Peacemaker Actor Freddie Stroma On Playing Vigilante, A Dangerous BFF [Interview]

Freddie Stroma plays the very dangerous "yes man" in Peacemaker's life, Adrian Chase, AKA Vigilante. In Vigilante's story, in which he casts himself as a hero, he also casts himself as Peacemaker's BFF. He's less of a sidekick, and more of Chris' partner in crime — and life. He's also unhinged and, all jokes aside, terrifying. Yet, against all odds during the season 1 finale, creator James Gunn and Stroma make audiences want to see this sociopath survive in the end. 

Maybe a part of the reason why comes down to the chemistry Stroma shares with John Cena, which Stroma says happened on day one. "I'm a firm believer that chemistry is usually something that is two actors who just understand how to react to each other," he told us. "John and I, we had a scene in the car. When we first met and started working off each other, it was pretty instant. He's very good at improvising. He's very good at reacting to what you're doing and playing around. And that chemistry is very easy when you've got John opposite you."

After the season 1 finale of "Peacemaker," Stroma talked to us about playing Vigilante, his relationship with Peacemaker, and spoilers he can finally discuss. (So, yeah, spoilers ahead for "Peacemaker" season 1.)

'I guess I can like this guy'

Even though he's a sociopath, you're still oddly happy he made it in the end.

[laughs] Yeah. It's nice to be able to not have to worry about spoilers now, but there are a few moments with him and Harcourt where you think, "Is this the end?" It is a relief when he comes sauntering back in, like, "Hey guys!"

Why is that? Why do you think we still want him to make it?

It's James Gunn. Honestly, his writing's incredible. You read it and he somehow makes you root for people who you feel like you shouldn't root for, but if there's a worse evil out there, they're the good guys. He's not starting a character off with the "save the cat" moment, but you just suddenly start to be like, "Oh, okay. I guess I can like this guy."

What did you first think of Vigilante on the page?

I just thought he was very funny and odd. And then, some of the stuff he says, you go, "Okay, this guy is not ..." He's in a weird place on the moral spectrum. You do know that he's a lead that you're following with a team, so you have to be able to like him or find him watchable. I wanted to make sure that you could like him, even though he says and does some atrocious things.

He doesn't grow much at all.

It is funny, he doesn't grow. But then at the same time, this is about Peacemaker and his journey. And so, Vig is there to sort of support that, but a lot of people do have their kind of growth. So, Vig is the same Vig.

Probably not the most introspective.

No, he's not. There's that line where it's like, "The mind is a den of scorpions." Okay. I don't want to get into this guy's head.

You got to show a different side of him in the prison sequence, though, with his speech and fight. How was your experience on those days?

I remember reading it, jail-mates hollering and abusing or whatever, and his mind is somewhere else. I love the fact that James made you think it's a lamb to the slaughter, he's going in there. To me, the payoff is always going to be bigger if you don't allude to the fact that, if you walk in and he can beat everyone up, then it's not that fun. With the glasses, and then just sitting down and being able to do that speech just trying to piss them off, that was a lot of fun, knowing that he's going to destroy them all.

His look of self-confidence was very entertaining.

It was not the easiest, honestly. We were shooting it and a lot of the background guys were just giving it all they had. You don't have the sound that was in there, but it was loud. They're right in your face. I'm trying to just not let any of it phase me. It was challenging.

'I never really know how to categorize him'

Did you particularly enjoy saying, "Don't F with my BFF"?

[laughs] Yeah.

Obviously, it's a very funny joke, but how serious do you want Vigilante to sound at that moment?

Yeah, it's tough. That's why it's nice having James at the helm, because it's tough. Totally. You're like, "Is this a serious moment? Is it funny?" You know that you can rely on James and he'll guide you. It's so nice to give 100% of your trust to the director. He's just going to give it to you and you feel safe.

I imagine the stunt team did that as well, especially for that final action scene at the farm. How'd you prepare for it?

The stunt guys were insane. I remember when I came to the production, I had this moment where I watched them do some stunts. I was like, "Oh, this is one of those jobs." This is the top echelon of stunt guys. These guys were incredible. We worked with them. We did rehearsals. Luckily, Vig wears a mask, so there's a lot of stuff that I don't have to do and they can make me look really cool. I got the jail and there was some other stuff that I did get to do, but it's very cool to have some of the best stunt guys in the industry just doing your work.

You always hear people that play Batman say when they put on the costume on, a lot of the work is done for them. Do you feel that way when you're in Vigilante's costume?

