John Cena has been working his way up the entertainment food chain for many years now and looks to be on a roll with his one-two punch of summer blockbusters that just began with F9 and will finish with James Gunn’s THE SUICIDE SQUAD. Cena plays The Peacemaker, a kind of violent, insane Captain America who will do whatever it takes for freedom. After showing his comedic shops in movies like Ferdinand and Blockers, the WWE Star is set to take on the big leagues utilizing both comedy and his physical prowess. Cena is an imposing force in person and showed up looking like a giant of muscle, speaking with that booming John Cena voice. Confident, relaxed, playful and sometimes deadly serious, Cena came off as a truly welcome addition to this massive cast and is sure to entertain with is wild antics as The Peacemaker. Hopefully, folks dig it, as he and Gunn have already wrapped filming a mini-series for the character that’s set to debut sometime in the future on HBO Max.
Joining Cena for this little Q & A session is actress Daniela Melchior, who plays Ratcatcher 2. While we had only time for a few questions with Melchior, she gave us some insight into her character, as well as her insight in working with James Gunn.
QUESTION: How you doing?
JOHN CENA: Excellent. First of all, a universal good afternoon, everybody. I’m sure your day has been full of conversation. I will try to sink the ship and see what we can do. What’s on everybody’s mind?
QUESTION: Can we talk about the helmet?
JOHN CENA: You can talk about the helmet.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about your character?
JOHN CENA:: I’m currently filming Suicide Squad Two or Suicide Squad: The James Gunn Edition. I’m gonna call it that. Yes.
QUESTION: How did you come to be a part of it?
JOHN CENA: Like most opportunities, a bit of chance, and then through a series of tests and preparation, I guess, acceptance. Yes.
QUESTION: Peacemaker has a pretty extreme philosophy. What can you tell us about that? What about that appeals to you?
JOHN CENA: I would say that that is one person’s point of view. I think the driving force behind any character, anyone you see behind me, it’s they have to have some sense of belief in their purpose. And I don’t think that’s just a necessarily slated to what I’m asked to do. I think everyone is either struggling to find it or has strong belief. And I think that the wonderful ride, that movies, superhero movies, especially because a comic book character, it’s very much like a WWE superstar. When you come through the curtain, by your background music and your appearance, you are supposed to give off essentially your character, your purpose, your definition. And comic book characters are what we try to emulate in WWE. So it’s even better representation of that. So for you to read a story about somebody and say, oh, well, they have very defined views or severe views or take the attitude you take is your interpretation of their credit. I think the fun, especially what we’ve been doing the past few days, of course, I can’t tell you anything about it, but the stuff we’ve been filming in the past two days is exploring the why in all that. And I think that’s what’s great about these movies. That’s what keeps us all charged on going to these movies. We either know these characters so well, or we want to know about these characters. And maybe we’re asking these questions, why, or we maybe have our own definition and the movie either turns it upside down or answers to the questions for us.
QUESTION: Did you get to incorporate anything else from a WWE skillset to action sequences or anything like that this summer?
JOHN CENA: Action sequences kind of. I could waste all of the data on all of these devices showing you what I take from WWE and bring to cinematic performance. Every single day, I’m met with a new epiphany of like, wow, I was doing this and WWE. It’s the same, it’s just not the same. And it’s every single day on every single project. So I bring a lot from WWE with me and hopefully it stays that way. Nah it’s cool, take one at a time [another attempt at a question] Yeah. Look at this guy, he bogarted his way in. [Another attempt] You spoke first, but you raised your hand, so I’m going to give you that one. One, two, three. All right. Go.
QUESTION: Now I forgot my question. What is Peacemaker’s role on the scene? He’s positioned not towards the front, but he’s very prominent in all his art. Is he a team player? Does he get along with the team?
JOHN CENA: You familiar with a band called Van Halen? Not the Van Hagar version, the David Lee Roth Van Halen. Think of him as a fucking awesome Eddie Van Halen.
QUESTION: One of the things you’ve apparently brought from WWE, Peter Safran was telling us, was your improvisational skills. And you said some of the best stuff in the movie will never make it into the movie because of…
JOHN CENA: Well, I got to help you guys stay during the credits.
QUESTION: So like, how much of that improvisation are you doing? And what is the tolerance for that kind of stuff on the set?
