Peacemaker’s Steve Agee on Chainsaw Murders and Viral Dance Moves

HBO Max Series Peacemaker lit up the world of streaming entertainment when it premiered in January 2022, bringing back John Cena’s titular conflicted hero after making his debut in James Gunn’s action-comedy The Suicide Squad Last year. In the show’s first season, the series has Peacemaker battling alien threats, sins from his past, a killer gorilla, and many of his own complexes as he attempts to work with a colorful team of black agents. ops tasked with saving the world.

One member of this team is John Economos, who provides tactical support to the group’s field operatives and becomes a frequent target (and deliverer) of ridicule early on, only to earn Peacemaker’s respect when he takes things – and a chainsaw – in his hands at the end of the season. Played by Steve Agee, Economos was one of many characters who, like Peacemaker, debuted in The Suicide Squad before taking the leap Peacemaker. Agee holds the unique distinction of playing two characters in the 2021 film: Economos and King Shark, a huge man-eating shark-human mutant voiced by Sylvester Stallone but physically portrayed on set by Agee.

With the Peacemaker Season 1 finale looming, Digital Trends spoke to Agee about his roles in both Peacemaker and The Suicide Squadas well as Cena, his favorite scenes, and that opening dance sequence we can’t help but watch over and over again.

(To note: Plotting points from the first season of Peacemaker will be discussed in the following interview.)

Digital Trends: Let’s start at the very beginning: what was your reaction when you found out your character was going from The Suicide Squad for Peacemaker?

Steve Agee: I was super excited for a number of reasons, not the least of which was getting to work after about 10 months of the pandemic and being isolated on my own in the desert. I was staying in a cabin in Joshua Tree (national park in California) when it all started, so I was quite isolated and lonely, but I was also excited to explore this character over eight episodes and show more depth to John Economos and give him a real bow.

A lot of people don’t realize you also played King Shark in The Suicide Squad. Has there been any indication that you will play this role again? Would you?

In a heartbeat. It was so much fun doing that. If I had just done John Economos for suicide squadI would have been happy, but it was an opportunity as King Shark to get down to business with Margot [Robbie] and Idris [Elba] and Joel Kinnaman and John Cena, and that was actually most of my shoot for Suicide. I think I had more shooting days than anyone else in the movie, including Margot, because I played King Shark and John Economos. I love that there is now a universe in DC where it exists, and I hope it reappears, let it be a second suicide squad movie – which I haven’t heard of – or whatever.

King Shark shows up in The Suicide Squad

Everyone is talking about the show’s opening dance sequence. How did you hear the news when you found out what was going on? And was it easy to get off?

I didn’t know that was going to be a thing. James called me in October 2020 and said, “We’re going to start filming in January,” and that’s all he told me. And then a month or two later, I got all the scripts, and I was reading the first script. After the cold open, he said, “Go to the opening dance scene.” I was like, “What the fuck?”

It’s definitely something you wouldn’t expect to see in a superhero project.

Law? It’s so outside the genre for superheroes, comic book action stuff. I was like, “Okaaaaaaay.” But I completely trust James with everything. I will do whatever he wants. But it was so weird. And when we started shooting in January of last year, the shooting schedule came out and I knew we were going to shoot that dance number right in the middle of production. I dreaded it. I’m not a very physical person and I don’t have a lot of rhythm.

The opening dance sequence from the HBO Max Peacemaker series.

What did it take to bring him down?

They divided us into groups of two or three, and we rehearsed when we had days off. There were probably about six or seven rehearsals, I guess, before that. And then we had a rehearsal on set the day before, and then a full day of shooting the actual dance. By the time we started shooting, everyone was really comfortable. The hardest part of filming was not smiling. Nobody smiles. That was James’ main direction: “Don’t smile. To have a dead face. It ended up being the hardest thing to do.

Your character had such a huge moment in the episode when he kills the gorilla with a chainsaw. How did it go for you?

Well, even though I dreaded the day of the program when we were dancing, I had the day I killed a gorilla with a chainsaw circled on the calendar. I couldn’t wait. They were probably around the same time [in the production schedule], too. They were about halfway through filming and I was so excited. I can have this great hero moment, and also be covered in blood. I think every action horror fan always dreams of being the person who gets covered in blood from a big kill or action sequence. And it’s really great. He looks cool.

