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The Unexpected Advice James Gunn Gave Cena About Playing Peacemaker

Shortly after it began airing, HBO Max superhero series "Peacemaker" secured a 94% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the higher than that of any other TV or film entry in the DC Extended Cinematic Universe. While critics have praised various aspects of "Peacemaker," John Cena's performance as its titular character is at the heart of the show's success.

In an interview with Looper, Cena's co-star Steve Agee revealed that, not only is Cena plenty capable of performing what's written for him on the page, but he's a skilled improviser too. Agee then praised Cena's dramatic chops in equal measure, crediting Cena and showrunner James Gunn both for bestowing considerable depth upon a character that previously seemed two-dimensional when he debuted in "The Suicide Squad."

Cena himself recently shared some new insight into the process through which he developed his critically-acclaimed take on Peacemaker. Specifically he revealed in an interview that he received some unexpected advice from Gunn early on that influenced his approach to portraying an established comic book character on-screen.

James Gunn told John Cena to avoid reading Peacemaker comics

Dressed in the character's superhero outfit, John Cena discussed when he first started portraying Peacemaker in "The Suicide Squad" during an interview with GQ shared to the magazine's YouTube channel. As he was developing his approach to embodying the character, he explained, Gunn provided him with some advice that shaped how he understood the role.

"In doing my research," Cena said, "James told me, 'Don't read the comic books. Read the script. This is a comic book persona that has a bunch of existences out there from different people putting out comics about Peacemaker. So I'm just gonna make my own thing.'"

In essence, Gunn acknowledged the fact that comic book superheroes inherently appear in various, sometimes divergent incarnations depending on who authored a given series entry. Gunn therefore preferred that Cena simply attempt to understand Peacemaker through his scripts rather than complicate this new version of the character with knowledge of his comic book source material.

This tracks with a reason Cena gave for being drawn to the role initially. Because Peacemaker isn't widely-known, he expressed, it was easier to make the character his own without feeling beholden to viewers' preconceived notions, as would be the case with an iconic figure like Batman, for example. Gunn and Cena, then, seem to have be on the same page, preferring that their new live action Peacemaker essentially exist separately from prior versions of the character.