Skip to main content

Peacemaker’s Jennifer Holland on fights, dances, & season 1

Few could have predicted that James Gunn’s hilarious supervillain team-up film The Suicide Squad would lead to one of streaming television’s biggest hits, but that’s exactly what happened when spinoff series Peacemaker gave HBO Max one of its first must-watch shows of the year.

Created and written by Gunn (who also directs all but three of the season’s eight episodes), Peacemaker has John Cena reprise his role from The Suicide Squad as the series’ titular aspiring superhero who isn’t afraid to create a pile of dead bodies in his quest for peace. Two other cast members from The Suicide Squad join Cena in the series, with Jennifer Holland and Steve Agee reprising their roles as black ops agents Emilia Harcourt and John Economos, respectively, who are tasked with supervising Peacemaker on another secret mission.

With season 1 of Peacemaker now concluded and season 2 of the series moving forward, Digital Trends spoke to Holland about her experience with the series, working with John Cena and (her now-fiancé) Gunn, her character’s impressive fight scenes, and that opening dance sequence that became a viral hit.

Jennifer Holland holds one of Peacemaker's helmets in a scene from the series.

Digital Trends: Going back to the beginning, when you learned Emilia Harcourt was going from The Suicide Squad to Peacemaker, what was your initial response?

Jennifer Holland: I almost pooped my pants! I was just so excited. I mean, I would have been excited to go on with the character in any capacity, but once I found out that Harcourt was getting such a wonderful arc throughout the series and getting so many badass fight scenes and all of the other stuff that happens for her throughout the season, I was blown away.

Let’s talk about the opening dance scene everyone loves. When did you find out that was happening? 

It was written into the scripts from the beginning, and was described as this sort of robotic, stoic-faced dance sequence. I had no idea what that meant, but you kind of put your life in James’ hands with stuff like this. You’re like, “Hey, you’ve got an amazing vision for this, and I’m totally on board, so let’s see what happens.” Charissa Barton, who was the choreographer, took all of his ideas and expanded upon them and created this really amazing dance sequence. James had the idea to include a ton of characters from the season, too, and it became greater than I could have ever imagined it would be. We had an amazing time.

The cast of Peacemaker dances in the opening credits sequence from the series.

How easy — or difficult — was it to get the whole thing down?

I worked with Charissa and with some of the cast members rehearsing some of the choreography on many of my days off, and it was just a ton of fun. It was hard to keep a straight face because we were having such a great time. Danielle [Brooks] has so much swagger, and she wanted to add that swagger into the dance, but James kept being like, “Danielle, no emotion! Nothing!”

Harcourt has some of the series’ best fight scenes — which is saying a lot, given the show’s cast. What was training like for your fight scenes?

I trained almost constantly throughout the months that we shot with my stunt double, Yulia, and with Wayne Dalglish, who’s the stunt choreographer, and the whole team. Spencer [Thomas], who’s John’s stunt double, spent a lot of time with me. He would step in and be whatever random character I was going to be fighting. He was incredibly helpful. They spent countless hours with me, teaching me all of the stunts and all of the fight choreography.

The camera movement is very fluid in the series, and they’re swinging the camera around in different directions all the time, so they want to be able to shoot with the actors as much as they possibly can. So for me, it was all about trying to get it down almost as well as Yulia does, so that they can shoot in all different directions and use me whenever they need to in a shot. It was a ton of work and was very hard on my body. I got a little taste of how hard it is on the bodies of all of the stunt actors. But I wouldn’t change any of it [and] would do it again in a heartbeat. I absolutely loved it. It was so much fun.

The cast of Peacemaker gathers around a computer.

Peacemaker feels like a particularly fun, loose show to make. Was that the case? How loose did it feel on set?

Well, James often storyboards everything that he does to a tee. You could look at his storyboards up on the wall and it would almost be shot-for-shot exactly what’s in the film. That’s how intensely he storyboards everything. But it was a little bit looser with this series because he wanted it to have this very grounded feel, with the camera always moving. He still planned it out, and he still storyboarded, but it was a much looser feel than than his films can can be.

I think that was one thing that was really fun about it: You get the opportunity with a series to take a little bit more time than you can when you’re filming a movie. Everything’s very economized in a film. Only the most important things make it into a film, because you have this finite period of time that you get to tell a story, whereas in a series, everything can breathe a little bit. So yeah, it was a little looser. We had such a great time.

Peacemaker (2022)
Peacemaker
69 %
8.4/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Drama
Cast John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma
Created by James Gunn

Was there much improvising or riffing off each other on set? It’s hard to tell sometimes, as James has such a knack for fun, loose dialogue that seems improvised, but isn’t.

