This year, HBO Max has been treating viewers to a whole new corner of the DC universe with Peacemaker. The live-action streaming series has spun out of the events of The Suicide Squad, pitting Christopher Smith / Peacemaker (John Cena) and an ensemble of allies against a new alien conspiracy. One familiar face within the events of Peacemaker is John Economos (Steve Agee), a warden at Belle Reve Prison who previously appeared in a supporting capacity in The Suicide Squad. Agee is no stranger to collaborating with Peacemaker creator James Gunn, previously portraying Gef the Ravager in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and also providing the mo-cap work for King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) in The Suicide Squad.
In celebration of the Peacemaker finale, ComicBook.com got a chance to chat with Agee about Economos' biggest moments of the season, including a few key instances in the Season 1 finale. We also spoke about that major DCEU cameo, Agee's hopes for Economos in Season 2, a possible King Shark return, and more.
ComicBook.com: To start off, it was literally just announced before we started talking that the finale had the best single-day performance of an HBO Max Original ever. I wanted to get your reaction to that, because that is just so wild.
Steve Agee: I literally just saw that too, before we came in. That's crazy. That's a tough one to wrap your head around, because HBO has had some massive, massive shows. It means a lot, and I'm glad we get to keep going with another season.prevnext
Overall, what has it been like to see the fan response of people watching the episodes every week? The "Peacemaker Parties" on Twitter have been so wild. What has that been like for you to see that?
It's been huge. I mean, this has been my first series regular since The Sarah Silverman Program in 2007 or 2008. You can get a feel for how a show's doing when you're out in public and people are going, "Oh my God, I love your show." But we're in COVID — and first of all, I'm not going out, but when I do, I have a mask on my face. The internet and social media are really the only place you're able to gauge how your show is doing, because I'm not getting the analytics from HBO. I don't know how it's doing. I just hear it from people on Instagram and Twitter. I had no idea how well it's doing. I'm just sitting here, playing Destiny on my Xbox. I'm like, "It did what? It's doing how good? Oh my God!" Social media is really the only gauge I have right now to see how it's doing.prevnext
One question I've been wanting to ask you since I first watched the episodes — what was it like to chainsaw a gorilla in half? That is one of the coolest scenes in the entire show.
It was cool knowing that I was going to do it, and it was cool to see it happen. When you shoot it, there's obviously not a gorilla there. There's just a big piece of plywood with a cut in the middle that you glide your chainsaw through. You get really excited and then you show up and you're like, "Oh, it's just a piece of plywood." But there's a hose attached to the chainsaw, and it's just blowing blood into your face, which is really cool. It looked great. It turned out great. It was a great moment for Economos to come in and save the day.prevnext
The scene between you and Peacemaker, where he lists off all the names of pop culture figures to frame — were you expecting that to blow up as much as it did?
I had no idea! The original version of that was just two names. When I said, "I couldn't think of anybody else to frame," he said, "How about Ariana Grande or Drake?" And that was it. He said it in the room and James just yelled from back behind his monitor, like, "Keep going! Just keep naming names." John just started relentlessly spewing names, and James would yell out names for him to say.
I also think that we didn't use all the footage. I know, at the end of the episode and the end credits, they showed an extended version of that, which somebody I saw put actual cutouts of the people that he is naming. It looked like the Sgt. Pepper's album cover by the end of it. But I still think there were more names. I could be wrong, but I think there was even more that we didn't use.prevnext
Going into the finale, you have the big moment with the "Dye Beard" of it all. I was reading in other interviews that you struggled keeping that beard in real life, while you were filming Squad and filming this. How did it feel to have that emotional payoff?
It was great. I mean, from the moment I saw the script for episode eight, I was like, "Oh, thank God!" It's now justified. There's a reason that I've had this beard for two projects in two years. I mean, I didn't have the beard when we weren't shooting — between shows I shaved — but having to grow it back and re-dye it.
