“Peacemaker” is here.
The new HBO Max original series “Peacemaker,” the first official extension of DC’s film output, created and largely written and directed by “The Suicide Squad” filmmaker James Gunn, just debuted its first three episodes on the streaming platform. The new series takes the John Cena character, who miraculously survived the events of the film, in an entirely new direction, as he’s recruited for an even smaller, even scrappier team to help save the world. (The details of the threat are too good to give away here.) If anything, it’s bloodier, more brutal, and more in-your-face than 2021’s movie that introduced Cena’s character. And that’s a very good thing.
Another great thing about “Peacemaker?” The expanded role for Emilia Harcourt, an A.R.G.U.S. (that’d stands for Advanced Research Group Uniting Super-Humans, sort of the DC Universe’s S.H.I.E.L.D.) agent assigned to this new unit, along with her cohort John Economos (Steve Agee), both of whom were seen stealing scenes in “The Suicide Squad.” Played by Jennifer Holland, Harcourt goes through quite the arc in the eight episodes, and is, of course, endlessly annoyed by Cena’s Peacemaker, the belligerent, freedom-loving antihero.
TheWrap chatted with Holland (who is also Gunn’s longtime partner) about what it was like returning to the character, trying not to laugh when Cena went wild, and whether or not she’ll return to the DC universe soon.
When did James start talking to you about the potential of a TV series?
Jennifer Holland: Yeah, I don’t know how much you know about the whole situation when it went down, but basically we got back from the shoot for “The Suicide Squad,” I think it was about March 3, 2020, and approximately seven or eight days after we got back to Los Angeles from Atlanta from that shoot, we had to start quarantining. To some degree we had already felt like we had been quarantining from all of our friends and family. Because when you’re away on a long shoot like these big films, you’re just gone for such a long time. And part of that shoot was in Panama. We just hadn’t seen anyone in a really long time, not to make our situation sound so terrible. We just started quarantining immediately after we got to Los Angeles. We didn’t know what was going on, just like anyone else.
James was telling me, “Oh, we’re going to be inside for three months.” And I was like, “Three months? What is happening?” He thought he was being conservative with that number. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. And James, his comfort mode is working. He works all the time. And he jumped right in while he was doing post on “Suicide Squad” in quarantine, he jumped right into writing something else, and it just happened to be this. He initially told me that he was putting my character in the show and I was just like, “Oh, this is awesome. I’m going to get to play around with some great actors again.”
And then once I started to, a little bit down the line, read some of the scripts, which was pretty far into his writing process on this because normally he’d let me read something. But if I’m a part of it, he doesn’t want to let any actor get their hopes up just in case. Because the way his writing goes, it just flows. And if someone needs to die or someone needs to get written out for whatever reason he’ll do that. It doesn’t matter who it is in his life. He’s just going to do what the right thing is for the story. I didn’t get to read it until it was pretty well into being completed. And I got to start reading it and I realized how big my character was and how important she was and how beautifully written she was. And I was just so ecstatic and so surprised. It was pretty far into the process that I got to learn how big of a character she was.
Well, when you finished with “The Suicide Squad,” did you ever think you were going to be brought back?
Holland: Absolutely not. No, no. My character was originally called Comms Hub Tech 2, or Comms Tech 2 or something like that. And as he started along in rewrites, the character got a little bit bigger and she needed to give a little bit more information to push the story along. He decided, “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool if I gave this character a name from the comic books, just because it’ll be fun for fans to watch the credits and go, ‘Oh, that was Emilia Harcourt.’” It just a fun thing for fans. I didn’t think it was going to go any further.
Can we talk about the title sequence for the show?
Holland: Yeah, if that doesn’t give you a taste for what you’re in for, then I don’t know what will. It was written into the script, this opening credits dance sequence. And James, when he pitched it to me and he was first telling me about it, he was really excited about it. And I was just kind of like, as I am for a lot of the things that he tells me about, I was just kind of like, “Cool, James, that sounds great. I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I trust you.” He’s got all these idea is in his brain and such a clear idea of how to execute them, but until you see it come to life, it’s just in James’ brain.
I just knew we were going to be learning some sort of dance sequence and that we were going to have emotionless faces and they were going to be very quite robotic movements that we’d be doing so that’s really all I knew about it. But James hired Carissa Barton to be the choreographer to bring his ideas to life. And she did such a fantastic job. I mean, she just took James’ idea and really expanded on that and created something really, really fun.
Can’t wait to see the TikTok recreations of it that I’m sure will be coming.
Holland: If that’s what ends up happening, then we did something right.
So much of the first season is you being annoyed with John Cena but he’s saying some of the most ridiculous stuff. How hard was it to keep a straight face?
Holland: It is really hard. To some degree the scripted stuff is easy because you’re prepared for that. At least I’m prepared for that. I’ve already done the work on just how deeply she despises this guy from the very beginning. You’re prepared for it to a certain degree. But then a lot of it doesn’t make it into the show, some of it does, but there’s a lot of times that John will improv or close out the scene with a bit of improv or something like that, and sometimes something will just take you by surprise.
Harcourt goes on a pretty wild journey this season. Can you talk about that evolution?
Holland: Well like I said, when James first showed me the scripts, I was just blown away by how the depth of the character that he had written and the amount of levels that she has. I would hope that no one sees this character and thinks, “Oh, she’s just another badass in a superhero show.” She’s so much more than that to me and James put so much more into her and I put so much more than that into her. I just really hope that all of that work comes across in the end product because she really does go on a journey throughout the story. And I think the question with Harcourt is, she’s this very closed off, very hardened and jaded person who’s seen a lot of death and killed a lot of people and she can’t really trust anyone and she doesn’t trust her own emotions. And just having emotions and having friends and having loved ones, those are all liabilities to her.
I think for all those reasons, she’s had to close herself off throughout her life. Otherwise, all that stuff is going to penetrate. It’s going to, I think, take you down to some degree. You have to close off in order to just be able to get through your life and all of the crazy things that you have to do and all of the horrible things that you have to do. She doesn’t let anyone in and she’s kind of a loner and I think she’s very lonely, even though she’s not the type of person to ever admit that she’s lonely or to ever sit at home and cry about how lonely she is or anything like that. I don’t even know if she knows how lonely she is or knows how much of an outsider she feels like she is. I think that’s who she is. And I think the journey for the viewer is hopefully one where they are hoping that she learns something about herself or that she changes. And we find out throughout the series, whether or not she will change.
James has talked about how he would love to do more seasons. Would you be game to coming back?
Holland: I don’t know what James’ plans are for the future. I think that we just have no idea where any of these characters are going to go or what their fates are going to be. So that’s just, who knows? I’ll just have to see what happens.
Well there are rumors, and you can speak to this, that Harcourt will be coming back in other DC adventures outside of the “Suicide Squad” realm. Do you want to speak to that? Can you speak to that?
Holland: I can’t.
Okay. Well, we’ll let people infer what that means. Should you share screen time with another extremely charismatic former wrestler? Time will tell, right?
Holland: I’m assuming you’re talking about “Black Adam.” I’ve seen all of the rumors.
A lot of rumors, yeah.
Holland: I haven’t seen that film. I have no idea who was in that film.
The first three episodes of “Peacemaker” are on HBO Max right now, with new episodes being released weekly.