The Exact Moment In The Suicide Squad That Inspired James Gunn To Make The Peacemaker Series

When the news broke that Christopher Smith, AKA Peacemaker (John Cena), from James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad" was getting his own spin-off series (one also written and partly directed by Gunn), reactions were naturally mixed. Sure, the character's violently jingoistic outlook made for a darkly amusing running gag in Gunn's DC Extended Universe movie, but was there enough "there" there to justify giving this particular antihero his own show — least of all after he turned on his teammates to do Amanda Waller's bidding near the end of that film? And why was Peacemaker getting a spin-off before the other, more lovable members of Gunn's Task Force X like Daniela Melchior's Cleo Cazo, AKA Ratcatcher 2? (That's not to say I've given up hope that Gunn is secretly working on a Ratcatcher 2 spin-off, mind you.)

As it turns out, the guy who made the Guardians of the Galaxy household names and directed a heartfelt horror-comedy-romance about a woman and her alien-possessed husband may, in fact, know what he's doing. "Peacemaker" season 1 proved to be a very funny (and very violent) superhero romp that doubled as a nuanced character study, as well as a thoughtful reflection on the troubled times we're living in. For Gunn, it all goes back to a moment during production on "The Suicide Squad" that made him realize a "Peacemaker" series was actually a good idea. As he explained to Vulture:

"There's one really specific moment with me and John that I can trace the origin of this show back to. It's the moment in 'The Suicide Squad' where Peacemaker is holding his gun on Ratcatcher 2 and he's about to kill her. I went into this tight closeup of his eyes. On set, I'm always on the microphone talking over everything while we're shooting. So I'm talking to John on the God Mic about what he's feeling, and I see his eyes switch. I see him go to this incredibly sad, vulnerable place. We realize this character is a guy who's doing something he doesn't want to do at all, but that he's going to do anyway, which is shoot a young girl."

John Cena has the 'other layer'

Far from a stranger to casting wrestlers-turned-actors in his projects, Gunn famously hired Dave Bautista to play Drax the Destroyer in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie at a time when Bautista's dramatic chops were far from a given. Once again, his instincts were right on the money: Bautista has shown his acting skills go well beyond playing burly, intimidating henchmen (although he's great at that, too), and is now regularly working with filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Rian Johnson, and M. Night Shyamalan, on top of his ongoing collaborations with Gunn. In his interview with Vulture, Gunn noted that he saw the same thing in Bautista that he saw in Cena when he was filming that especially tense moment from "The Suicide Squad":

"When I saw that moment in him, I knew John was not just a performer who was funny, which is why I hired him, but a guy who had this other layer. At that moment, I knew John had that thing. It's a thing a lot of big actors don't have, and that most wrestlers turned actors don't have. Dave Bautista also has it. That's the reason I hired him for 'Guardians' in the first place. A big part of me wanting to do 'Peacemaker' was to sculpt away all the other stuff, all the juggling and entertaining John does, and focus on that vulnerable sector."

"Peacemaker" has certainly done just that, giving the world the messy, dancing, piano-playing, bisexual superhero we need. It has also provided HBO Max with, reportedly, one of its most-watched Original series to date, with a second season now officially on the way. That's all the more welcome news after season 1 and keeps hope alive that Gunn isn't done expanding the "Suicide Squad" corner of the DCEU just yet.

The first season of "Peacemaker" is now streaming on HBO Max.