In the series, having to make it even more pronounced and showing more of the roots was just a bummer, when I'd walk around on the streets. I was just like, "Ah, I look like an idiot." But that moment really paid off and completely made it worth it.prevnext
I do have to ask, in the finale, about the scene where Economos gets injured. There's a lot of squeamish things on this show, but that was one in my household that got an audible reaction. What was it like to play that?
It was weird. I went into a prosthetic shop, and they made a cast of my leg to make this. It's a compound fracture when the bone comes out of the skin. And there was a version, a day or two before, that they brought in it to set to show James, and James was like, "Absolutely not." It was so disgusting. There was a version that was so gross that James was like, "Nope. No, we got to tone it down a little bit." What you see wasn't even as bad as what it actually looked like.
They had to tear my pants. And I'm literally just laying there with the broken leg. My actually leg is just curled behind me. I mean, it was as basic as you could get as far as practical effects.prevnext
I would be remiss if I didn't ask about the Justice League of it all. How does it feel to have John Economos have cross paths with the Justice League, even just for such a brief moment?
It was exciting. I am a big Justice League fan. I like those characters. I like the look of the characters. I like the dramatic feel for those movies. I was a fan of [Zack] Snyder's Justice League. It was so crazy to shoot it. I mean, that's all real. They were standing there. We had Superman on a wire. There was a person hanging there. That wasn't digitally put in there. We had people, same sizes and the same suits. And seeing them silhouetted like that was really amazing for me, as a fan of those movies, to see that. It was awesome. It was so awesome. It was really hard not to talk about it and tell my friends.prevnext
Speaking to the larger DC universe, Economos is responsible for so many of the references in the show. I'm a massive Green Arrow fan, so I love that you got to be part of canonizing Green Arrow in this universe. What was your favorite DC reference that you got to be a part of on the show?
Any of the really obscure characters, because I my knowledge of DC and comic books in general — even if you bring in Marvel — my knowledge comes from the movies. It doesn't come from comic books. It's really about as basic as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man. Those are the ones that I know. I didn't even know who Judomaster was. I didn't know who Polka-Dot Man was. At one point, I thought Eagly was part of the DC world. James was like, "No, I just made that one up."
But I really, more than anything, I want to see Bat-Mite, I think. I would love to see Bat-Mite in this world. Or Matter-Eater Lad, which I didn't know was a thing. And I was like, "I want to see this. I really want to see how they would make that happen."prevnext
Now that Season 2 is officially happening — what would you like to see Economos's story evolve to, whenever we see him next?
I don't know. I mean, what I know from the comics is that Economos is the warden of Belle Reve Prison. Even if you get the Ostrander comics, there's very little. He doesn't really see eye to eye with Waller. He is the warden at the prison, and he's been divorced three times. That's all we know. I would love to see something with Economos having to deal with headaches with his ex-wives.
Clearly, I need to see a change in this beard. I'm not a fan of all the gray in my beard, but I'm not a fan of dyeing it. I wouldn't mind it shaved down to just stubble, or no beard at all. But yeah, for Economos, the biggest thing I want to see happen is the something different with this beard. But I got to be careful what I wish for, because James would come up with something way worse, like "Grow it out! Start growing it now. We're going to grow it for a year. I want you to have just a huge ZZ Top beard." He would do that too.prevnext
King Shark Return
I loved the physical work you did for King Shark in The Suicide Squad. Would you be willing to return to King Shark, if he were to pop up in another thing?
100%. I loved doing King Shark. It was so much fun, and that was the majority of my work on Suicide Squad. As far as Economos, I think I shot for maybe five days. In King Shark, I shot for 70 or 75 days. I think I worked on the movie more than any other actor, I think Margot [Robbie] was the second closest, with maybe high 70s or something.
It was fun just to get to be around Idris [Elba] and Margot and David [Dastmalchian] and Daniela [Melchior]. God, it was a lot of fun, and it's such a lovable character and I really loved doing it. I hope, if they use him somewhere else in the universe, I hope they let me do it.
Season 1 of Peacemaker is now available to stream in its entirety on HBO Max.prev