The spin-off series premieres in January on HBO Max.

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Among the many characters who will be introduced to cinema audiences with The Suicide Squad (out in theaters and on HBO Max Aug. 6) is John Cena's Peacemaker, undoubtedly one of the most dangerous, and just plain weird, supervillains ever to (dis)grace the big screen.

"The Peacemaker is an interesting character because his ego seems contradictory," says the wrestler and actor. "He is this guy who has developed this philosophy and he can use it as a blanket to behave badly: 'I am doing this thing that is morally wrong but I am doing it in the name of peace so it's okay.' He views himself as a superhero but I think a lot of us would watch his actions and think that they're morally wrong. In WWE I always try to get people to describe their characters in one sentence and I think that one sentence [for the Peacemaker is] 'He wants peace so much he's willing to kill for it.'" Also? As Idris Elba's character Bloodsport points out in the film's R-rated trailer, Peacemaker wears a helmet that resembles a toilet seat. "I loved it because it is so memorable," says Cena. "The first time I put on that helmet, man, it was like, right, I'm going to rock this!"

John Cena in The Suicide Squad
John Cena as Peacemaker in 'The Suicide Squad.'
| Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The Suicide Squad writer-director James Gunn initially thought of casting his Guardians of the Galaxy star Dave Bautista as the Peacemaker. When the actor opted instead to play the lead in Zack Snyder's Army of the Dead, the director handpicked Cena for the role. "I truly believe that in life we don't find opportunity, it finds us," says the actor. "I didn't look at myself as a second choice; I just looked at it as a chance to do the best I could." According to Gunn, Cena proved a revelation during the film's shoot. "He was a bit of a risk," says the filmmaker. "I'm hiring someone without auditioning. But he came in on the first day and just slayed and ended up being the best improvisational actor I've ever worked with in my life."

Gunn was so inspired by his collaboration with Cena that he decided to foreground his character in a Peacemaker spin-off TV show, which the pair have spent the pandemic shooting in Canada, and will premiere on HBO Max in January.

"Other than having to do it during times of COVID, it's been a complete joy," says Gunn of the show. "There's so many things I love about filmmaking, but with a TV show, you really are able to breathe. so it's so fun and so comfortable. I love these characters and you can really get to know these characters in a nuanced way. It's also giving me a way to deal with some things politically that are going on in the world."

"I would venture to say that Peacemaker actually turns up the volume on anything that you see in The Suicide Squad," says Cena. "I want people to enjoy The Suicide Squad and I really think they will. Once they get a feel for these characters they're going to want more and that's where Peacemaker picks up."

Watch the trailer for The Suicide Squad above.

A version of this story appears in the August issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands July 16 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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