‘Peacemaker’s Steve Agee teases a crazy episode five for John Economos


John Economos is beck! Steve Agee can be seen starring in HBO Max’s hit action series “Peacemaker.” Steve is a scene stealer as John Economos, a snarky yet well-meaning member of ARGUS, a United States government organization tasked at handling major threats. Steve debuted as Economos in Warner Bros’ The Suicide Squad, Gunn’s hyper-violent, triumphant reimagining of the 2016 feature.

Based on the DC Comics and executive produced and written by James Gunn, “Peacemaker” explores the continuing story of the character that John Cena reprises in the aftermath of Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad, who is described as a compellingly vainglorious man who believes in peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it. 

In addition to Steve and John Cena, the series stars Danielle Brooks as Adebayo, Freddie Stroma as Vigilante, Jennifer Holland as Harcourt, Chukwudi Iwuji as Murn, and Robert Patrick as Auggie Smith.

Check out my interview with Steve!

Congratulations on “Peacemaker.” It’s a big hit right now.

Steve: Yeah, thanks. I’m digging it.

You’ve worked with James Gunn for quite a while. How did you two meet and how did this working relationship begin?

Steve: Around 2008 or 2009, when he was co-hosting a show with my friend Shawnee Smith on, I think it was VH1 called “Scream Queens,” where they were looking for the next Jamie Lee Curtis, type horror heroine and Shawnee called me one day and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to this wine and cheese party at James Gunn’s brother’s house. You want to go? I don’t think I’m going to know anyone but James.’ So I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ And I went and met James there and immediately hit it off. It was like we’d known each other forever. And at the end of the day, James was like, ‘we do this every Sunday. Feel free to come by anytime you want, any Sunday. We’re always here,’ and I just kept going back. I never stopped going. Shawnee never went back to another one but I just kept going. And then I think it was when James was doing Super with Rainn Wilson and Elliot Paige and Liv Tyler, that he was casting, and James likes to work with a lot of his friends. He likes to have friends around on set, as do a lot of directors and filmmakers. So he said, ‘I have a small part in the show, you know, in the movie, do you want to do it?’ And I was like, ‘absolutely!’ And then it just kept happening after that. I think I’ve worked on most of his projects with him since then. Yeah, it’s been great.

What was your reaction to being told that they wanted John Economos back for “Peacemaker?”

Steve: It was life saving for me. I was isolated for the first few months of the pandemic, in a friend’s rental place out in Joshua Tree. It was just me. My mom died a few weeks into the pandemic and I was in a really dark place. And then, I think it was around October that James called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re doing a spin off with Peacemaker for HBO Max and I’m bringing Economos back.’ And I mean, I had literally, at that point, just been sitting in a house by myself for like seven or eight months and was just in a very dark place, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. And it was a really quick turn around too. By the time he had told me, he had already written it and the show had already been greenlit. He said he didn’t tell me until then because he didn’t want to get my hopes up. But yeah, he told me around October, and I was in Vancouver at the end of December, so it was really quick. And it just really lifted my spirits. It just kind of got me out of a really, really dark depression. So my reaction, absolute joy!

Photo credit: Storm Santos
Economos is proving that he’s more than just the computer guy, what were some things that you were excited to get to explore with him?

Steve: When we got the scripts, I just loved that there was just more, he was just a more dimensional character, like he has substance. I love that we kind of explore the relationships between everything, not just me, but everybody in this series including Cena, who we didn’t get to explore it all in the movie. I love it. Economos is very much like me in that he has his comfort zone and he does not like to leave it but in this series, we see him going out and having to confront people like Judomaster, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It gets crazy for Economos in the upcoming episode this week. There’s something in episode five that when I got the script and the schedule, I marked that day down in my calendar because I was like, ‘oh my god, this is gonna be the greatest thing I’ve ever done on TV or in a movie!’ I can’t tell you because it’s a major spoiler, but oh my god! Yeah, there’s that scene that happens in episode five and then the finale. I mean, there’s a lot of really cool stuff that he gets to do outside of just sitting in a chair eating chips.

You’ll know when you see it in the episode this week, it is huge. It’s not only outside of John Economos’s comfort zone, but it was outside of Steve Agee’s usual type of acting. I’m primarily a character actor who just comes in at the end of the scene and says something funny. I don’t do action. You’ll know it when you see it.