John Cena improvised a lot, but a lot of times he was totally aware that it’s never going to make it into the show. He’s just doing it to make everyone on set laugh, you know?

There’s this one specific time — I think it was from episode 7, actually — and he was improvising in this one scene, and he’s totally, 100 percent aware it’s never going to make it into the show. I was cry-laughing, walking around set just to try to keep a straight face. It was never going to make it into the series, but he just kept going with it because he’s making everybody laugh. We had a great time.

Jennifer Holland and John Cena sit at a bar in a scene from Peacemaker.

Everyone I’ve talked to about John Cena has been raving about how great he is on set. What was your experience with him like?

John is absolutely one of the best people I’ve ever met in this business. He is a consummate professional. He’s 100% prepared. He gave 100% of himself to this series and was so enthusiastic about making it, and making it good. I’m so grateful to him.

Aside from how incredibly funny he is and fun he is to be around, he’s also one of the most grounded people I’ve ever had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with in the industry. He is very into self-improvement and learning new things. That type of vulnerability is really rare for someone who’s in the position in life that he’s in. He has a lot of success, and you don’t think that is the moment in someone’s life where they’re going to go, “How can I be better? How can I improve myself?” But he’s always looking to learn new things and improve himself. He’s a great teacher as well as a friend.

Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, and Danielle Brooks enter an office in a scene from Peacemaker.

Everyone seems to love the show’s music and it’s so deeply woven into each episode. How does James’ approach to music come across on your side of the camera as you’re making the show?

James has this wonderful way of shooting to the music that he’s using for a scene. He’ll often ask his composer to compose music before he’s shot anything so that he’s able to shoot to that music on set, and so the camera is moving to the music. It’s a tall order for a composer, but they’ve created some incredible things. He does the same thing with all of the [licensed] music, too. That’s why he chooses the music while he’s writing: He writes as he’s listening to the song that’s going to be in that scene, over and over and over again, so even in the writing, the flow of it is going with the music. So the music really informs everything that James does.

[Music] is a very big part of the way that he writes and the way that he directs, and as an actor working in that environment, it really informs you as to how intense your emotions can be or whether or not you can keep it simple. Maybe the music is really crescendoing, and if the music is telling the story, you don’t have to do as much work in that moment. I think it’s one of the best ways to work. I love working that way. If I could have all of my directors shoot to music, I would do that. It’s great.

Outside of the season finale, what was your favorite part of making Peacemaker? What are you taking away from the experience of making season 1 of the series?

You should always be open to a new experience, because you never know what it’s going to bring you. You never know what it’s going to teach you. Don’t go into things with too many expectations, because you just never know. Throughout the shooting of this series, I learned more about myself and gained more friends than I could have imagined I ever would have. It was just a really special experience, and I will probably judge all of my future work against this one, because it was really special to me.

Season 1 of Peacemaker is available now on the HBO Max streaming service.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Topics
Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
Nicolas Cage embraces chaos in Sympathy for the Devil trailer
Nicolas Cage in Sympathy for the Devil.

As an actor, Nicolas Cage has had a wildly eclectic career that ranges from would-be Superman to an occasional vampire in Renfield. For his next movie, Sympathy for the Devil, Cage is playing to his strengths as an enigmatic passenger who holds Joel Kinnamen's driver at gunpoint. In the trailer below, Cage is completely convincing as an off-the-wall and violent hit man who could kill the driver at any time. However, it also appears that the passenger did not hijack the driver at random. Instead, he seems to have a purpose in mind.

SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL Official Trailer

Read more
The best movies on Max right now
Poster for Moonlight featuring the protagonist's face split among three phases of his life.

Though Warner Bros. Discovery's streaming app has been rebranded, Max (formerly HBO Max) still has some of the best movies to stream right now thanks to its diverse catalog. The platform provides excellent variety in its movies across every genre imaginable, ensuring that subscribers will find at least a handful of content to match their needs.

That's an exceptional strength for any streamer to have considering how competitive -- as well as how increasingly expensive -- the market is. Even so, we've sifted through the platform's offerings to curate a consistently updated guide to help you find the best movies to stream on Max right now.

Read more
Action heroes reunite in first trailer for The Expendables 4
Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables.

It's been nine years since The Expendables 3 hit theaters, but the long-awaited sequel is just a few months away. Jason Statham, last seen kicking a shark in the trailer for The Meg 2, is taking over the franchise from his friend and co-star, Sylvester Stallone. After headlining the first three Expendables films, Stallone has confirmed that this will be his final appearance as Barry Ross. But as you can see in the first trailer for The Expendables 4, Barry has one last mission for Statham's Lee Christmas.

EXPEND4BLES (2023) Official Trailer - Jason Statham, 50 Cent, Megan Fox, Dolph Lundgren

Read more