John Cena on Why He’s So Grateful for That Big ‘Peacemaker’ Finale Cameo

Eric Goldman
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WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW FOR THE PEACEMAKER SEASON 1 FINALE!

Peacemaker’s first season came to a close this week with a terrific finale, “It’s Cow or Never,” which found Christopher Smith/Peacemaker (John Cena) and his allies taking on the alien Butterflies, leading to Chris having to make a big decision – with an ultimate decision fueled by the journey he’d been on throughout the season.

Of course, there was also one hell of a big guest appearance by the end of the episode. Or guest appearances, as it turned out. Not only did Viola Davis make another cameo as Leota Adebayo’s mother, Amanda Waller, but there were others who few would ever suspect might show up in this series.

I spoke to John Cena about these notable events – both the emotional ones and the character interactions – and more about where we leave off with Chris for now, with Peacemaker now officially renewed for a Season 2.

With one more Spoiler Warning for those who haven’t seen the finale yet, read on for what Cena had to say…

CHRIS’ CHOICE 

In the finale, Peacemaker was close to finalizing his mission to kill the alien “Cow” that supplies the Butterflies with the food they need to survive when the Butterfly leader, AKA Goff, now possessing the body of Sophie Song, made a notable revelation: the Butterflies came from a world that had been destroyed by misuse and infighting and saw humanity going down the same path. Their main goal was to save the planet — albeit through some very harsh means — and destroying them could mean dooming the Earth in the long run.

Even as it’s pointed out to him that this is how he could truly become the “Peacemaker” for humanity that he always hoped to be, Chris decides to go through with the plan to stop the Butterflies, now wanting to keep his friends — who the Butterflies would have killed — safe rather than achieving peace through subjugation or by killing however many people stood in the way of that ultimate peace, something he once touted as a core belief.

Reflecting on his character’s journey, John Cena said, “In eight episodes, you see Christopher Smith’s decision-making process change. I think the choices he makes in the final episode is a testament to James Gunn’s ability to write a beautiful ensemble. Every character’s decision making process changes. It’s beautifully harmonic to see everyone be put to make some difficult choices and for every character to show growth. All the choices that Peacemaker makes in the finale show growth and to me that’s a sign of a good story arc. In life, you’re not always the same person you were a year ago or a few years ago. It sums how we should always be on the path to growth and really is a testament to how James Gunn crafts a narrative.”

THE LEAGUE

There was a rather huge surprise to be had after the final battle wrapped up in the finale, as Peacemaker and his allies began to walk away – only for none other than several members of the Justice League to appear, even as Peacemaker tells them “You’re late, ya f**king dickheads!”

At first, it seems that they will all remain in silhouette – an understandable way to include characters no one could have expected to be on this show at all – only for close-ups to reveal that Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller were in fact reprising their roles as Aquaman and The Flash, with Aquaman bemoaning Peacemaker constantly spreading the rumor that he “f**ks fish.”

Regarding the appearance by Momoa and Miller, Cena observed, “it was incredible for many reasons. I think the most important thing is what all the participants did for our show. Peacemaker is a jealous superhero. Well, I don’t know if he’s even a superhero, but he’s jealous. He’s jealous of the other superheroes because of what they have. And he wants that and he doesn’t have it. So he has to bad mouth everybody… Calling The Flash a d-bag, weaving his jokes about Aquaman in there, and talking about Wonder Woman’s desire for him. Everything he says is just indicative of how insecure he is. He wants to be where they are.”

Moving beyond the character’s perception of himself to the perception of the actual show, Cena said, “That scene at the end, I believe gives vindication to Peacemaker, but more so, it really does a whole hell of a lot for our show. You have a virtually unknown character in Peacemaker. We saw him a little bit in The Suicide Squad and then you meet him and his crew over these eight episodes. What happened at the end, to me, brings the character – which means the whole team with him – from like a fourth or third tier player in the game, right up into the conversation with every big name in the DC universe.”

Added Cena, “I’m forever grateful [to Momoa and Miller], because they did us a huge solid by doing that. And they were able to put themselves in the limelight and get everybody talking, but they do so in a way where the joke’s not on them. And they did it for the good of our show. Whether that was their intention or not, it really, really, really, really helped us, especially after eight episodes of people being excited about the show, to put a stamp on it. It lets everybody know that there’s a new player in the DC Universe and that this is what’s going on. ‘These folks are now on an equal playing field, wow!’ That’s my takeaway from that. I think that was a very important moment for us. And of course, it gives everybody a whole lot of stuff to talk about and James Gunn is really good about making people talk about stuff! So mission accomplished in that regard.”

DADDY NOT-SO DEAREST 

In the penultimate episode, “Stop Dragon My Heart Around,” fought his despicable, white supremacist father Auggie Smith, AKA White Dragon (Robert Patrick), who attempted to kill Chris, only for Peacemaker to kill him instead. However, the finale shows that Chris – despite having had this final physical confrontation with his father – is now seeing visions of Auggie he seemingly can’t escape.

It remains to be seen whether Robert Patrick will continue to have a role as this vision of Auggie in Season 2, but Cena felt that either way, it rang true to point out that Christopher Smith has not just magically vanquished every lingering element inside him of his lifelong issues with his father.