JOHN CENA:So every set is different. I just, and every role is different. I’m literally leaving you guys to go promo a family comedy where I was put next to two brilliant improvisers and John Leguizamo and Keegan-Michael Key, and my role was to not laugh and let them be themselves. So all of these jokes and fits and risks that they came up with, I couldn’t, once, get in on the punchline, not even once, because I’m supposed to stand there, still, like a disciplinarian. This one, I actually had different intentions of what I wanted to do with this. And then James was like, no, I kind of want him more douche-y. And I was like, you hired the right guy. In a small piece of feedback on day one of shooting, all of my preparation, all of the work I put into what I thought it would be, completely collapsed, but spawned to a new environment. And along with suggestions, from certainly the guy running the show, and freedom to be like, hey, I’ve got what I need. We’re set up. Here’s one for you. And Daniela and I shared a wonderful moment yesterday where James is like, hey, just do what you want on this one. And I absolutely did exactly what I wanted to. It had nothing to do with what was on the page, it had nothing to do with continuing the narrative. He gave me the choice to do what I want and I was like, well, fuck it. I’m going to write my own story right now. So it’s cool because I think he’s okay with that and he’ll grab bits and pieces of, even if I’m really just wasting tape. He’d be like, that thing you just did, like the fucked up thing with your face, do that, but say this. Oh. Oh, shit. Okay, great. So I think he’s tolerant and patient enough to know like, when he says do what you want, he’s going to get me. And that he tries to steal little bits of me and put it behind that gorgeous chrome helmet, that I’m not supposed to talk about.
QUESTION: People hear, James Gunn doing an ensemble comic book movie, and they automatically think that this is going to be Guardians of the Galaxy, but for DC. Is that accurate?
JOHN CENA: Okay, give me what you mean by that.
QUESTION: Like jokey and tone characters that don’t play well together, but figure out eventually how to be a team. It’s like his unique sense of humor, basically, that that would fuel the story.
JOHN CENA: So the tale of human connection making the audience laugh.
QUESTION: Sure. But I wouldn’t [inaudible] Suicide Squad, because they’re supposed to be villains and there’s supposed to be, well, not supposed to be. There’s almost an unexpected essence of them not getting along together. It’s almost like two things that don’t go together.
JOHN CENA: Yeah. So I bet you if they locked the door in this son of a bitch right now, and they kept us here for a month, we’d somehow find a way to co-exist. So I think you can say that for any dynamic. If Suicide Squad, they’re put in penitentiary situations. Even in the penitentiary, where people are there to correct moral wrongdoing, they make a dichotomy, they have sides. So to say that people don’t get along, correct. But then they’re putting in a set of circumstances where the other option is not existing. So if you are faced with death, we’ll get along. And I think that’s an interesting, like that drives the narrative forward really tight. And that’s very well-defined. So I think that’s a cool kind of way to make it. Anybody else?
QUESTION: Did it require any kind of difference in your training routine?
JOHN CENA: I had to learn accents. Yes. And then, throw away all the accent work that I did and just forget about it. I just couldn’t come up with anything good. [laughter] But everybody’s like, accents, what the? [laughter] It just took a bit of adjustment. Like I came from Fast, wrapped that, and then two days later, we’re in full in Suicide Squad. And just the systems of operations are different. Neither one of them’s, neither one of them’s wrong. It just took me like a day or two to get to altitude. But now we are cruising. Anything else?
QUESTION: First of all, incredible. I apologize, I forget who asked it earlier. But we were looking at the concept art over here with all the rats, and somebody asked, do you bring your own rats in this situation? Or do you use the local population rats?
DANIELA MELCHIOR: I like to think, I have a particular one personally. I am sorry for my bad English. But it will be useful because my character comes from Portugal, so it’s totally fine to have my accent. I like to think that all the reps from all over the world can speak my language. And wherever I go, if I call them, they will come from everywhere. Like not from Portugal, not from… if I’m in, can we say where I’ll be? [publicist confirms Portugal] If I’m in [Portugal], I speak with them, Portuguese. I actually have a line in Portu– an expression, in Portuguese talking with them. But they are from here, from the [inaudible].
QUESTION: Is this where you imagined your super power would be when you…
DANIELA MELCHIOR: Yes. Like if I go to a place, I’m not taking my gang. I go there and wherever I go, I have my gang and I don’t have to make them, they’re mine.
QUESTION: I had actually asked a different rat, well that wasn’t my rat question, but we hear that you have Sebastian? Is that the… okay. So, what’s it been like working with a cute little rat in a vest?
