Viola Davis is no prude, but the two-time Oscar nominee was reduced to giggles when it came time to relay how she worked with Suicide Squad writer-director David Ayer to portray the manipulative special agent Amanda Waller.
With no special powers or abilities, Davis was already at a disadvantage when portraying Waller. Rather, she had to rely on her character’s cunning and wits to become the baddest baddie of all.
“She’s a strategist. She’s a manipulator. She doesn’t fly in the sky or swim in the water,” says Davis. “She’s just a regular person who can manipulate these superheroes. And I love that.”
Davis also loved working with Ayer. She calls her boss a combination of Cecil DeMille and Shaggy from Scooby-Doo, an even-tempered dudebro on the surface who can manipulate his actors with the briefest of asides.
Take Davis’s interaction with Joel Kinnaman, who plays Rick Flag, the guard dog of the Suicide Squad and Waller’s first lieutenant. Davis had big plans for how she was going to play the scene before Ayer, walked up and whispered a new line into her ear.
“He would make me call, [Davis starts laughing and can’t really stop] Joel Kinnaman a p—y at times. A bitch. [More laughs.] It’s completely politically incorrect but it caused a reaction in me,” says Davis. “It made me feel like a straight up thug, and it made Rick Flagg want to kick my ass. So David got what he wanted.”
Kinnaman, for his part remembers that day on set vividly.
“Some of the stuff she said really pissed me off,” Kinnaman recalls. “And I felt really betrayed. And that’s exactly what David wanted me to feel… And now it’s in the movie. That’s some pretty high-level direction through manipulation.”
Suicide Squad opens everywhere Aug. 5.
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