By Ani Bundel

The drama of The Suicide Squad precedes it. The first film, released in the summer of 2016 was a critical flop, despite rolling in a domestic opening weekend of $133m. The decision to reboot the franchise after only one film instead of following up with a sequel directed by David Ayers and starring Will Smith came along after Ayers demanded an R-rated sequel. It wound up hiring James Gunn, himself in the middle of a scandal of a different sort, being fired (and then later rehired) from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. 

And yet the film doesn’t seem quite like a reboot, despite the lack of Smith and Ayers. Original cast members Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn), Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Jai Courtney (Captain Boomerang), and Joel Kinneman (Rick Flagg) are all back for the new film. Robbie herself already starred in Birds of Prey, a not-quite-sequel to the 2016 film, though definitely its spiritual heir. The difference is, in this version, the three will be joined by an entire host of new cast members. The biggest reveal of The Suicide Squad panel was “Who’s playing who,” which came in the new “Roll Call” trailer.

Here’s the rundown of the cast (deep breath): 

  • Michael Rooker as Savant
  • Flula Borg as Javelin
  • David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man
  • Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2
  • Idris Elba as Bloodsport
  • Steve Agee as King Shark
  • Mayling Ng as Mongal
  • Peter Capaldi as The Thinker
  • Alice Braga as Sol Soria
  • Pete Davidson as Blackguard
  • Nathan Fillion as TDK
  • Sean Gunn as Weasel
  • John Cena as Peacemaker

Actresses Jennifer Holland and Storm Reid, who didn’t have their characters revealed in the roll call, popped up to ask “special secret guest” questions. During Reid’s appearance, Elba revealed she’s playing Bloodsport’s daughter.

With such a huge cast, the DC Fandome virtual panel for The Suicide Squad could have been an overwhelming screen of little boxes on a website. Instead, the panel started with Gunn alone, who was claimed to be on a break from the editing bay. (Filming wrapped weeks before the pandemic shut down Hollywood, and post-production has been conducted virtually.) He promised Jake from State Farm this was one of the most special-effects-heavy films of the DC Universe so far.

The Suicide Squad

Once the cast was introduced, it did become a bit of insanity of faces and overlapping conversations, much like a large scale Zoom Happy Hour (“This is a really screwed up Brady Bunch,” observed Gunn). Gunn attempted to maintain order by splitting the cast into teams and having them compete, game-show style, to prove their knowledge of DC Comics. It also went about as well as game playing does on an elementary kid’s Zoom birthday party. That’s not to say the madness wasn’t fun. Viewers got a real dose of the cast chemistry, and what the insanity of filming this must have been on set.

Speaking of which, Gunn brought along a second clip of that exact madness, with behind-the-scenes footage of the making of The Suicide Squad.

Gunn called this film one of the most fun of his career, and most of the cast echoed that sentiment in their comments. Notably, Peter Capaldi piped up that despite having played the iconic lead in Doctor Who, he was intimidated to step on the set of such a large-scale superhero film. The cast was one of the warmest and welcoming as he could wish. The panel may have been a touch overwhelming, but fans got the sense that this good feeling on the set will come through in the new film.

The Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on Aug. 6, 2021.