But here’s the thing: the day you do, you take a lot of pictures of yourself with your phone. And then at some point you realize it’s just halfway through the episode so for the rest of the shoot you have to go early in the morning to be picked up in the blood every day, just so that everything is there for continuity. And that’s a bit of a shame, because the fake blood is really uncomfortable after a while and sticky. The fake blood is actually quite gross.

John Cena and Steve Agee hide in the forest in a scene from Peacemaker.

Music is always such an important part of James Gunn’s projects. Is that as present on your side of things when making the show as it is on the audience side when we see the episode?

Yeah, when you get a script, the script says, “So-and-so’s blank song starts playing…” just so you know. And James will also send you a link to the song. Since the show’s release, he’s uploaded an updated playlist of songs from all episodes, and it’s very similar while we’re shooting it. We get this playlist so we can listen to it while we read the script. It really helps. And when we’re shooting on set, as long as there’s no dialogue, he also plays those songs on set.

Looks like John Cena has come on more people’s radar with this show. He shows so much range over the course of the season. How is he on set?

He’s great fun. He is one of the nicest people you will meet in your life. You can also judge pretty well by seeing him in interviews. He’s just a fun guy. He is very positive. There is no negativity for this guy. You climb into the makeup chair at six in the morning, and he’s already there with a big smile, welcoming you. There are very few people you would want to work with more than John Cena.

The cast of Peacemaker gathers around a computer.

What’s been your favorite part of Peacemaker’s first season so far? Is the gorilla killing?

Well, killing a gorilla with a chainsaw is up there. Beating Judo Master with a tire iron was pretty cool too, but I watch it now and have these insane memories of that scene. It was the coldest night of the whole shoot. We were shooting in February, I think, and it was snowing. I don’t know how they got rid of the snow in this scene. It was definitely snowing. Every time they cut, they had to clear snow from the wrecked Mercedes. You can’t tell he was even there, and that’s amazing. But it was very cold.

I also had one of the worst asthma attacks of my life that night. I don’t know if it was because of the cold, dry air and the fact that I had to repeatedly hit this guy with a pipe – but that was a lot for one night. It turned out so great, though.

One of my favorite scenes so far is when Peacemaker goes through that long list of people Economos could have framed instead of his dad. How much of this was improvised by John Cena? Was there a lot of improvisation on set?

It’s mostly all written down. In this particular scene, however, the only thing that was written was like, “You could have framed… Ariana Grande or Drake…”, I think. It was just two names. But James just dropped the camera. He was like, “Keep saying names!” We were probably 20-30 minutes sitting there listening to John – off the top of his head – naming people. James would give him a few names to say, but that was about it. It was the biggest improvisation you’ll see in the season, though.

The cast of Peacemaker reunites for a heated discussion.

Without any spoiler, what can you say about the final season? The press wasn’t allowed to see him beforehand, so there’s still so much mystery surrounding him, which is pretty cool.

I loved shooting the finale. I can’t wait for people to see it. There’s a scene in the finale that’s so amazing, and I remember shooting it around three in the morning with James running around yelling, “I can’t believe they let me do this!” I can’t believe I can do this! That’s what I’m looking forward to. I can’t say what it is, but I can’t wait to be there.

In fact, when I went to do ADR [rerecording of dialogue added after filming ends] for this episode, I asked, “Hey, can you fast forward to this scene?” And they’re like, “No.” I said, “But I was there! It’s not like I don’t know what’s going on! And they were like, ‘Yeah, but there are other people in the room now who don’t know, and we can’t afford anyone to leak that.’

Peacemaker feels like such a fun show to do. Is that the case? Are James Gunn and the actors as fun to work with as they look?

Yeah, absolutely. It was awesome and obviously so much fun. I was already friends with Jennifer [Holland] and James, so after a few months of isolation, it was nice to tour with all these people again. That made him really special on his own. But even if there hadn’t been a pandemic, it was just a blast hanging out with these people.

Season 1 of Peacemaker is available on the HBO Max streaming service. Season 2 of Peacemaker also officially received the green light.

Editors’ Recommendations