Christian Slater on Why He Loves Playing Deadshot in 'Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay'

Hollywood icon Christian Slater has returned once again to the role of Deadshot, the lead role in the animated feature film Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, and he seems pretty at home with Floyd Lawton.

The character, played by Will Smith in the live-action movie, is a hitman with a heart of gold and a family that he had to leave behind when his lifetime of bloody mayhem landed him first in jail, and then in Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad program.

Slater joined to discuss the film, which is available digitally now and will be out on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday.

With Deadshot in particular, is it fun to tackle a character who can kind of get away with almost anything?

Yes sir. Without question. This is a character I've always loved. I've come to know this character in the last five to six years, I think, and I just found him to be one of the more intriguing, questionable, sort of heartbreaking characters out there in the DC Universe.

I mean, he's really made some questionable choices, he's having to deal with this crazy world, crazy circumstance, you know. He's a prisoner right now, and really fighting hardest to get through these situations and get back to his daughter. I think that makes him somebody a lot of people can relate to and understand and identify with.

Is there a qualitative difference in the way that you approach the character when you're doing the feature work as opposed to something like Justice League Action that's meant for a broader and younger audience?

Certainly, I think so. One has a G rating and one has an R rating.

The freedom, I think, for everybody in the R rated situation is I think very exciting, and something that I think DC is discovering audiences really do enjoy.

It particularly works well, I think, with this gang of antiheroes. These guys, they're the Suicide Squad. They're not going to make the heroic choices that a Superman or a Batman might make. They're going to make choices that would be, seemingly, questionable. They're living in a much darker world, if you can possibly imagine, than Batman. They're really dealing with the seedy, lower companion arena.

This rating works in that universe. They're chopping off heads, and really making some wild decisions here. So there's just a ragtag, dangerous quality to these guys. Putting them in this kind of atmosphere is absolutely right for them.

When you come to these things that have histories and multiple iterations, are you the sort of actor who immerses yourself in research, or are you the sort of person who looks at the script and says, "All I wanna know is what's in the script?"

It depends, I think, on the situation.

I think I've always been much more of a guy who likes to immerse himself in it as much as possible. I've always looked at this business, whatever role it is that I'm getting the opportunity to play, as a gift, something that I get to do, and who wouldn't like the chance and the opportunity to put on somebody else's shoes and really inhabit that person for a time being.

I think we all go to the movies, or read a book, or watch a TV show, as an opportunity to escape. And as an actor, I actually get to escape into another human being. So that's pretty fun.

Doing a role like this was similar. This was a character that I have always liked, and enjoyed watching, enjoyed reading about, and like I said, he was somebody that I could relate to, and understand, and have some compassion for. As much of an antihero as he is, I do feel like he has a good heart, and wants to do the right thing but isn't always given that opportunity.

In a thing like Suicide Squad, do you get to find the heroism in that character in part by bouncing off of the other characters?

Sure. It's definitely a delicate balance. Deadshot does have, as far as being a character who has done some questionable things, he does have an extraordinary leadership quality, which is why the boss always puts him in charge, you know? He does have a calm, cool quality that a leader should have, particularly in this kind of atmosphere, where he's really been forced to do, put in charge situation where it's a little bit like herding cats.

You're really dealing with some unpredictable, crazy characters, but for some reason, whatever it is, whatever frequency that Deadshot is on, a person like Harley Quinn will fall into line to a certain degree as long as he is the one calling the shots. If you take Deadshot out of that equation, things do tend to unravel a lot faster.

Is it a little bit more fun to play this character now that you've done it for a while, and I feel like it's being written for you, as opposed to probably the first time you came in, it was written, and then you joined it and left your mark?

It was fascinating that when I first went in and did the Justice League recordings, there was an immediate, I don't know what it was, but just an immediate connection to this character, between my voice and however they were animating, and what the story was. I don't know what it is. It's hard to put into words, but it felt extraordinarily seamless. There's just been a nice synergy between me, my voice, the animation, and the writing.

It kind of happened in a nice, cohesive manner that has been working to this point. I'm very happy about it, very grateful for it. Like I said, I love this character, I love voicing it, and if we could do more and continue along on this journey, I'd be thrilled to be a part of it.

It seems like both versions of Deadshot that are out there right now -- yours, and Will Smith's -- are more or less written to suit the actor.

When we are recording it, as much as I am trying to immerse myself in the Deadshot mentality, I can't help but have some elements of myself, and some elements of maybe characters that I've portrayed in the past sort of seep into it.

It's a combination of all of those aspects coalescing into a very nice formula, and it's great to be a part of, and I'm loving the team that puts it together. I'm enjoying the experience. I really, really am. It's a lot of fun.

Do you feel like there's more eyes on what you guys are doing this time around, because of the attention that the live action version has brought to how good the previous animated one was?

I think so. Without a doubt, the creators are always looking to find ways to step up their game, find interesting scenarios, put characters in there where there can be actual, real conflict, real competition, real chemistry, interesting bad guys, and also having this rating opportunity to really push the boundaries as much as possible and show these guys in this world in the actual real light that they might actually be living in.

Having an audience sitting there and gasping and shouting, that's what I was doing when I was watching this movie, I was going, "Whoa, hey, man. This is intense." And, "Wow, I didn't think she was gonna do that," or, "I didn't think he was gonna do that," or, "I did not see that coming."

I think the team of Suicide Squad really lends itself beautifully to the R-rated world, without a doubt. This is hard core stuff. It's not for the light hearted. It's for the real comic book fan, I think. It pushes the envelope of what animation can do, which is very exciting.

Floyd is a character who comes across most of the time as unflappable. But he's also a dude with a gun in this universe full of gods and monsters. Is it tougher when you're doing a voice performance to try and get across the sense of exasperation that a character like that must feel sometimes?


There was some nice elements in the writing that got to express that. When Deadshot does leave the team and go out on his own, and uses it as an opportunity to, when he's out of jail, to go and try and see his daughter, and see that world, and how sad that is.

Of course, he's being tracked by Tiger at that time. And I was curious to see who would win that fight, Tiger being the best martial artist. I wanted to see what would happen in a real fight between Deadshot and that character, who would actually win. That fight came to an end before we got to see which one of these guys would kill each other.