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The Untold Truth Of The Peacemaker TV Show

The DC Extended Universe has already taken audiences to a variety of unforgettable locations ranging from Metropolis to the center of the Earth (populated by dinosaurs!) to the trenches of World War I. But with "Peacemaker," the DC Extended Universe is going somewhere it's never gone before: television. The inaugural small-screen production from this franchise is an extension of "The Suicide Squad" and see's John Cena reprising his role as Peacemaker. Spanning eight episodes — all of them written by "The Suicide Squad" writer/director James Gunn — "Peacemaker" appears to be the dawn of a new era in terms of expanding how and what kind of stories can be told in this interconnected universe.

Though the general public is well-aware of both "Peacemaker" and its ubiquitous leading man, there are lots of elements in this TV show that remain obscure even to the most ardent followers of the DC Extended Universe. Details like Cena's favorite part of the program's scripts, what inspired Gunn to write a "Suicide Squad" spin-off TV show in the first place, and even critical recasting decisions are just a few of the aspects that define the history of "Peacemaker." If you love uncovering juicy pop culture details half as much as Peacemaker loves defending liberty, then strap in and dive into the untold truth of the DC Extended Universe's first TV show.

James Gunn initially wrote Peacemaker for fun

We all did something notable to help pass the time during the lockdown portion of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people took up baking bread. Others discovered their calling in the world of knitting. James Gunn, meanwhile, found himself drawn to writing up scripts for a "Peacemaker" TV show. 

This was not something that was mandated by Warner Bros. executives. In fact, on the first day of shooting for "Peacemaker," Gunn posted on his Instagram explaining how he originally wrote the scripts for the TV show for fun while he was confined to his home. After just eight weeks, Gunn had finished up the scripts for a prospective "Peacemaker" TV show, which is right around when Warner Bros. approached him with the idea of making some kind of small-screen spin-off of "The Suicide Squad." Likely expecting that Gunn would need time to mull over the concept, the filmmaker, the filmmaker actually had a whole show based on the Peacemaker character ready to rock 'n' roll. Gunn then opted to film it during a previously allotted break period between "The Suicide Squad" finishing post-production and "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" beginning filming. All it took to birth the very first DC Extended Universe TV show was a creative director finding a way to pass the time during the pandemic.

Why Peacemaker seemed ripe for a TV show

James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad" has no shortage of colorfully costumed supervillains, ranging from a gigantic shark to a lady who controls hordes of rats. Given all the options available, it begs the question of what led Gunn to figure that Peacemaker was the member of the movie's ensemble cast most deserving of a solo TV show spin-off. Interestingly, it turns out what drew Gunn to making "Peacemaker" wasn't necessarily what was in "The Suicide Squad," but what moviegoers didn't see in that DC Extended Universe title.

In an interview with Variety, Gunn explained that unlike the other lead characters of "The Suicide Squad," audiences never get to see or understand Peacemaker's backstory — he is only rendered as an antagonistic force for people like Rick Flagg and Ratcatcher II to deal with. While that serves the blockbuster's story just fine, Gunn opted to use a "Peacemaker" TV show to explore just who this uber-patriotic guy is throughout eight episodes. Gunn also noted that a moment in "The Suicide Squad" — where Peacemaker nods when Bloodsport refers to his abusive father — further inspired him to delve into Peacemaker's earlier life through a TV show. That program will pay off this nod by featuring the character's own cruel father in the form of Auggie Smith (Robert Patrick).

With enough vagueness surrounding Peacemaker, it became obvious that he was the right man to headline a "Suicide Squad" spin-off program.

How The Suicide Squad's post-credits tease for Peacemaker came together

If you just watched "The Suicide Squad" without sticking around for the credits or without any knowledge about what James Gunn had planned for the future, it'd be understandable to believe that Peacemaker had simply met his end. After getting dispatched by a "smaller bullet" fired off by Bloodsport, Peacemaker falls to the ground and is never seen again once Starro is unleashed. That might seem like the end of his story, but a post-credits scene reveals that Peacemaker is alive in a hospital bed. Not only that, but Amanda Waller has recruited him for some kind of further mission.

This scene is meant to set up the "Peacemaker" TV show, including having that program's lead characters — John Economos and Emilia Harcourt — showing up to inspect Peacemaker. Talking to Collider, Gunn revealed that this scene in "The Suicide Squad" was added in post-production since the director did not originally intend to make a "Peacemaker" TV show. This little coda ended up working on multiple levels, as it also fulfilled Gunn's wish of figuring out something to deliver once the credits had finished rolling. Thanks to the need to clarify Peacemaker's fate, he got his wish.

The grounded qualities of Peacemaker

Part of what made "The Suicide Squad" stand out in the superhero movie landscape is how it embraced the kind of stylized imagery and characters that defined classic comic books. Rather than translate the likes of The Thinker or Starro into more grounded forms, these beings waltzed onto the big screen as if they had just wandered off the comic book page. This feels right at home in the works of James Gunn, where the filmmaker doesn't have any pretensions about using a talking raccoon or even utilizing over-the-top concepts in original fare like "Slither."