DANIELA MELCHIOR: So I’m not wearing that much. The rats actually, we have three rats, three female rats. It’s a little bit distracting sometimes because I have to be like lazy and tired and I don’t give a shit about whatever is happening. And the rats is like… and I’m just like, come here. And she doesn’t want to, she wants to find new places and go, and we’re like, okay, we’ll try one time with the rats, we’ll see what happens. And then it will be CGI. And actually, I don’t know if I can say this, but actually, [inaudible] a little bit afraid of rats. Like whenever I have the rats, I tried to put it smaller, but the [rat] doesn’t go smaller and they are already like looking. No way. No, keep that thing away. Yeah. But I’m always trying to, look, she’s so sweet. She, look, she wouldn’t hurt you.
QUESTION: I guess you both can speak to this. We’ve heard about how James is singular in his vision of the entire story at any point in it, that that’s something special for a filmmaker, a director, that he knows every beat, he knows where everyone needs to be. Is that like freeing knowing you’re in such good hands or is there pressure?
DANIELA MELCHIOR: I totally trust him. And I feel, I don’t know what to say. I feel if I call, he will be there. I totally, I could go blind, and I would trust him because he has everything in his head. He knows what he’s doing. And whenever he asks us something, we never question because he’s a genius.
JOHN CENA: I’ve never ever fought unprepared, ever. He is one of the most prepared and able to steer that ship. It’s one of the most imperative things I’ve ever seen, but also, he’s okay, like with talking about the impromptus, he’s okay pivoting. Like you pivoting and then coming back to the plan. When someone just pushes forward at all costs, you truly are a robot, well, then you get a puppet. He has definitely a sense of direction, a very defined sense of direction, but is gracious to all of us to allow us to be us. So it’s not as if we don’t feel like, onward, but when you look at the storyboards and the way he approaches a project and the concentration and character development and the importance of narrative, things that make a good movie a movie, as he said today, smart and honest. Those are the two words he used. I was like, hey man, what makes a good movie? They’re smart and they’re honest. I think by giving, by having the direction he has, but also by giving us the luxury to be ourselves, you get authenticity, which is awesome.
QUESTION: Can you talk about how your character was pitched to you? Like what details you were giving up front?
JOHN CENA: They give us nothing. I know all this stuff is around me, and I was told to tell you guys nothing. So I’m not going to tell you anything. You’re not going to get it from me. And I got to hold that secret for another 18, 20 months. So in the midst of a few opportunities, someone was like, Hey, James Gunn would like to talk to you about a film that he’s doing. And I said, of course. And they were very lock and key with the details. And I came to Atlanta and walked into James’ office and he had the entire thing story boarded. Everything down to the smallest of details. And I thought, literally, he was just giving me a tour. He was like, Hey, come here man. And then we get to this, this, and this. Dude, I haven’t even read page one of this yet. What are you talking about? And then he explained what the project was, what I was doing. And then I was able to actually read the material. And after seeing all this, when you read the material, I mean, I’m an imaginative person, but I couldn’t even… I was like hyper-charged with ideas and I really wanted to be part of it. And when you see something like this, this much vision, this much preparedness, like, I want to bet on that kind of thing. I just know he’s not, I don’t want to say never, but he’s either going to fail while going down with his last breaths swinging until he can’t swing no more, or it’s going to be great. You know, he doesn’t [inaudible].
QUESTION: I actually have a question for Daniela. I knew the Ratcatcher character from the Batman comics, and I think we saw a costumes tests reel that they put together. Does your character have a mask at one point? What can you tell us about the mask and the function?
DANIELA MELCHIOR: Actually, I have the rats and I have the gas, so I can’t tell when I’m using it, but I will use it. But also you will see much time my face. So it’s like, it still be useful and each will have meaning – you will understand, okay, yeah, the Ratcatcher from Batman used it and this Ratcatcher also uses it. I don’t know if I can talk about it.
JOHN CENA:: I’ll bore these guys with annecdotes. Final thoughts. Anything.
QUESTION: Is this the genre that you were looking to get into, the comic book genre? It’s so popular now. And there’s so many great storytellers in it.
