Everyone, at some point in their life, has dreamed of being a superhero — or even a supervillain. Who wouldn’t love to have a fabulous power that could bring a life of wild adventures fighting crime? Or to become the elusive antagonist whose sinister crimes are etched into the history books? The possibilities are endless. But for decades we’ve had to put up with the same tired heroes in tights and capes, with spotless track records and soporific virtues. That is, until Garth Ennis’ and Darick Robertson’s masterpiece The Boys. The ferocious graphic novel marked a turning point in superhero fiction, thanks to its brutal dose of social criticism covered in copious blood spatter. The TV adaptation that followed quickly became Amazon Prime’s biggest hit to date.
Its spin-off aptly titled Gen V has managed to live up to the original series. It tells the story of a university burdened by secrets, whose supernaturally gifted students are haunted by the past. In this new fantasy, one of the characters that fans have fallen in love with the most is Jordan Lee, the gender-shifting super-herp played by two actors, the charismatic London Thor and the magnetic Derek Luh. The latter, with his imposing physique and masterful fighting, has proven to be a remarkable actor and personality who shone early on his career, rising to fame performing alongside singers like Machine Gun Kelly. Now Luh wants to give his all to acting and fully dedicate himself to his true passion: cinema. Although his dream has just begun, he has the makings of a true hero in the entertainment industry.
Schön! chats with rising actor Derek Luh about his time filming Gen V, further acting aspirations, and beyond.
Derek, please, tell me everything about your experience on Gen V! I really loved the show!
I had so much fun being on set. When you do an ensemble there are so many creative minds and big personalities, and for us all to get along the way we did was just magical. I truly gained some lifelong friends from that experience. It was nerve-wracking for sure, being on such a big production and following up The Boys, feeling the pressure to make the mothership proud. It was so much fun to grow and learn as an artist and actor, playing around on set in this wonderful world and with this amazing character along with these talented, amazing actors.
Tell me about your first day on set. How was it?
I’m glad that you asked; my first day on set was nerve-wracking. They ended up pushing our days back because I had been cast but the girl who was originally supposed to play the female version of Jordan got recast. They pushed everything back until they found London. Everybody had been working for 11 days. It was also my first big role and I was so excited. On my first day I had two lines; I was like I’m going to kill these two lines. I was practicing them on zero sleep, I knew how I was going to say them. It was a night shoot, so I just stayed up the whole day, just working on adrenaline. I get there and it’s not just a scene with me and one other person, it’s a scene with everybody: Jaz, Patrick, Chance, Maddie. It’s also the first episode so all of the producers are there, everybody’s there. I’m extremely nervous. I deliver my first line and the director goes Dude, just throw it away, why are you so tight? Have fun. People are supposed to like you. It was my first day on set and I was being told to throw away all my preparation. It set the tone for the rest of the season: You know what? Just throw away all your ideas about how you’re supposed to say the lines and just have fun.
Do you remember the lines?
Yeah, I only had one line that made it into that scene. It was just really sweet because I was practicing the line after the director told me to throw it away; I looked and I just saw Maddie looking at me and it was our first time working together. She was like Oh, you’re so cute. It made me feel very welcomed.
Tell me, how did you build the chemistry within the group?
Honestly, we got so lucky that all of us are just a bunch of weirdos. With out humor and all the weird things that we do, we could truly be ourselves around each other. I think that was what built the chemistry, we just loved each other for who we were. The more that we were ourselves the more the bond grew. And we had a lot of dinners together. We love to go out and have a good time and share desserts.
Your role is one of the most complicated in the series. Not only do you share it with another actor, but you also have many fight scenes that I imagine involve hours of physical training. How did you prepare to play Jordan?
I had zero preparation. Besides London, I was the last person to get cast. Everybody else had been cast and they were on set for two or three weeks prior, prepping and finding their places to live and settling in, having meetings with the directors and the showrunners. I had booked my journey on a Monday and they told me that there would be a table read on Thursday. They said they needed me in Toronto for six months. I’m like, Okay, I think I can pack six months of my life in that time. I had no prep. Luckily, having the days pushed back, I had 11 days to get some stunt training in. They told me I had a big fight with Golden Boy, Patrick, in the first episode. I was just in it for 11 days straight.