While talking to The Hollywood Reporter about the "Peacemaker" TV show, Gunn noted that the show would continue the fun and heightened qualities of "The Suicide Squad" movie, but that it wouldn't just be a tonal rehash of that film. Instead, "Peacemaker" would use the inherently smaller-scale nature of television shows to deliver something that was "even more grounded" and "quieter" compared to "The Suicide Squad." It would also put aside more time to develop its characters while the central storyline of the show commented on "society." These were some weighty aspirations for a show that featured John Cena dancing around in his underwear and firing off vulgar retorts before killing people. Though "Peacemaker" would carry a more "grounded" aesthetic, Gunn did reassure fans that there wouldn't be any shortage of the over-the-top science fiction mayhem that made "The Suicide Squad" such a riot to watch.

Why Peacemaker was filmed in Canada

Live-action TV shows based on DC Comics characters have often used the glorious landscapes of Canada as backdrops for principal photography (particularly the ones that occupy the Arrowverse and air on The CW). This means the decision to film the 1st season of "Peacemaker" in Vancouver, British Columbia is something that shouldn't be a major shock, even though "The Suicide Squad" opted to film in other territories like Atlanta, Georgia. However, it turns out that more reasons informed this filming decision than just the positive track record of shooting DC programming in this region of North America.

On Twitter, James Gunn responded to a fan query about the "Peacemaker" filming locations by revealing that the show was always going to have a Pacific Northwest backdrop — a look that Canadian locales could easily mimic. However, an even greater influence on the decision to go to up North and film "Peacemaker" was due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This health crisis was impacting the global entertainment scene in various ways, and Gunn wanted to keep his cast and crew safe. Believing that Canada was doing a much better job of responding to this event than America, Gunn's decision to film "Peacemaker" in Canada was solidified. The debut DC Extended Universe TV show had a filming location — one that would be familiar to anyone who watched other live-action DC Comics TV shows.

How a Scooby-Doo audition tape secured a cast member

Long before James Gunn directed the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movies and "The Suicide Squad," his biggest foray into Hollywood filmmaking was writing the screenplays for the two live-action theatrical "Scooby-Doo" movies. In some ways, these family titles are an anomaly in his career, namely in how they're PG-rated features aimed at kids. However, these films established the genre-savvy humor that Gunn would later incorporate into his big-budget superhero fare and even smaller projects like "Slither." Meanwhile, Gunn has been open about how "Scooby-Doo" forever altered his career trajectory, meaning fans of "Guardians of the Galaxy" and other Gunn projects owe "Scooby-Doo" quite a debt of gratitude.

The ripple effects of "Scooby-Doo" even continued into Gunn's forays with "Peacemaker" when it came to casting the show's supporting players. As revealed on "The Dave and Creech Show," Lochlyn Munro secured his place in the supporting cast of "Peacemaker" partially because of a positive impression he left on Gunn years prior when they were casting the first "Scooby-Doo." Notably, Munro was one of Gunn's favorite choices to play a live-action version of Shaggy Rogers. Although Matthew Lillard would eventually secure the part, Gunn had fond enough memories of Munro's audition that he kept him in mind for a role in "Peacemaker." That's a development shocking enough to make anyone go "Zoinks!"

The familiar elements in Peacemaker that Cena loves

In his acting career, John Cena has managed to procure an eclectic collection of roles. Some are just silly, like his lead role in "Playing with Fire" or voice work as a polar bear whose dad "left for a pack of seals and never came back" in "Dolittle." However, he's also done interesting work playing a flustered suburban dad in "Blockers," an injured soldier in "The Wall," and an infatuated crush in "Trainwreck." This wide assortment of performances means that Cena isn't content just playing one role and, by proxy, isn't intrigued by just one detail when approaching characters. Indeed, there's always gotta be something unique to draw Cena to the table.

When it came to reprising the titular role of "Peacemaker," what got Cena to sink his teeth into this raunchy project was the prospect of exploring a guy who was molded by a dysfunctional upbringing and delving into the ramifications of that in the present. For Cena, these darker underpinnings helped ground a role that could've just lapsed into caricature and also ensured that Peacemaker would be going into new territory compared to his antics in "The Suicide Squad." Understanding how the familial details of "Peacemaker" influenced Cena's decision to join the project makes it clear why this TV show became the latest in Cena's long line of unique acting credits.

John Cena's on-set antics may have inspired the show

While James Gunn has gone on record about what drove him to make a spin-off TV show for Peacemaker, John Cena has his theories about what inspired this particular "The Suicide Squad" character to get his program. For Cena, it wasn't so much the character's comic book origins or untapped storylines in "The Suicide Squad" that brought this HBO Max production into existence. No, Cena believes it was his own ribald on-set antics that inspired Gunn to realize the potential Peacemaker had for solo escapades.