JOHN CENA: So here we are. Everybody asking questions about genre. That’s unnecessary, especially with the success of comic book adaptation. I don’t care where it comes from. It’s when I get a chance to read it. Or when I get a chance to live it, if I’m moved by it, I want to be a part it. I can come up with family comedy all day tomorrow, and then I’ll be the big budget action. And then another big budget action movie, a superhero world. And then I’ll do an adult comedy. [mentions sounds above us] And then there are guys on the roof. [laughter] I don’t have a bucket list of like, I’d like to do this, I’d like to do that. But I don’t have a path of like, this should be next. I just, I’m still kind of finding my way. I’m very new to this profession. And I always, this goes back to WWE question. When I established my connection with the audience, I failed the very first time I tried WWE, just like the first time I tried to do movies, I just failed. I started to gain traction and recognition in this field and picking projects that I’m passionate about. If I like what I read, I can see myself in it, which means I can do an authentic job and give you guys some laughs or a vibe, or whatever I’m supposed to do. So I read it. I loved it. It’s got the right folks on it, so it’s super awesome. Because once again, I think it’s like, you can kind of look at everybody and get it. And that’s what I love about comics. They’re like, the name, the graphics, it’s all in the cards. It’s the entrance of the WWE. This is the Undertaker, oh yeah, he’s the bad guy. Oh, I get it.. The comics are the same way. I really admire them.
QUESTION: Did you read any comics to learn about the character or anything?
JOHN CENA: No. Therein lies another conundrum. Do I dive super deep in the universe and get the universe’s perception of what I’m supposed to do, or [inaudible]. Because although I was a fan of wrestling, I was never like a super uber fan of wrestling. And a lot of my peers used to chastise me for that. But it was awesome because then when I was placed with people better than I was, I could learn from them instead of standing from a standpoint of like, but you don’t understand I know this all. I know this from Gorgeous George and Lou Albano. In the sense of comic books, with such a short time to prepare and a huge product in front of this one, and I had ended up talking to James about this. Hey, I trust you man, I get what you’re going for and I think I have a perception of what I’d like the character to be, please tell me if I’m wrong. And day one, he was like, you’re doing that wrong. Okay, what would like? I would like this. Okay, great. And now I’m afraid to go back and check it out because I think we’re going to have some similarities, but I also think we’ll have some differences. So I’m glad I’m not bound by any – you know. In that case I… damn, I should probably read more comics, but we’ll see, we’ll see.
QUESTION: What’s your character think of Weasel and King Shark?
JOHN CENA: When you start questioning, what does your character think, immediately I think about the guys of like, you can’t talk to anybody about anything. I’m going to let you rephrase that question in a different way. It’s much more of a deposition for me today.
QUESTION: What did you know and when did you know?
JOHN CENA:So, I guess I’ll best answer it like this. You have a group of should be superheroes, but you have to remember that all either have been wrongfully accused or done horrible, morally wrong things. So I think the one, they have to lack some sort of complete profile. Superman is just a good dude. You know, you can see the good in people, you can also see the evil in people, but you can see the good. All of these people have real bad personality problems. So I think when you get that type of group together, that’s what makes it fun. I don’t think anybody is, everybody is kind of different. But I think criminals see criminals, they just size everybody up. And I don’t think that it’s just segregated to my character. I think every one of the people you see behind me is like, how is this person going to stab me in the back? You know, that’s the world they come from.
QUESTION: What’s it like on the days when you have big ensemble scenes, like when you just as a cast being such so many talented people with big personalities themselves.
JOHN CENA: And those are fun. [crosstalk] It’s awesome. Everyone’s got a different style and everybody has a different approach. And then you’ve got a guy who really knows his shit looking at the TVs, and not only does he know his shit, it’s a crew around him of like super professionals. So even when you’re just sitting in the back, watching people perform, you learn every second. This is an amazing takeaway experience. Whether you are disliked on you or whether you’re like, Hey, watch these people do this thing. It’s really special.
QUESTION: That’s cool. Given the polarized receptions to the first Suicide Squad, do you have any reservations about coming on specifically?
JOHN CENA: That made me want to dive in the son of a bitch extra hard. There is no more satisfying situation than to change someone’s mind. And then you look at the people involved in trying to orchestrate that choice. Like I said, I’ve been on James every day. And I think he kind of likes having that chip on his shoulder. He probably won’t admit it, but I think he kind of likes it and he wants to be able to change perception to people who maybe weren’t so happy with the first they saw. It makes it fun. You know, it makes it, there’s a lot at stake because they set precedent a major title that did great money, but at the same time, polarizing. And I was a very polarizing figure in WWE, so I can say the word polarizing. I mean, some people like it, some people don’t. It’s a great challenge. There’s a great risk involved, but nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?
