Created and helmed by James Gunn, Peacemaker is one of those rare shows that knows exactly what it is. The Suicide Squad spinoff starring John Cena as the titular egotistical hired assassin pushes the comedic tone first established in the film to its limits with its tongue-and-cheek take on life as an antihero who just wants to be liked.
The HBO Max original series expertly captures that spirit with its opening credits that sees a straight-faced Cena and his co-stars, Danielle Brooks (Adebayo), Freddie Stroma (Vigilante), Jennifer Holland (Harcourt), Steve Agee (Economos) and others, performing an increasingly eccentric line dance to “Do Ya Wanna Taste It,” by Norwegian glam metal band Wig Wam.
Gunn tells ET’s Nischelle Turner that he originally conceived of the idea while writing the series. “It’s in the script. I wrote that,” he says, explaining that “everybody was meant to perform it 100 percent seriously, as if there was nothing unusual about it whatsoever and there’s no sense of fun.”
“That dance sequence was in the very first draft of the very first version of the very first episode,” adds executive producer Peter Safran.
While the director chose the song (“You know, I sing it every day to myself and I go, ‘How can I possibly still love this song?’”), the dance itself was choreographed by Charissa Lee-Barton and shot over the course of one day in a high school auditorium in Vancouver, where the series was filmed.
“It was a tremendous amount of fun,” Gunn says. “The cast were remarkably good dancers. I mean, some of them were really good.” He even goes as far as to compliment Agee, who staunchly disagrees with the director, to say the 6′ 6″ comedian “was good. Surprisingly, he’s nimble on his big, gigantic feet.”
“I have two left feet,” Agee says. “We only had a limited amount of time to rehearse between shooting. And so, on a day where you didn’t have to shoot, you would go in. And we were in groups of three. It was me, Chukwudi [Iwuji] and Jen in one group and every time we went in, it was like I was seeing the dance for the first time.”
If anything, executive producer Matt Miller says Agee’s performance worked here because “he was in character… They had to not just dance, but dance in character.”
“I wish Steve didn’t include me in his self-deprecation. I feel like I got there in the end,” quips Iwuji, who joins the series as Murn, before noting that Holland had a leg up as a former gymnast.
If anyone was quick to learn the choreography, they all agree it was their 34-year-old co-star. “I’d say the best was probably Jen. I feel like she’s just got those moves, she’s always in great shape. She’s, like, legit, she’s really good,” Stroma says.
“Thank God I was behind her as we were doing it because I just kept following her lead,” admits Robert Patrick (Auggie Smith), who Gunn jokes “is not the next [Mikhail] Baryshnikov.”
Though, Holland pushes back on being the best of the bunch. “Everyone was so good in their own way,” she laughs. “When you think of Robert Patrick, do you think, ‘Oh, someday I’m gonna do this crazy dance?’”
But Holland does praise everyone’s commitment. “All of these people were so dedicated to making it exactly what it was supposed to be. Everyone was fully onboard and really just jumped in and did this thing,” she says.
In the end, the result was worth all the effort. “They really delivered on this extraordinarily compelling opening title sequence,” Safran says. “We wanted to create something where people wouldn’t forward through the credits, that they would actually sit there and watch them. So, hopefully they won’t skip ahead.”
Echoing that sentiment, Stroma says, “It’s funky, man. And I just love that fact that every episode that’s what you’re going to be watching. I mean, it sets the tone for the whole show pretty well.”
Peacemaker premieres Thursday, Jan. 13 with three episodes on HBO Max. The rest of the series will be released weekly through Feb. 17.