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James Gunn digs into Peacemaker's origin, future seasons and arc for HBO Max series: 'He has a lot to learn'

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Sep 22, 2021, 4:54 PM EDT

It’s no secret that James Gunn is writing and directing a spin-off streaming TV series from The Suicide Squad for the Peacemaker character, played by John Cena, exclusively for HBOMax. But at today’s HBOMax virtual press panel for the Peacemaker series, Gunn finally spilled a few secrets about the fresh arc for the complicated hero and the ensemble surrounding him in the series, slated to premiere in January 2022.

At the top, Gunn admitted birthing a series was not part of his original plan when creating his version of The Suicide Squad. But DC’s Peter Safran and Walter Hamada asked him if he could make a TV show around any one of the characters from The Suicide Squad, which would it be? Turns out Peacemaker was his guy.

“I found something really interesting about Peacemaker because one, I loved working with Cena,” Gunn said. “And he’s a cool interesting character pertinent to today’s world in terms of his backwards way of looking at things.”

Carrying over the R-rated sensibility of The Suicide Squad into the TV series, Safran promised audiences that this would not be a watered-down version of the character, or his violent universe. “Working with James Gunn, it’s hard to find a line he won’t cross,” the producer laughed. “I know there is one but we didn’t find it shooting this.”

As to why Peacemaker grabbed Gunn’s imagination for more stories, the director/writer said it was the character’s remarkable amount of issues yet to be explored. “Peacemaker has a lot of issues, so I don’t sit down and think I have to make him likable. I want to make him fully-fledged. He has a lot to learn.”

Gunn added that by the end of The Suicide Squad, characters like Idris Elba’s Bloodsport had learned a lot and progressed. But Peacemaker has so much yet to learn. “He needs more than one season to learn that,” the director laughed. “But his ability to learn makes him more likable.”

The director admits that Peacemaker has a lot of racial and societal blind spots but that some of them stem from ignorance. “We get to see the journey with that,” Gunn said about the series. “Peacemaker is almost every guy I grew up with in Missouri. As terrible as he might be at times, he’s common. It’s fun to make a super hero/villain who has a lot of nuances.”

Touching on some of the other characters who will be dancing (literally) with Peacemaker, veteran actor Robert Patrick will play his father. “He’s not too happy with his son,” Patrick said of his character’s issues with his boy. “The early development of Peacemaker is a direct result of his relationship with his papa.” Patrick added that he was so grateful to learn Gunn wrote a role for him, he actually accepted before even reading the script.

Danielle Brooks will also co-star as the woefully underprepared, but enthusiastic colleague, Adebayo. Considering this genre and kind of role is new to Brook’s resume, she said she had a lot in common with character. “She was trying to figure it out, and that’s very much like me in trying to fake it until she makes it. I had never dealt with guns before. But there’s a thrill that comes with attempting to be a badass. She leans into it.”

There’s also Harcourt, played by Jennifer Holland, the far more seasoned lone wolf who will get sucked into Peacemaker’s orbit. The actress teased, “There’s a nuanced arc for this woman. She’s very closed off and the way I approach that is that it comes from a life of seeing a lot of death and killing a lot of people. So, what is it like to be that kind of a person and not falling apart? She sees close, personal relationships as dangerous. We’ll see Harcourt deal with that and maybe become more well-rounded? It’s fun to watch it play out.”

Asked if there would be more seasons of Peacemaker, or perhaps he might create a new series for other The Suicide Squad characters like Sebastian the rat, Gunn said with enthusiasm, “I would be very much up for doing a Sebastian animated series. But I have 87 seasons of Peacemaker planned,” he joked.