James Gunn is taking a shot at his "f*cked up" version of television's Captain America with John Cena in Peacemaker. The rough and raunchy HBO Max series, a spinoff of his R-rated film The Suicide Squad, goes under the helmet of the violent vigilante Christopher Smith (Cena): a born killer and weapons expert who murders in the name of freedom and peace. As Peacemaker premieres with its first three episodes Thursday, Gunn says the DC original series is inspired in part by the late 1970s made-for-television Captain America movies that starred Reb Brown as Marvel's most patriotic superhero.
"I think it was a lot of different things [that appealed to me about Peacemaker]. Number one, I loved the Captain America TV movie from when I was a kid. I'm like, 'What would a really f*cked up version of that be like?'" the Peacemaker series creator said on the official Podly: The Peacemaker Podcast. "If you ever go back and see it, it's terrible. But as a child, I loved it. So I'm like, 'What, in my brain, was that show?' Then you take that to sort of this extreme place, and that's Peacemaker."
After recruiting a new team of expendable misfits to Task Force X in last summer's The Suicide Squad, including the colorful Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian) and the rat-controlling Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), the Guardians of the Galaxy filmmaker is out to continue his streak of oddball superheroes. In Peacemaker, the titular killer crosses paths with lesser-known characters like the costumed Vigilante (Freddie Stroma) and the martial artist Judomaster (Nhut Le).
"I'm interested in superheroes that are different, whether it's their superpower that's different like Ratcatcher 2. She has that superpower that we don't normally see, control of animals, that's much more interesting to me than all these people shooting ray guns out of their hands," said Gunn. "But Peacemaker is like, he's kind of a bad guy, he's kind of a piece of crap, but he does have a point (laughs). He really does have a point, so I can see where he's coming from, and I also can think that he's wrong, and that makes an interesting character for me."
Because the backstory of Cena's Christopher Smith was less of a focus than the backgrounds of characters like Ratcatcher 2 and his rival Bloodsport (Idris Elba) in The Suicide Squad, Gunn thought it would "be fun to be able to take that character and stretch him out a bit, really see how he is, see how he ticks, who he is, and then allow ourselves to have more humor, more drama, and just see all these different facets of this character [in Peacemaker]."
Starring John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Chukwudi Iwuji, Steve Agee, and Robert Patrick, new episodes of DC's Peacemaker premiere Thursdays on HBO Max.