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SYFY WIRE Peacemaker

John Cena on the wild 'Peacemaker' scene that pushed him most out of his comfort zone

John Cena confesses the scene that James Gunn started Peacemaker production with that made him most self-conscious. 

By Tara Bennett
Peacemaker Season 1 PRESS

James Gunn's Peacemaker finally made his bow today on HBOMax as the lead of the first DC Extended Universe streaming series. Having survived the events of The Suicide Squad movie, Christopher Smith (John Cena) has been given a second chance. But now the big lunk owes the Armed Revolutionaries Governing Under Secrecy, or A.R.G.U.S., so he's doing his killing for their secret black ops group, Project Butterfly. 

[Spoilers for the first episode of Peacemaker]

In "A Whole New Whirled," the first episode of Season 1, Christopher picks up a rocker chick at the local bar and ends up having the hook up of all hook ups. As he's snooping through her large collection of hair metal vinyl in his tighty-whities, Smith discovers his lady friend is actually an assassin metahuman who works very hard to snuff him out. 

What ensues is a wild action sequence essentially treating her apartment as a wrestling ring as they obliterate everything around them instead of cuddling. "Yeah, that was day one," Cena tells SYFY WIRE about how that sequence was his welcome into what Gunn had in store for him in the series. "That was our first week of shooting."

Almost naked, doing karaoke and then grappling with an equally almost naked stunt woman, Cena admits Gunn was asking him to entirely leave his comfort zone. "Here was a lot of: it's time to walk the talk. But I'm somebody who challenges everybody to try to lean into the uncomfortable in their own life. And I try to live by those same words. This was a great opportunity to do that, so nothing like stepping right into the fire."

With a lot more comedy projects now filling his theatrical resume, Cena says he's learned a lot since his more serious days as the WWE tough guy in the ring. Letting go of looking "cool" was a big step in prepping him for Peacemaker.

"I think the first step is to be able to be vulnerable enough to not only put material out there that people laugh at, but let people use you as a bouncing board for humor," Cena explains. "It's really, really tough and I ran into this at the WWE a lot; the fear of not looking cool. To put in WWE perspective, you're out in the middle of a 20-foot ring, proudly wearing something skimpy and spandex in front of a live audience and you're trying to look tough. It's all wrong, it's all backwards. It's so fragile that if you say or do the wrong thing, or somebody says something so harsh to you, you can be minimized in a microsecond. But I think the best stories and the most successful rides come from giving in and being able to take it."

And take it he does, as Chris gets his ass handed to him in the fight with the metahuman. Asked if he helped work out the choreography for the space constrained smackdown, Cena said he was just a vessel for the action. 

"I never want to take somebody's paintbrush away from them and our stunt coordinator and our action folks are very gifted," Cena enthuses. "What I try to do is tell them what color of paint I am, like, 'Hey, these are things I can do well. Or, these are things I don't know if you want to spend a lot of your time on because if you need me to do a handstand or backflip, I don't know if I'm your guy.' I think it's important that they know what they have to work with, but telling someone how to do their job, I'm not in that business because I wouldn't want them to do the same to me."

He continues, "I can look at that landscape and plan an action sequence, but I'm not in the stunt coordination business. I get excited when I see a coordinator's vision and I see their their painting, so to speak. It really is a new experience to see someone else's choreography where for so long, I've had to rely on my own canvas. But you can always learn something from somebody else. Every every time I do a cinematic action or television action, I always take home a little nugget of wisdom."