With writer-director James Gunn’s Peacemaker now streaming on HBO Max, I recently spoke with John Cena about making the fantastic series. During the interview, he talked about filming the opening credits, how the fight sequence in his underwear was physically painful due to his inability to hide pads on the floor or in his costume, Peacemaker’s relationship with Eagly, and more. In addition, he talked about the success of Vacation Friends and how excited he was to work with Matthew Vaughn on the upcoming spy movie Argylle.
As most of you know, Peacemaker picks up after the events of The Suicide Squad. The film’s post-credit scene showed how the anti-hero survived Idris Alba‘s Bloodsport shot to the throat and how Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller still was not done using him in her mysterious plans. Gunn has written all eight episodes of the series and directs five of the show’s episodes. Also directing will be Jody Hill, Rosemary Rodriguez, and Brad Anderson.
In addition to Cena returning as Peacemaker, the series will also see the return of The Suicide Squad’s Steve Agee’s John Economos and Jennifer Holland’s Emilia Harcourt. Peacemaker also stars Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo, Chukwudi Iwuji as Clemson Murn, and Robert Patrick as Peacemaker’s father.
Watch what John Cena had to say in the player above, or you can read the transcript below.
COLLIDER: First of all, congrats on Peacemaker. It is very good.
JOHN CENA: Oh, thanks, man. Thank you.
But I’m friendly with Matthew Vaughn, and he told me he was really impressed with your work on Argylle. He said some very positive things about you. So, I just have to ask you, what was it like working with him?
CENA: Man, I’m a huge fan of his work. He’s probably a bigger fan of Kingsman than me, but I’m a huge fan. The script was amazing, and to be able to be asked to be able to be part of a project like that, it’s a dream come true. We talk a bunch, almost every time we talk, I express that I don’t know what the hell’s going on or why it’s happening, and I’m just grateful for everything that is happening. I don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true.
I can’t wait because he does action… And it’s also Brad Allen’s last project for being the action director, but we’ll talk about that down the road. Jumping into Peacemaker, what made you more nervous, when James told you about the opening credits and what you’d be doing, or the entire fight sequence in your underwear?
CENA: Both. The fight sequence in the underwear had its own set of setbacks. I loved the fight sequence in the underwear because what a symbol of vulnerability and what a symbol of humanizing someone that you only see in a helmet, a uniform. I love that aspect about it. But then the negative is no pad. So like for the stunt falls, Spencer Thomas is an absolute stud. He’s the guy who took a lot of the big stuff, including jumping out of a building. But that area is about as close to a ring as you’re going to get, so I was also adamant about wanting to do a whole lot of that fight myself. The only problem is you can’t grip on a hardwood floor and it really hurts when you fall because there’s nowhere to hide any pad, which is a lot of reason why you see actors wear long sleeves.
The Peacemaker’s short-sleeve costume in itself has a lot of setbacks when it comes to doing really difficult stunt work because you just can’t put pads on places you try to land, like your elbows, your shoulder for instance, your forearms, wrists. The opening dance number, I can’t dance. So I was nervous and like, “I’m not going to be any good at this.” So you dive into that philosophical question of, “Am I enough?” Being self-aware enough to approach the concept of, “Well, am I enough? I’m not going to be any good at this.” They’re all going to laugh at you, to quote an Adam Sandler soundbite. You know what? I really enjoyed the concept of it and it is super weird and everyone that sees it is like, “Yo, it made me just forget about the skip intro button.” So, mission accomplished, and it was a step to walk the talk. “Hey, this is something you’re not going to be good at. You’re going to have to work hard at it. It’s not going to be easy, but hopefully in the end it’ll be okay.” And it was.
I’ve watched seven of the eight episodes and each time the credits came on, I just had a big smile on my face because it’s so good. Also the song by Wig Wam.
CENA: Yep. I also think it changes in its polarity throughout the course of the episodes. Sometimes it’s like the John Cena horns, the theme music, because it’s such a big ballad and it just really starts out like that. And there are sometimes where it’s eerily sad and melancholy for being such a weird ballad. The tone of the dance takes you on a different ride because of what you just saw and what you’re about to see. So it has chameleon-like tendencies too and I enjoy that about it.
I told James, I asked him if there was an extended version and he said no, and I was ready to rage quit the interview. But anyway.
CENA: I think James squeezed all the water out of that rock he could.
It’s so good though. I can’t wait for people to see it. Talk a little bit about your relationship with Eagly because obviously it’s amazing and fans are going to love it and there’s a lot of emotion with a character.
CENA: Sure can. I think it’s very important in a lot of dynamics. First of all, Eagly is a scene stealer, no doubt. He has personality and its quirky, certainly more attitudinal catlike than doglike, but cutting to the chase as far as Peacemaker’s perspective, Eagly is Peacemaker’s best friend and that says a lot about the human connections that Peacemaker has allowed himself to have. I think that explains a lot of why his worldview may be the way it is. So just in that perspective alone, I think Eagly is very important. Eagly, like I said, is an integral part of the team and a scene stealer, but is also Peacemaker’s best friend, which is beautiful in some moments. When you get hugged by an Eagle, that’s magical man. But also it says a lot about Peacemaker’s life and how he lives his life.
Obviously, you play Peacemaker on The Suicide Squad. It’s a completely different dynamic making a movie. You have sometimes days to film a sequence. When you’re making Peacemaker, obviously the schedule is way abbreviated and it’s much faster because it’s a TV series. What was it like playing making your first series like this?
CENA: Oh, it was a pleasure. Never once did it feel rushed and never once did we fall behind, even with the restrictions of COVID, and it was right in the heart of all of it. Everybody came prepared. I think everybody knew it was going to be a lot of work, but it was work the entire cast, both on camera and behind the camera, the crew, everybody had fun with. It started from day one, me dancing in my underwear, and it was a tidal wave after that. I think that the main difference was that you got to see a lightning bolt of the character in The Suicide Squad, and then you can kind of stay for an extended journey and really lean into the character.
And I know the cool thing about it is, not everybody felt positive about Peacemaker after The Suicide Squad. A lot of folks were like, “Why are you giving this dipshit his own show? This guy is not a likable dude.” But I also find that interesting because if you look deeper into the performances of The Suicide Squad, there are these microsecond nuanced human moments, which shows potential. Potential for growth, potential for development, potential for exploration, which is really good when you’re trying to craft an eight-episode TV series.
Were you a little bit surprised at the success of Vacation Friends?
CENA: I was. I had a blast making the movie. I pretty much got to be on vacation and enjoy, but comedy is tough. It really is. What you think is funny, someone else may not think is funny. We got a great group of people to make that movie. Clay Tarver, the director wrote the movie and he’s a funny SOB. And certainly, Rel and Yvonne and Meredith and everybody involved in the cast. We got a great group together. We all had fun making it. But man, I’m so much more nervous for comedy than I am for something like a superhero venture because it’s a lot more accepted of like, “Okay, uniform, superpower, association with Marvel or DC, I kind of get it.” Whereas like, this is our funny. It’s so open for interpretation. I was very pleasantly surprised with the success of Vacation Friends, because man, it was a bunch of fun. Yeah, that was a pleasant surprise. I know they’re writing a sequel and I can’t wait to do another one.
Listen man, congrats on everything. I wish you nothing but the best.
CENA: Oh, thank you. It’s good to talk to you again.
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