Matt Bomer has piercing blue eyes, a chiseled jaw, and a Hollywood-approved all-American look. But on DC Universe’s Doom Patrol, his character, Larry Trainor (a.k.a. Negative Man) is covered head-to-toe with bandages thanks to an accident that has left him radioactive. The character is also possessed by a negative that occasionally leaves his body and wreaks havoc on his life (and can fly and pass through solid objects to boot).
The dual nature of Negative Man is enhanced even further by the fact that he’s played in bandaged form by actor Matthew Zuk (and voiced by Bomer), and in flashback form by Bomer himself. It’s an essential character trait, Bomer explained to a small group of reporters following a screening of a recent Doom Patrol episode.
“He’s a guy who is this golden boy on the outside but inside has always felt like a monster. The great allegory of the role that Jeremy [Carver, showrunner] so brilliantly came up with is that ultimately through this accident, he becomes what he always felt he was inside. And so his journey over the course of the season is finding a dialogue with himself where he can learn to accept all the parts of himself that he felt were, on the whole, not acceptable in the past.”
That includes Larry’s new backstory: He was an Air Force pilot (similar to the character’s introduction in the comics) and, as shown in the third episode, “Puppet Patrol,” married with two kids — but having an affair with one of his air force buddies (not in the comics).
“A big reason why I wanted to be a part of Doom Patrol is because I’ve never really seen a gay male superhero,” Bomer said. “What I love most about the character is that even though it’s a huge struggle internally for him, it’s not the sole thing that defines who he is. It’s such a multi-faceted character. If it had just been one stereotypical thing, I think I would have had more reservations about it, but the fact that he is this nuanced character who has so many places to grow and he has so much shadow and so much light that he doesn’t even know, that’s what appealed to me just as much as his sexuality.”
But while Larry’s sexuality does not define him, the fact that he’s living a dual life is intrinsic to the character.
“He really compartmentalized it. He really wanted his cake and to eat it too. It’s really profoundly important for him to be able to keep his wife and family not only because of the primal love and need for them, but also because they secure his status in his place in the military,” he said. “But he also obviously really, really loves John — maybe the only true romantic connection he’s ever had. So he wants it both.”
Of course, that’s not a realization Larry could come to during his time — it’s something he’s realized during his 50 years with Chief (Timothy Dalton) and Rita Farr (April Bowlby) in Doom Manor, time he’s filled with new hobbies like gardening. He’s been able to conveniently ignore his underlying issues until the events that happen in Doom Patrol’s pilot really force him to deal with them.
That self-exploration “just continues to grow over the course of the season,” Bomer explained, and will come to a head soon. “Episode 10 and 11 is where it all really starts to come to a head for him and he really starts to get in touch with who he is authentically.”
Larry’s journey over the course of the season has included him “finding his voice and being able to come to terms with his sexuality, who he is, how he can help, what this being inside him is, what it represents, how it wants to communicate with him, why it wants to communicate with him. Does he want it to stick around? Does he want it to leave? Can he ever have any real control over it? Is the only way to have control over that is to ultimately, for the first time in his life, let go of control because he has been such a control freak? He’s really face-to-face with his ego and all the fears and insecurities that that entails, and he has to let go and in order to supersede that and really find a purpose for his existence after all these years.”
The season has also seen plenty of elements pulled from Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol run, Bomer noted, along with original creations from Carver. Episodes have explored what happened to Larry during the time between the accident that left him radioactive and when he arrived at Doom Manor.
“It’s just so wildly imaginative,” Bomer raved. “I just want people to see the show because I truly think — and I don’t say this about every show I’ve done — it’s really special. And it’s got an incredible creative team, an incredible production team. I think ultimately, as bizarre and wacko as it gets at times, it’s got an incredible heart underneath it all and they’ve really gone to painstaking links to make these characters really human and to have real darkness and light and struggle to get to where they are when we find them and where they’re going to be by the end of the season.”
New episodes of Doom Patrol are released every Friday on DC Universe.