Why Peacemaker is 'a dream come true' for Steve Agee
Peacemaker (TV series)
Steve Agee admits that he has rarely played someone in the middle of the action. "I'm a character actor," he says. "I've made a decent living being the guy who walks in at the very end of the scene and has a goofy funny line, or a mouthful of food, and then the scene ends."
That abruptly changed after The Suicide Squad writer-director James Gunn asked Agee to reprise his Squad role of tech expert John Economos in the spin-off show Peacemaker, which premieres on HBO Max Jan. 13.
"This is the first time in probably fifteen years that I've been a regular on a show and actually had full scenes and an arc," says Agee, whose other previous credits include The Sarah Silverman Program and Superstore. "Even in the past with stuff like that, it was still like a guy sitting at a computer or a guy who's sitting on the couch high. This is my first time being a guy who actually goes out and shoots guns and beats people up and kills people. It was a dream come true, I've got to tell you, man. As a nerd, it was really exciting to do some of that stuff."
The show stars John Cena as the titular, homicidal anti-hero who is recruited by a black ops organization overseen by Chukwudi Iwuji's Clemson Murn.
"This takes place very soon after the events of The Suicide Squad, after the whole battle with Starro in Corto Maltese," says Agee. "Peacemaker is still alive and he's now needed for another mission. Myself and Jennifer Holland, who plays Emilia Harcourt, we were in the headquarters on the computers during the movie, and we are now in charge of bringing Peacemaker in to a new mission, and having to deal with him, even though we really do not like him and do not want to deal with him."
Below, Agee talks more about Peacemaker, his friendship with Gunn, and why he's really glad he took a high school typing class.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You've worked with James Gunn on a lot of projects: Super, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Brightburn, The Suicide Squad, now Peacemaker. How did the two of you meet?
STEVE AGEE: I have a friend Shawnee Smith, who's an actress. You probably know her from the Saw movies, The Blob, and Summer School. She did a reality show with James called Scream Queens, where they were looking for the next Shawnee Smith or the next Jamie Lee Curtis. One day, she called me and said, "Hey, do you want to go to this social thing at James' brother's house?" I was like, "Yeah, I'll go." James and I hit it off immediately. He said, "We do this every Sunday, feel free to come back any time you want." I ended up going back every single Sunday. Shawnee never went back.
I just couldn't get enough, not only of James but Sean [Gunn], and all of his friends, who are now a whole group of people that work together often. James likes to keep it a tight family when he's working. That's why you see a lot of the same people, like Rooker [Guardians of the Galaxy actor Michael Rooker] or Stevie Blackehart or myself in his movies.
What is the memory that sticks in the mind from making The Suicide Squad?
That was unlike anything I'd ever done and that was all due to the fact that I was doing motion capture for King Shark. If I had only done John Economos, I would have been sitting here talking to you about five days that I worked on The Suicide Squad as opposed to 80 days being a reference point for Idris [Elba] and Joel Kinnaman and Cena and Margot [Robbie]. It was very surreal. These are all people who I was a fan of going into it and a fan of multiple [other] actors that were all just, boom, put in front of you. It was very surreal and an amazing experience because every single one of those people, beside being very professional, is also very very kind. There wasn't an ego in the group.
What has it been like working with John Cena on Peacemaker?
Great. I can't think of a No. 1 on the call sheet you'd rather have. He's completely professional, he's a perfectionist, but he's never a dick, he's always got a smile on his face first thing in the morning when you come in the makeup trailer, he's super positive and super funny, his comic timing's amazing, his improvisational skills are amazing. You know, meeting him on the set of Suicide Squad, you've got to remember this is one of the biggest stars in the world, right? When we shot in Panama, people would see Idris and go, "Oh, Idris, can I get a photo?", a couple of people here and there, and the same with Margot. When people saw John Cena in Panama it was a mob scene. So, understandably, he's not the most open to just [be] like, "Hey, let's hang out, let's be friends," immediately. This guy is bombarded by people constantly. But I think a couple of weeks into the shooting of Suicide Squad we found our common ground in '80s comedies. Dave Dastmalchian is one of my best friends, and as soon as he heard Dave and I quoting Rodney Dangerfield from Caddyshack and Back to School, his eyes just lit up. From that point on, we were like best pals and by the time we got to Vancouver to start shooting Peacemaker he was just like family. He's amazing.
Tell me about your other costars.
Jen Holland, who plays Emilia Harcourt, we worked together on Suicide Squad, we've been friends for years, so this was a low pressure situation because, knowing James and knowing John and Jen, it's like going back to school your junior or senior year, you're comfortable. Then they brought in people like Freddie Stroma as Vigilante and Chuk Iwuji, who is a legit actor and blew everybody's mind. I love doing scenes with Chuk because, when you work with a great actor, it makes you elevate your game, and then Danielle Brooks from Orange Is the New Black is fantastic. Everyone was great.
You're the tech guy on the show. Is there a particular skill to looking like you know what you're doing on a computer?
I'm pretending to know more on the computer, but when I'm typing I'm actually trying to write sentences , even if it's just "Here's a sentence," "This is a sentence." The most helpful class I ever took in high school was typing. I am so glad I learned how to properly type, I type like 80-plus words a minute. So I could sit there and look like I actually knew what I was typing. That's they key. Because a lot of people just hit the same keys, just straight up and down, and you're like, they are literally not typing anything.
Have you become a harsh critic of techies in films and TV shows now?
Oh yeah. Even before Peacemaker. As a typist, I'm always going, ugh, they're not doing it right!
What else have you been doing?
I got to go to Toronto a couple of months ago and do the new Guillermo del Toro horror anthology for Netflix (Cabinet of Curiosities). I got to do an episode of that, which was fun.
What can you say about that?
I can tell you it was a blast to shoot. They're stand-alone episodes and they're all different directors, different casts for each one. I did an episode that was co-written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, who made Mandy.
Oh my god!
Yeah. And if you're a fan of Mandy, I think you'll be a fan of this episode.
I am a huge fan of Mandy.
Me too. I feel the same way. I loved Mandy.
Sorry, now I'm just thinking about Mandy.
[Laughs] I've no idea when that comes out but I spent a month in Toronto doing that.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Watch the trailer for Peacemaker below.
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John Cena returns as the titular character in this HBO Max spin-off from the DC Comics film 'The Suicide Squad.'