Peacemaker was one of the biggest surprises on television last year. Little was revealed about the John Cena led HBO Max series before its premiere, but knowing that James Gunn was at the helm meant we could expect the unexpected… and we got it. One of the most surprising things about the series was the blend of humor and touching aspects he brought to the DC universe.
One of the reasons these moments landed so well was due to the work of Danielle Brooks. Coming off of her Tony-nominated Broadway work in The Color Purple and series like Orange Is the New Black, this was Brooks first venture into the superhero world.
Members of Awards Radar’s The ‘Verse! Podcast team (Norm Felker and Lucas Longacre) sat down with Danielle Brooks to discuss her work as Leota Adebayo on Peacemaker, a character and series they have proclaimed their appreciation for.
During the conversation they learned it was a surprise to Brooks just to be considered, partially because of the lack of representation in the genre – something that is finally changing. She spoke about taking on the role:
“Yo, James Gunn wants to have a meeting with you. I was like, ‘What? James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn. What? Okay.’ ‘They are doing a show with John Cena.’ ‘Me? Me??’ Because, it’s so rare and it’s starting to become more common now that we’re starting to see people that are not normally in these types of shows, or even movies per se, in like DC Universe or Marvel Universe. We’re starting to really expand the range of who these people are. So, I was very much in shock because I had never really seen anybody like myself. Besides Viola Davis playing Amanda Waller that really was encouraging like seeing this dark skinned woman with an Afro in this movie. So now I’m like, ‘Yo, I get to play her daughter?’ I was over the moon about it. Over the moon I got it.”
When taking on the role of Leota Adebayo, Brooks did not have to audition. She was pleased, but a little nervous about the room she had to add her own flavor to the character. Any concern was quickly set aside, as anyone who has seen the series can tell you, the results speak for themself. Brooks spoke about finding the character’s voice:
“James Gunn has his voice. And he wants his voice in the room and it is smart on him, because he’s such a great writer. But, he does allow you space to do your thing. And, it’s crazy, because the first day of shooting for me was the first scene where the audience’s introduced to the entire team, we’re in Peacemaker’s house, and we’re all there. And Chukwudi Iwuji’s character (Murn) is like, ‘Yo, this is Adebayo.’ And, I’m introducing myself, and James let me improv the whole thing. But he left me in the hallway. And when I tell you, he kept laughing over and over, and I was so nervous, because it was my first day. The crazy thing is, I’m also finding the character at the same time.”
As you can tell in Brooks’ voice she loved every aspect of the new superhero world Gunn created and she had the opportunity to jump into. While on set there is plenty that she enjoyed, including being slimed by a massive alien cow. What she enjoyed most was the action and working with John Cena. She explained:
“ I really actually like stunts and action work and stuff. Doing the action scenes with John was fun because he does this. This is his thing. You know? This dude is in Fast and Furious. So to get to watch him work, just handle guns and kind of be his puppet right behind him with the guns and shooting – that was fun. There was an explosion scene where we had to fly in the air with our guns. That to me was probably the one of the biggest highlights and joys. But just honestly, just watching him work and learning from him little techniques, because I’ve never I’ve never done action. So, I liked that.”
No one has watched Peacemaker without being completely captivated by the opening credits which feature a, let’s say, atypical dance number, especially for a superhero series. We asked Brooks about that opening:
“I think James Gunn purposely didn’t tell us until halfway through shooting because he was like, ‘Now they’re locked in.’ You know what I mean? So we didn’t find out until, halfway during shooting that we were gonna do this. I was really nervous because I was like, “What in the world kind of dancing is this? This is not your cha cha slide.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t know what this is.’ So we did it and it was really fun. I had to work on my facial expressions a lot, actually. I didn’t know it was supposed to be deadpan. So I’m sitting here giving Michael Jackson Thriller-like faces. And Gunn’s like “Danielle chill out.’ I was like, ‘Oh, fine.’ I’m glad we did it because people seem to really love it.”
As for season two, we know that Brooks is all in, but what else could she tell the eager fans:
“The only news that I have to share is that it seems to be happening. That’s all I know. But we aren’t shooting right now. HBO is really excited about it. And all of us have been willing to come back, so I’m really praying that we do it. I know everyone has busy schedules and I know that James Gunn has been working really hard. But yeah, I’m excited to get back together with the band you know, the 11th Street kids.”
All of Danielle Brooks’ work in season one of Peacemaker is now streaming exclusively