What was your relationship with The Boys before being cast?
Funnily enough (and I’ll probably get crucified for saying this), other than DC’s Batman by Christopher Nolan, I had never seen a Marvel or a superhero movie. Not that I don’t like them, I just haven’t been drawn to them. The only superhero content that I fell in love with and truly liked was The Boys. I found it over the pandemic and was like, What is this? I saw the trailer and saw all the blood and I was like, Okay, this is interesting. Seeing A-Train run through Hughie’s girlfriend, I was like, What is this? I watched it and became such a fan. I remember telling my reps at the time that I would even play a janitor in season two or season three. Like, I don’t care, just please get me an audition for the show. I was a huge fan of The Boys.
I would love to know how the writers of the series introduced this character to you because it is not very easy to explain.
Right. It was really kept under wraps. I auditioned for this show in 2021; the breakdown of it was that we were like twins. It just said Spin-off of The Boys and the character description was very vague. Then when I found out that I got the audition, there was a picture of the other girl and it said they were casting people with Jordan’s appearance. It didn’t say that we that we switched genders, nothing. When I got to set I found out what my superpower was, and what hers was. It was super exciting.
Were you and London able to rehearse Jordan’s common traits, gestures and expressions together?
It’s so strange because we did one reading and we didn’t try to force the idea of doing a mirror exercise. Like, let’s stand there like this and try and get this symbiotic relationship; there was none of that. We started hanging out and being on set together organically; we would talk through the characters, sharing our ideas and going to dinners. They say you act like the closest five people that you’re friends with, so we just started to take on each other’s personalities. Luckily, we were so similar and so different at the same time, and that is how we both played Jordan. The male and female versions have different personalities, but we still wanted to make it seamless. We got very lucky in that sense.
What was it like the first time you saw yourself on screen?
Your body cringes. You go, Oh, why did I say that? Why does my face look like that? Why is my hair like that? I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to it. It’s tough. It takes a couple of watches. It gets easier as you watch it, but the first time, you just feel… yeah, your body just cringes.
For me, the real mystery of your character is that when you change gender your clothes also change size. (Laughs)
That would be a question for Michelle, the showrunners, and Kripke. I don’t know. I haven’t gone that far into the tailoring of Jordan’s clothing and the superpowers that the threads have.
Have you ever dreamed of having a superpower?
I think a superpower that I would like to have would be teleportation. So we could just show up somewhere.
I think that’s the most common answer.
Like flying. I mean, not like flying on a plane and getting from here to there. I would love to just, boop… we’re there.
I believe that being able to teleport is much more complex than we think. I think one must have first seen the place one wants to transport to and then, do the clothes teleport with you? I don’t know, I think it’s much more complicated. Have you watched more superhero movies since you did the show?
No, I can’t say I have. I think I watched all three seasons of The Boys again to prepare for our show because it’s congruent with the storyline. But no, I don’t think I have watched any superhero stuff.
Who’s your favourite character from The Boys?
My favourite character from The Boys would have to be Soldier Boy.
That’s terrible. I mean, the character is such a terrible person.
Yeah, he is. But I think it’s because I love Jensen so much and he’s such a great actor. Getting to work with him just solidified how great of a person and actor he is that I’m even more drawn to the character.
I’m more into Starlight.
Okay, Starlight is great. I love Starlight. Maybe it’s just that I like a hero, anti-hero, villain thing.
Anti-hero? He was more like a supervillain.
Yeah, that’s true.
Did you like getting in touch with the cast of The Boys before doing the show?
Yeah, Jesse had reached out to us and had brunch with a couple of The Boys cast. It was just really nice for them to give us some advice and welcome us into the world. It was nice to feel welcomed in by the big brother big sister-mothership show.
The show and the comic have a lot of fans. How do you face the fandom; were you nervous about it?
I mean, yeah, but I also really trusted Kripke, Michelle and Tara with their vision and their creative direction. I knew that in extending the universe they would do it justice, not only to the show but also every character.
Your character is about 18, 19, 20 years old?
Yeah. They say in the show that we’re a junior.