Talking to NME, Cena revealed that while filming "The Suicide Squad," it took him a good long while to tap into what made Peacemaker tick and to figure out how to properly portray him. Getting there included engaging in improvised antics and raunchy dialogue during filming that got left on the cutting room floor. However, despite the absence of this material from the final cut of "The Suicide Squad," Cena is convinced that these off-the-cuff shenanigans are what inspired Gunn to realize the potential Peacemaker had as a solo character. For Cena, these moments on the set proved that the character could still be entertaining when entirely divorced from Harley Quinn and Bloodsport. Not only does this anecdote reflect how Cena's interpretation of Peacemaker came to be, but it also epitomizes just how deeply Cena cares about nailing this particular character.

How Danielle Brooks was sought out for Peacemaker

Stories of how people are cast in major comic book adaptations usually involve hundreds of auditions and one particular performer managing to emerge as a shining diamond in the rough to whoever's in charge of the production. For "Peacemaker's" leading lady Danielle Brooks, though, a different path was taken. Interestingly, James Gunn actually penned the character of Leota Adebayo with Brooks in mind to play her. This was a big gamble, but one that impressed Brooks when she was first approached about the project.

Talking to Variety, Brooks detailed how Gunn was a fan of her work on "Orange Is the New Black" and, inspired by her performance, decided to make Adebayo a "Peacemaker" character that could only be played by Brooks. This led to Gunn and Brooks having a sit-down where the duo discussed the character of Adebayo and how much Gunn wanted her to join the project. The conversation also involved Brooks telling Gunn that she'd never seen anyone that looked like her in a comic book adaptation universe before, causing Gunn to note that she was perfect the way she was for the part. After all, if she wasn't ready to portray Adebayo, would Gunn have written the part for her?

How Danielle Brooks felt doing action scenes

Danielle Brooks has already had an extensive acting career that spans a lead role on "Orange Is the New Black" as well as acclaimed stage performers on Broadway in programs like "The Color Purple." However, none of those works involved as many hand-to-hand fistfights and action scenes as her performance as Leota Adebayo on "Peacemaker." Despite being a newbie to the world of acting, Brooks was quite excited about regularly engaging in skirmishes alongside the titular costumed crime fighter of "Peacemaker."

"I kept telling James I want to do all my stunts; please let me do everything," Brooks explained to Variety. "And I did a lot: [I] jumped over stuff, and I got harnessed up in some things. They still use my stunt woman, who was wonderful, but I was able to at least attempt them first. I remember James Gunn saying, 'Yo, Danielle, you're finally an action hero!'" Such a statement apparently moved Brooks deeply and reaffirmed her love for taking on roles that allow her to surprise people. It also furthered her excitement over doing a production that was, in many ways, drastically different from anything else on her resume.

The recasting of Vigilante

The main cast of "Peacemaker" relies heavily on characters seen in "The Suicide Squad," but the show isn't afraid to deliver new people for the titular anti-hero to interact with, especially in its recurring cast. Among those is DC Comics anti-hero mainstay Vigilante, portrayed by Freddie Stroma. However, Stroma was not the first pick for the role — Chris Conrad was originally set to play this costumed foil to Peacemaker. It wasn't until shortly into principal photography that Conrad was ditched in favor of Stroma.

Given his experience with real fighting styles like kickboxing — not to mention his experience in modern limited-run TV shows like "Perpetual Grace, LTD" and "Patriot" — Conrad seemed, on paper, like a perfect fit for the first DC Extended Universe TV show. However, he parted ways from playing Vigilante over "creative differences." The news of departure was coupled with the reveal that Stroma would be taking over the part. Having appeared in the last three "Harry Potter" movies and a trio of "Bridgerton" episodes, Stroma was no stranger to acting in high-profile projects even before he donned the Vigilante costume. Once he took over this part, no further reports emerged over creative disputes between the "Peacemaker" producers and the actor behind Vigilante.

Peacemaker might just be the beginning of The Suicide Squad TV spin-offs

A comic book movie inspiring multiple continuations is not a novel concept. On the contrary, it's been the norm ever since the original Tim Burton "Batman" inspired a trio of sequels to release within eight years of its initial debut. But in the modern age of streaming, follow-ups are no longer limited to just theatrically released sequels — they can also come in the form of streaming TV shows, like "Peacemaker." Given the ubiquity of such projects, it shouldn't be a surprise that James Gunn does not see "Peacemaker" as a one-off way of continuing the world of "The Suicide Squad."

In early 2021, Gunn hinted on social media that there were plans for additional streaming spin-offs of "The Suicide Squad," though he gave no indication of which characters they would focus on. Just a few days before the first episode of "Peacemaker" debuted on HBO Max," Gunn went even further and confirmed that he's working on a new TV project for DC Entertainment, which is a sign that these prospective spin-offs are inching closer to becoming a reality. It's all part of the new modern landscape of how to expand on the universe of one film — a task Gunn appears quite pleased to execute.