Oh yeah, it does. It definitely does. It is weird with Vigilante though, just because he's such an oddball. So there's this part of me that's the nerd with the glasses, he's the bus boy, but then putting on the uniform, he's also badass. But then also while he's wearing the uniform, he's a bit of an idiot. So it's a little bit of both, I will say. It just felt so cool to be able to put on a superhero outfit, and to be a superhero was really cool.

Did you ever see Vigilante as a superhero?

I don't know. I never liked saying superhero 'cause he's kind of an anti-hero. Is he a good guy? I don't know. Also, when we say superhero, does that mean a masked vigilante? Does that mean someone who has superpowers? I don't know. I never really know how to categorize him.

I think James said he envisaged him as someone who wants to go out and be a vigilante — what kind of person really is there? It's a very odd thing for someone to do. What kind of psychology goes into that? So, I really like that. The fact that it's just the bus boy that you have no idea would be capable of something like that.

A lot of James Gunn's anti-heroes have their own pain, but does Vigilante? He always looks happy-go-lucky.

He definitely feels very happy-go-lucky, but I think, at any point, James can reveal the pain if he wants to. There's a brief moment when he has come out of jail and he realizes he's f***ed up and ... he really loves Peacemaker so much. It definitely hit him to the core. He does feel really, really bad, and he does feel pain. I think, in that line, "The mind is a den of scorpions," he knows where pain is. I think he probably chooses not to perceive it.

For you, what else were his most vulnerable moments?

I think there were a few moments where he was honest. There's another moment in the car with Chris, with Peacemaker, where they've just gotten away from all the police and he's questioning Chris. He's like, "We used to do all this stuff. We kill bad guys." And we accidentally killed the wrong person. It is definitely a moment where he is having a heart to heart and saying, "What's going on? You're changing and I don't understand it." You have little moments like that where you're like, "Okay, he's not just the clown." You start to see a little bit more to the core of who he is.

A guy who's willing to clumsily throw a grenade for his friend. 

He's willing to throw a grenade far too close to himself if it means protecting Peacemaker. I don't think he really thinks any of that stuff through. I remember on the day we threw the grenade and in my head, I was like, "Well, he'll throw the grenade a little further. It was not easy to throw a grenade when it has the pin — it's not just a sphere. You've got a little piece that'll roll off, and I'm trying to throw this thing and just trying to get it to land between his legs. It's like, man, he's really close, but I think Vigilante is that confident.

'It's James' kind of mayhem'

When you're on set for a day like that, when you're in the Vigilante costume and you're looking at the White Dragon and Peacemaker, does it feel surreal?

Yeah, especially when you got Robert Patrick as well. He has played one of the scariest villains of all time in "Terminator 2." Suddenly, he's in front of you in a very scary outfit. It was very surreal. Luckily, he's the nicest human being ever. He was such a joy to work with, but it was very weird to be in a superhero outfit, another crazy superhero outfit, and I'm throwing a grenade at him. It was very cool. 

Was Eagly a tennis ball on set?

It was just a little structure that they had together. It was roughly the size and shape of Eagly if he was just standing up straight. It was just a little cylinder, basically. We were just interacting with that or nothing.

Does it take time getting used to that?

It's not too bad. There were a couple times they were like, "When you guys walk in, can you just hold the door open a little longer? You got to let Eagly in." So these moments where I was just waiting, "Okay, who's coming in now?" There's always one thing that I always try to focus on is that whenever you have to imagine there's a CG thing in front of you, you've got an eye line, but thinking about the periphery. Naturally, your eyes are going to look further than where it is. You always have to kind of look crosseyed because that's where it specifically is in space with the depth perception. I try to focus on that as well, but yeah, it's fun.

Something nice about "Peacemaker" is that, a lot of people have felt seen in the show, because of Peacemaker's bisexuality.


Obviously, Vigilante and Peacemaker shared an intimate moment. Did you and James ever talk about Vigilante's sexuality?

No, we didn't have any discussions on it. It's something that I haven't actually spoken to James about. I think maybe he spoke with John about that, because there is that moment where his dad's saying, "You slept with these people." It makes sense to me with Vigilante, how much he loves Peacemaker, that he seems open. I have no idea what his sexuality is, it's just how open he is. It just throws such an interesting wrench into it because with all their comments, they're so misogynistic and kind of racist and xenophobic, but then just throw in the fact that he doesn't care about that. It's James' kind of mayhem.

"Peacemaker" season 1 is now available to stream on HBO Max.