody the true essence of a character that you don’t just get from reading lines off a script.

In addition to getting to truly flesh out Dean’s character, Ackles also had the chance to lean into other characters during his stint on Supernatural — as contradictory as that sounds. In narrative arcs where Dean wasn’t Dean (Demon Dean, Michael, etc.), Ackles definitely got to flirt with portraying much darker characters (something that he got to explore more in-depth shooting The Boys season 3), stepping out of Dean’s traditional role as the “hero” or the “good guy.” Despite sharing the same face, these characters are completely differentiable in mannerism, voice, etc., showcasing Ackles’ range. No matter what character he was portraying, Ackles has always managed to infuse his performance with so much emotion, easily forming a connection with audiences. We can’t wait to see him reprise this iconic role that defined an era of network television in the upcoming CW show, The Winchesters.

Honorable Mentions

  • Jason Teague on Smallville (2004)
  • Tom Hanniger in My Bloody Valentine (2009)
  • CJ Braxton on Dawson’s Creek (2002)

Aside from his role as Soldier Boy, Ackles will next been seen as new series regular character Beau Arlen on season 3 of ABC’s Big Sky. He will narrate and executive produce The Winchesters, which is set to air on The CW this fall. His first two albums with band Radio Company are out now, with a third on the way.

Leave a Reply

Related Articles

- Advertisement -

Stay Connected

2,381FansLike
1,786FollowersFollow
34,168FollowersFollow
3,912SubscribersSubscribe

Latest Articles