Peacemaker: James Gunn Teases "Compassion" at Center of HBO Max Series

This Thursday will see the three-episode series premiere of Peacemaker, the latest collaboration between writer-director James Gunn and actor John Cena. The live-action series is set after the events of The Suicide Squad and chronicles a personal and emotional story for Christopher Smith / Peacemaker (John Cena), a pacifist vigilante who will kill anyone to fulfill his mission. The show takes the stereotypically-masculine aspects of Peacemaker's comic tenure — from his comics debut in the 1960s, to his DC renaissance in the 1980s, to his modern appearances — and uses them to tell a character-driven and often-surprising story. While speaking to ahead of Peacemaker's premiere, Gunn, who wrote all eight episodes of the series and directed five of them, broke down its approach to masculinity, and argued that it allows for "compassion" to ultimately be at the center of the narrative.

"I didn't go out to say I wanted to tell the story about toxic masculinity, just like I didn't do that in my other movies," Gunn explained in our interview, which you can check out above. "Well, a little bit moreso in The Suicide Squad, actually. That was sort of in the forefront of my brain. I mean, at the end of the movie, you see the character that's the masculine character save the day by becoming completely vulnerable with Ratcatcher. So it's always a part of the stuff I do."

"I think that for me, really, it was about Peacemaker's political belief system, and some of the masculinity issues are part and parcel with that," Gunn continued. "It was about having somebody like Peacemaker, who has this umbrella of beliefs over him and believes everything he reads on the internet. And then having Leota Adebayo, played by Danielle Brooks, who has a completely different way of looking at the world. Yet, somehow, they find something in each other that is common — and actually, they really love each other. That relationship, to me, is the central love story. It's not romantic. It's not sexual. It's just about two people who can see beyond the exterior of what people are, to who they really are as human beings. It is that understanding, and that compassion, that I think allows for change in this world, and I think that it's something that is not given out very easily. We aren't very generous, especially on social media. And generosity is something that we could all use a little bit more of, including me."

Peacemaker will star Cena, Danielle Brooks as Leota Adebayo, Robert Patrick as Auggie Smith, Jennifer Holland as Emilia Harcourt, Steve Agee as John Economos, Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Christopher Heyerdahl as Captain Locke, Chukwudi Iwuji as Clemson Murn, Lochlyn Munro as Larry Fitzgibbon, Annie Chang as Sophie Song, Elizabeth Faith Ludlow as Keeya, and Rizwan Manji as Jamil. 

Are you excited for Peacemaker? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

The first three episodes of Peacemaker will debut on Thursday, January 13th exclusively on HBO Max.