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The Suicide Squad's David Dastmalchian Reveals The Surprising Influences Behind His Polka-Dot Man - Exclusive

The history of DC Comics is rich and varied, having produced such classic superhero characters as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, as well as their time-honored supervillain counterparts The Joker, Lex Luthor, and Ares. On top of that, these superheroes form alliances like the Justice League, whereas the supervillains are grouped together in such forces as The Suicide Squad, also known as Task Force X.

With the origins of many of the characters dating back decades, some of those supervillains — or antiheroes, as in the case of the new movie version of "The Suicide Squad" — are better known than others. However, as acclaimed actor David Dastmalchian discovered, his character, Polka-Dot Man, is barely on anybody's radar. In fact, Polka-Dot Man was so obscure in DC lore that even Dastmalchian, who was a big comic book fan growing up in Kansas, didn't even know who the character was before writer-director James Gunn asked the acclaimed actor to play him.

And while most actors in comic book-inspired films have a bevy of reference material to help inform their work, Dastmalchian discovered that there was surprisingly little on Polka-Dot Man, aka Abner Krill. It proved to be more of a blessing for the actor, though, since it allowed for Gunn to flesh out a new back story for the polka dot-slinging character, while Dastmalchian channeled some of his own personal pain to build up the antihero's foundation.

David Dastmalchian says there are parallels between Polka-Dot Man and other classic movie characters

In "The Suicide Squad," Dastmalchian's Polka-Dot Man is one of select group of supervillain prisoners — including Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba) and Peacemaker (John Cena) — who are ordered by covert government heavy Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to join a Black Ops mission on the Latin American island of Corto Maltese. It's there where they are supposed to topple a dictatorship that is developing a plan called "Project Starfish," which is posing a grave threat to the world. Naturally, each of The Suicide Squad members has a unique set of deadly skills, with Abner's being the ability to throw polka dot-colored discs that can decimate anything in their line of fire.

The interesting thing about Polka-Dot Man is that he's a tragic character — an individual left cursed with unique powers following experiments conducted on him in his youth. Stricken with a malady he dubs an "inter-dimensional virus," polka-dot-colored discs form under Abner's skin that he must expel twice daily, or risk death. There's a point in the film where Peacemaker calls Abner "Norman Bates," but Dastmalchian revealed in an exclusive interview with Looper that there were other film characters helped him inform the role, beginning with the real-life tragic character behind the film "The Elephant Man."

"In his most deformed state, there is a John Merrick quality, being bullied and abused the way that John Merrick was," Dastmalchian said. "There's something about characters out of David Cronenberg films who have these abilities and powers, like they can use in "Scanners" that seem to be out of their control and cause more damage than they can do any good. He's a bit of "The Fly" in that experiments were done that transformed him."

Polka-Dot Man's emotional state is a reflection of David Dastmalchian's pain in real life

As someone who has always been open about his personal struggles, Dastmalchian revealed that he channeled that pain into shaping his portrayal of Polka-Dot Man. "All of my research, to be quite honest, was of myself. I mean, I just really did what James asked me to do, which was to allow my own self to be present as much as possible during the performance of Abner — because I know what it's like to be morbidly depressed. I've wrestled with it, and I nearly lost my battle to depression, and thankfully that was years ago and now I'm in a much better place, but I definitely know what it feels like to want to die the way that Abner does. I know what it feels like to be embarrassed of your body. I have a skin condition called vitiligo, which is an autoimmune disorder which corrodes the pigmentation in my skin."

Dastmalchian said he is, thankfully, no longer ashamed of the condition. "I have spots all over my body and my face, which I used to color pretty intensely. And now, I just started letting it go because I'm very much at peace with it. But when I was growing up, I was teased a lot with my spots and called 'Polka Dots,' and they had a lot of nicknames for it. So yeah, instead of really looking at too many other characters, it was about looking inward and trying to be myself as much as I could."

Now, Dastmalchian is comfortable enough to say to his "Polka-Dot"-spewing bullies something to the effect of, "Hey, Polka Dot this!," or in his words: "I will say for sure, everybody who gave me grief for spending all of my lawn mowing money on comic books at Clint's Comics in Kansas City can kiss my comic book moviemaking butt now, because I have definitely turned that passion into a career," Dastmalchian said, laughing.

"The Suicide Squad" is in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max.