The Suicide Squad Star Reveals James Gunn Almost Had to Write Out a Main Character

A scheduling conflict nearly prevented Joel Kinnaman from reprising the Rick Flag role in The Suicide Squad. Five years after playing the all-American soldier in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, Kinnaman is back in the DC Extended Universe as the leader of a new squad of supervillains recruited by the uncompromising Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). But it was his role as astronaut Edward Baldwin in the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind that almost grounded Kinnaman from appearing in The Suicide Squad, which had to shoot on a certain schedule to accommodate director James Gunn’s commitment to his Marvel Studios sequel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

“My manager, Shelley Browning, and my agents, Boomer Malkin and Andrew Finkelstein, definitely won the agent Oscar for this because it was a really, really tricky scheduling situation,” Kinnaman told The Hollywood Reporter. “And I also have to thank [For All Mankind creator] Ron Moore so much and everyone at Apple for helping out.”

Studio Warner Bros. “was in first position” when making the standalone successor to Suicide Squad, Kinnaman explained, “but they couldn’t budge because it was such a big cast.”

“So it was a really tricky scheduling thing, and it took them several months to figure it out,” the actor added. “There were actually people at Warner Bros. that told James, ‘We might have to rewrite this because the scheduling is not going to work out.’ So I was definitely on edge, but then they figured it out.”

The Suicide Squad is not a direct sequel to Suicide Squad, nor a start-from-scratch reboot, so Gunn’s first foray into the DCEU reunites Kinnaman’s Rick Flag with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) from the first movie. Around them is a new squad of equally expendable convicts, including the armored assassin Bloodsport (Idris Elba), peace extremist Peacekeeper (John Cena), the gloomy Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), the rat-controlling Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and the man-eating King Shark (voice of Sylvester Stallone).

“When I read The Suicide Squad, it felt clear. This isn’t really the same guy. It just does not feel like the same guy,” Kinnaman said of Flag, who was tasked with leading Task Force X on a mission to stop his witch-possessed girlfriend in Suicide Squad. “So pretty early on, I decided I was not going to treat it like a continuation of what I did before. And then I had a chat with James, and he was completely supportive of that idea of just letting this be its own thing.”

“The script was so much its own thing, and I just felt like it would be more of a burden to be bound by what I did in the first film,” he said. “So I just decided to reinvent the character and let him be what he wants to be in this.”

Starring Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Sylvester Stallone, and Viola Davis, The Suicide Squad is now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max through September 6.

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