I have to ask about the title sequence. Did you expect to dance during this project? 

Steve: I found out about it when I got the first few scripts. I was like, ‘oh, there’s what? The opening credits is a dance?’ I couldn’t wrap my head around that because this is a comic book action show that’s really dark and the credits are so against that genre. I trust James. I mean, he did a similar thing with the opening credits of the movie Super, but that was an animated dance, musical number. And so, we shot that probably halfway through the season. We shot it in a day and we had a full day’s rehearsal the day before on the stage that we shot it on. Leading up to that, I’d say about a month or two before we actually did it, we started rehearsing with Charissa Barton, who was the choreographer in groups of like three. All my rehearsals were with Chukwudi (Iwuji) and with Jen (Holland) and it was nothing really major or difficult. We’d go in for an hour when we had like a day off and run through our moves and it was pretty painless. And as far as all of us looking like we’re not having fun, that was a specific note from James. He’s like, ‘no expressions. I want no expression.’ And that was honestly the hardest part of shooting it. He had to, every now and then, stop and say, ‘alright, Danielle, stop smiling,’ because when you’re dancing, your instinct is to smile, because dancing is generally fun. But yeah, it was a fun day.

Does dance come naturally to you? 

Steve: No, that’s why I’m kind of in the background and I’m not a feature dancer. There’s one moment where the camera pushes past Robert Patrick and I’m in the back against the wall doing some weird interpretive dance. That was kind of a last minute thing, he’s like, ‘just make something up.’ That’s what dancing is to me, that moment where I’m just jumping around like a crazy person. I have no moves. I have no rhythm. Yeah, it does not come naturally to me.

Throughout the show, we’re seeing Peacemaker grow and how the group influences his growth. Are we going to see more of Economos’s and Peacemaker’s interactions with that?

Steve: Yeah, I mean, that’s the exciting thing about this. For me, at least, it gets better and better and not just me as Steve but for John Economos as well. Like all this stuff, all this shit that Peacemaker’s throwing at Economos, you know, about the dyed beard and the insults, it really does pay off at the end. And that’s so satisfying to me. Not only as John Economos, but like as a guy who had to fucking grow a beard out and dye it and look ridiculous. It’s really funny in the show, it’s a funny running gag, but like when they wrap us out for the day, everyone goes home and takes a shower and looks normal and I go home and have a horrible beard and if I go pick up food at a restaurant, I can tell they’re staring at me going, ‘why does that guy do this to his beard? That’s so insane.’ So I’m happy that it’s justified. We dyed it for Suicide Squad too, but it’s never mentioned and that was always kind of like a, ‘oh god, I just have to have this beard for six months and diet every two weeks.’ But the fact that I’m getting made fun of for it in this at least, you know, pays it off a little bit.

I also have to ask about the Berenstein versus Berenstain Bears argument. I grew up thinking it was Berenstein. Was this a hot debate off camera as well as on?

Steve:  No. In fact, I saw it in the script and I remember texting James and I go, ‘Oh my god, I grew up with these books. They’re still in my parents’ attic. And I thought it was Berenstein.’ And then I saw an article, you know, one of those clickbait websites, I saw a headline about something called the Mandela Effect, which is like, when people have misconceptions about certain things that just kind of seep into pop culture. And I think, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it started with people thinking, ‘oh, yeah, Nelson Mandela died in a prison in Africa.’ And it’s like, no, he actually was released and lived for a long time afterwards. But when enough people say Berenstein Bears, you’re like, ‘Oh, yes, definitely the Berenstein Bears,’ and it’s like, no. And it was funny because I sent clickbait, quote unquote, article to James and he’s like, ‘yeah, that’s what made me write this.’ But almost everyone on set was like, ‘holy shit. I thought it was Berenstein Bears!’

Any word on a season two yet?

Steve: Not yet. Our fingers are crossed. I’m hopeful because the show’s doing really well. All the reviews have been incredible. And we all want it. So as it happens, we’re all ready to do it. Fingers crossed. I don’t know when they will announce it, but I am on board and I know everyone else in the cast is as well.

“Peacemaker” picks up where The Suicide Squad left off, and drops new episodes every Thursday on HBO Max.