James Gunn and John Cena on Exploring a More Vulnerable Side to Peacemaker in HBO Max Show

Peacemaker lands on HBO Max on Thursday, January 13, with the first three episodes available for fans to watch straight away.

The first TV show set in the DC universe follows John Cena's Peacemaker in the aftermath of The Suicide Squad, with the character struggling with his own inner demons whilst tackling a new alien threat.

Peacemaker did not make the best first impression in The Suicide Squad, given his presumed racist views, murderous nature, and his determination to create peace no matter who he has to kill—man, woman or child—to get it.

But Peacemaker serves to change this initial negative image by delving deeper into the character's true beliefs, his psyche and by showing a more vulnerable side to him over the course of eight episodes.

James Gunn and lead star Cena spoke with Newsweek about approaching the character in this way, with the showrunner saying he felt it made "great fodder" for a TV show.

"Well, you know, a lot of it was stuff that I talked about with John on set," Gunn explained. "It wasn't stuff that we see so much in the movie, we see a few moments of Peacemaker where he's feeling deep regret for whatever his terrible actions are in The Suicide Squad.

"But John and I talked a lot about how his bravado was the way that he tried to connect to other people, how it didn't work, how he felt isolated. And even the characters who you think of as the much more awkward characters like Polka Dot Man are actually much more adept at fitting into group situations than Peacemaker is. He does not have any sense of that group acceptance that the other characters have.

"And that isolation and that aloneness for Christopher Smith during the whole movie was something that, again, we talked a lot about, but you don't see so much in the movie, and I thought that that was great fodder for a longer form story."

Reflecting on the central friendship of the series, Gunn went on: "I also think that he's a very current character in terms of his far out belief system, and the relationship between him and Danielle Brooks' character Leota [Adebayo], somebody who has a completely different belief system than him.

"These two characters are so different, and that's the central love story of the series to me. It's not a romantic love story, it's not a sexual love story, it's real love, as two human beings.

"She sees beyond what he believes to who he really is, and sees that is sort of just this baggage that he's carrying around. And so I thought that he was more current than other characters because of that."

Cena added that he was aware the "sentiment" viewers had of his character was that he wasn't very likeable, saying: "A lot of the audience sentiment from watching The Suicide Squad was 'why are you giving this d*****bag his own show?'

"I think I think a lot of people didn't understand it, because the movie is an ensemble cast and it happens so fast, and it's very well crafted, but there were moments there where you see Peacemaker isn't rotten to the core. And I think that makes for an interesting narrative."

He added: "I love hearing [from] people who have watched The Suicide Squad, like yourself, and now watched Peacemaker say 'he wasn't my most liked character,' in past tense, meaning now that we see him [in] Peacemaker, for some reason, you find yourself wanting to root for the guy.

"And I really chalk it up to the fact that we're all... if we're not rotten to the core, if we're not a sociopath, or have suffered from some other, you know, just evil to the core type of mental block, that you want people to do better.

"You want [them] to be their best selves, especially when they show you that they can. And I think Peacemaker is kind of a journey and [I] just wanted to see this guy have the bravery to climb those hills that he needs to climb."

Peacemaker launched with its first three episodes on HBO Max on Thursday, January 13, and the show will then air weekly.

Peacemaker
John Cena as Christopher Smith aka Peacemaker in "Peacemaker". The show begins airing on HBO Max on Thursday, January 13. HBO Max