Junior… What kind of student were you when you were in high school or college?
I was the opposite of Jordan. I didn’t even show up.
Yeah, I was a bad student, man. My head was in the clouds. I was always like Yeah, these subjects aren’t intriguing to me. I wanted to create, I wanted to be creative. So yeah, I was the opposite of Jordan.
I can see that you have a huge arm tattoo, but you don’t have it in the show.
No, they made sure that I wore long sleeves every time which, thankfully for me, meant I didn’t have to spend too much time in the makeup chair. But I know London disliked it because she would’ve liked wearing a tank top. So yeah, the makeup team and wardrobe did a great job of covering that.
Who do you think is the most powerful character in Gen V?
I would have to say… Truth, I would have to say, I think it might be Marie.
Who would win in a fight between Sam and Jordan?
Jordan. It’s proven. We show it in episode four. He punches Andre’s character with just one arm, kicks him into something, then he punches us twice as hard as he can and we don’t even move. I take one step back and then we blast him away. We beat Sam all day, 10 out of 10 times.
I think Cate might be one of the most powerful.
That is true. But, well, they’re all out. She only has one arm now, so she’s got to get close to you. With Maddie, she can stand far back and use her power. She’s able to do that on supes as well.
Well, now Cate is fucked up because her arm is gone.
As an actor, what motivates you to keep doing shows and movies?
I think it’s just how much I love it. I love the process. I love getting a script. I love losing myself in a story. I love relating to a character. I love seeing myself in a character. I love telling stories and I love acting. I’m not after a result. I just love getting auditions and reading plays, and I love going and seeing movies. I think that’s what keeps me going. It’s just the love of the art and the process.
What’s the last movie or TV show you watched?
I just finished Only Murder in the Building. I like it, man. It was just like a fun, easy, nice watch. I love Martin Short. He’s so amazing in it. It was just a great, fun show to watch.
Movie. What was the last movie that I saw? Oh, I just…what movie did I see? I went with Asa. It was an Orson Welles movie, Touch of Evil.
Do you like classic movies?
I do. I’ve always liked classic movies, but I have to thank Asa, who has become one of my best friends from the show. He’s such an amazing guy and inspires me. He’s always going to the Aerotheater in the New Beverly out here to watch old movies and asks me to come along. He’s helped expand my palette. But I’ve always been interested in movies that I normally wouldn’t think to watch.
Tell me about your dream role.
My dream role. Oh, wow, that’s tough. That is tough. I don’t know. I’m sorry, I can’t, because I don’t know what my dream role is. I may come across it and then think this is my dream role and then another story comes up and then that becomes my dream role. I think my dream role is anything that moves and speaks to someone.
But I’m sure you have a favourite movie.
Yeah, I have a favourite movie. I actually have three. I love Training Day, The Departed and Tropic Thunder. Those three are my favorite.
There’s a lot of testosterone in those movies.
Yes, exactly. For sure.
Can you tell me the last song you listened to?
Can I check? The last song that I listened to was at the gym; it was Thug Lovin’ by J. R. R. And Bobby Brown.
What do you think is the best album or song that has come out this year?
I haven’t really been listening to too much recent music, but I think maybe the best song that I find myself replaying is Tested, Approved, and Trusted by Burna Boy.
What’s the best live show you’ve ever been to?
Oh, Beyoncé at Coachella. That, for me, was one of the best shows that I’ve seen. It was just crazy.
So you are a Beyoncé fan?
I would say so, yeah. I’m a fan of live music. I’m a fan of Beyoncé for sure.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me? I think I’m having a fried turkey on Thanksgiving. That’s what’s next for me. And some ham.
Have you thought about how you would like your character’s story to end?
I just want Jordan to love themselves. I want them to find that love from within and get that validation from within because they’re searching for it from their father and Brink, and now, in a sense, Marie and the friend group, wanting to be in The Seven. It’s all this external validation. I just hope that Jordan finds that inner peace and love, really being themselves and loving themselves. That would be the happy ending.
Do you think Jordan would accept a position as part of The Seven?
I don’t know. We’ll see. Tune in to season two of Gen V!
Gen V is streaming now on Amazon Prime.