“The trauma isn’t over now. It’s not done all of a sudden,” Cena remarked. “Regardless of what the future holds, I love the fact that he made a bold choice in the relationship with his father but that didn’t end the trauma. It helped him move forward but it didn’t take the thought out of mind. I like that it’s not just one moment and done. Because if you think back, we’ve all had some sort of trauma in our lives and all had those moments we keep replaying in our head over and over. They don’t go away; sometimes we’re haunted by that for our entire existence. And it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. I like the fact that the gravity of his youth and his relationship with his dad is still really in his mind.”

IN PRAISE OF VIGILANTE

A very fun part of the series has been the character of Vigilante and his friendship with Peacemaker, with Freddie Stroma giving a standout performance in the role – which is perhaps notably impressive given Stroma was a recast and joined the series many weeks into production (and then had to reshoot material from earlier episodes filmed with the original actor).

Cena had high praise for his costar, saying that when it came to Vigilante resonating to much, “That speaks to the talent of Freddie Stroma to be able to come in, not knowing the group, not knowing what to expect, and just start kicking ass from day one and working extra long hours to catch up. He put in a hell of a lot of work in a short amount of time. But he also got up to speed with us really quickly. So he did his part and he knocked it out of the park. The choices he made… Vigilante is my favorite character on the show.”

James Gunn has mentioned before how Cena had no idea until they’d finished filming that Stroma was English, which Cena himself brought up, admitting, “Freddie completely fooled me with an American accent. We wrapped and he stated talking in the Queen’s English in a fine British accent and I’m motherf**king six ways to Sunday because he never broke character! That’s a real story. I know James kind of told it, but that’s 100% real. He had me completely fooled. And not only through the accent, but his performance was just second to none. I don’t know what it’s like to drop into a production that late in the game. I can’t put myself in his shoes, but I saw the work he did and I saw his willingness to want to be part of the team.”

Added Cena, “Our crew is great because all we want to do is make a good show. James will say himself that we’ve got that ‘no a**holes’ policy and that vetting process really helps when you start getting boots on the ground, because everybody on the team just wants to make a good show. We’re not fighting over who gets what, we’re not trying to jockey for a bigger piece of the pie. Everyone who signs on knows exactly what the hell’s happening and I think that’s why we have such good rapports as castmates, as crewmates… That’s why everybody shines, because everybody wants to give everybody a chance to shine. Freddie was just no different. He came in and absolutely slayed. Like I said, Vigilante is my favorite character. He made it into something really special.”

WHAT’S NEXT? 

As Cena noted, neither he or Gunn had any specific expectation they’d be doing a second season when they began Peacemaker. Now of course, there will be more, but Cena said, “I feel if somebody sat down and watched [episode] one through eight, they’d feel fulfilled and not feel that we fooled them. James wrote it without any indication or want or need or desire to do a second season. So I like the fulfillment that it gives the audience but also, there’s plenty there left in the character.”

As far as what exactly will happen next, Cena laughed, “There’s only one guy who really knows what’s going on,” referring to Gunn.

Still, there’s plenty to ponder about what could happen for Peacemaker. But when I asked if he had any specific things he’d love to see in the character’s future, Cena had an interesting answer.

“The short answer is no, because I know I’m in good hands and I trust the process. In WWE, I never wanted to make the matches. I just wanted to have the opportunity to go out there and have a match. And a lot of times, I was put with a bunch of different dance partners and I loved every single moment with everyone. James is so gifted and good at what he does. It’s tough, because when you have something that people enjoy, you want to speculate on what would happen – what’s going to happen about this and what’s gonna happen with this character? Those are fun conversations to have, but for me, just from my process as a performer, I don’t want to talk myself into something that I think is a good idea and then it might not happen and I’m let down and maybe I feel a certain way about James or I feel a certain way about the show or my castmates, because my idea didn’t get used. In my perspective of things, I am the best when someone can do what they want from a story perspective and says ‘Alright, make this your Peacemaker,’ and that’s worked for me in WWE, or movies like Trainwreck or Vacation Friends. Honestly, I could go on and on, but it’s especially true with James Gunn, because he starts with a blank piece of paper and then is producing, he’s writing, he’s directing, he’s editing, he’s in every single phase. I feel I got a good handle on him as a human being and I really think he’s a fantastic individual. He’s incredibly talented. And as much as I want to talk about, ‘I think this would be great for Season 2!’ For me, that would be super counterproductive. I’m going to relax a little bit and let the genius do the work. “

Peacemaker has been incredibly well received and Cena said it had been a fun ride to see things change from the time the show was announced through the finale airing.

“I remember so many fans, with voices who I’m very grateful for… when we announced the spinoff, everyone was like, ‘f**k this guy, he’s the worst character in The Suicide Squad. He killed Rick Flag! He’s a bad guy. I don’t want to see this.’ I’ve just been talking about growth [for Christopher Smith] and it’s great to see the audience hang in there with us on this episodic journey and be entertained and now want to want to see more. The reaction to the announcement of Season 2 was very different than the press release for, ‘Hey, there’s a Peacemaker spinoff.’ I had to deal with many people telling me to f**k off. And now, I’m getting so many thank you messages. People are excited about the season and looking forward to Season 2. So what a difference a great human being like James Gunn, our great cast, and eight episodes can make.”

For more on the new Peacemaker series, check out our Peacemaker Wiki!


Click the image below to learn more about Peacemaker’s long history, including the role he sorta-kinda played in Watchmen.

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Eric Goldman
Eric Goldman is Managing Editor for Fandom. He's a bit obsessed with Star Wars, Marvel, Disney, theme parks, and horror movies... and a few other things. Too many, TBH.