QUESTION: It seems like he takes this extra strong as well. Like-
JOHN CENA: In the end, you got to see when you see the movie, so I’m not going to give it away. You’re going to love it. That’s the best I can tell you. You’re going to love it.
QUESTION: Fans have been expecting you to play a comic book superhero for years now.
JOHN CENA: When you say fans like, do I have fans still? [laughter’
QUESTION: I feel like you’ve been kind of fan cast into tons of roles when projects are announced. Have you come close to any of the other ones? Like, were you aware of any of this conversation?
JOHN CENA: I could also, once again, waste all the data you have in that with a list of my failures. I’ve been to the ledge many times and been turned away. This is the business of rejection. I think that it’s the greatest trade that I just won’t ever stop trying. So, been really close on some and it didn’t work out. Every single one I’ve been close on, it’s really satisfying to see that the movie was selling and ended up being awesome, like they didn’t need me. And I remember every single one of those auditions, telling every single person involved, you have a good movie with or without me. I’d love to be able to contribute, but I understand if I can’t. And every single one of them I did this. And I said the same thing to James. He was like no, you’re my guy. I’m like, I hope he’s not full of shit. [laughter] As it turned out, he wasn’t. I’ll even give a bonus round. Rapid fire stuff.
QUESTION: I have one. It’s more personal-
JOHN CENA: My apologies, but this is an adult room, I’m using adult language. You guys can understand. We’re all adults here. So, thank you. I would use much different language with the daughter. And I believe I did.
QUESTION: My Little Pony. “I just won’t ever stop trying.” What’s your personal motivation? Just something that you want us to know about you. I’ve found it as powerful, something great to share with kids. But in general, those words are powerful, “I just won’t ever stop trying.” What’s the motivation? What’s the back story?
JOHN CENA: I think, that’s a great question. I think it’s finding a purpose. Why are we here? You know, and, man, that’s a deep dive into me. Some people go in the ground never knowing. I love to entertain. I’m trying to work the room right now. I just love it. So any chance I could get to do work, it’s what, it’s why I tell everybody I’ll never leave the WWE because the draw, the attraction, the live entertainment, talking to the audience, captivating an audience, you know, like it’s just, it makes my heart race. So I found out at an early age, I remember the first time I saw a ring that I could step in to learn to fall down. I was dead broke, working a dead end job and I’m like, well, I’m going to keep working that dead end job so I can do this at flea markets on the weekends. It just drove me to do it without like… They’ll setbacks and all that, but just keep going. Especially if you love it. It doesn’t mean, in the same sense, following an unattainable goal. I always take a realistic look at myself. I’ll use the WWE as a certain situation. I’m 42. I can’t wrestle 250 nights a year. So I have to look within and be like, I love this. How do I still love it? Well there’s coaching, there’s commentating, there’s helping the front office. I could still be attached to it, just not in the same capacity. So that doesn’t mean I’ve give up, it just means I’m trying a new thing. Like this right now would be trying a new thing, because I love entertaining. So I just think it comes with knowing who you are, knowing what makes your heart beat. Anything else?
QUESTION: What would you say the goal is then? When will you be like, all right, I did it?
JOHN CENA: Hell if I do that, I’m done. If I ever reach that goal, I mean, if I ever reach that concept of like, I feel like, I hate when people like, hey man, when do you think you’ve made it? I’m like shit. If I’m telling you when I made it, I’ve lost it. And that’s not in a situation of like, I got to be free and keep the wheels turning. We should always be in a state of growing and developing. And part of the growth, a large part of growth, is failure. So if I get to the point where I’m like, I did it, I don’t need to fail anymore. My life would be dull, you know? So, never. And I’ll constantly come up with challenges for myself. Hey, learn an instrument, learn a language, learn how to take good critiques on your past performances, and instead of shaking your fist going, what do they know, say, they know something, this is what their message is, and apply it to that. I don’t know. I guess it’s because I’ve always been in a polarizing atmosphere. Every time I’ve, once a day, every day, 5,000 people told me I suck. At least. At the very least. And they meant it. So I think that was a cool way to keep you grounded and focused and working hard. Wow. It’s got some really deep, great questions. All right, I’m out. [Applause] And, I didn’t give shit away. [laughter] I will talk to you all again as we get closer to the movie release, and then we’ll have some cool talks about the strange graphics you see behind you.
The Suicide Squad hits theaters and HBO Max on August 6th, 2021.