Not long to go until Suicide Squad arrives in cinemas, and we genuinely can't wait here at The Movie Bit. We stopped foaming at the mouth long enough for a Q&A session with Adam Beach, who plays Slipknot in the movie.
QUESTION: What was your reaction when writer/director David Ayer first approached you about this project? Were you familiar with the comics at all?
ADAM BEACH: Well, first and foremost, I’m a huge comic book fan. People ask, ‘Why comics? Why do you love them so much?’ And if you look at my past, my parents passed away when I was eight years old, and one of the things I remember is that my father used to bring me a comic at least once a week. Those comics became a reality for me in terms of what I lost as a kid and what I gained in my future life. That’s how indebted I am to them. So, when I got the call from David saying he’d like to work with me, and wanted to know if I was okay to work with him on this project, it was almost like, ‘Is this for real?’
David is an accomplished writer and his filmmaking is so raw. It really speaks to reality and just punches you in the face. And when you meet him, you also get that reaction of thinking, ‘This guy might punch me in the face!’ But he’s a really nice guy. He said, ‘I know we’re dealing with a comic book movie, but I want to create a world that is real.’ He wanted us to shy away from what other movies had done because we were providing a new look at comics and a new type of Super Hero, which is the Super-Villain, and he wanted actors who could bring a real human experience to the characters.
That just blew my mind, because here I am dreaming of being in a comic book movie and I get a call from one of the best writer/directors out there, and, of course, it’s DC Comics and you can’t deny their super-stardom. So it’s all great. I love it.
QUESTION: What can you tell me about Slipknot and how you found your way into this character? Was it looking back at the comics or working with David to shape a new iteration of the character?
ADAM BEACH: Well, when people meet me they usually think I’m a pretty nice guy, and David knew that when we were working out who Slipknot was. During rehearsals, we all had to sit in a room as the Squad and talk about our lives and our own experiences. What makes us hurt? What makes us good or bad? So I quickly let him know that my parents had been killed two months apart when I was young, and that left me with a lot of anger and turmoil. I grew up with gangs and got into a lot of trouble as a kid, but then I turned my life around with acting and digging into my traditional ancestral roots as a Native American.
So, while we were still digesting who we are in the film, he would utilize our own experience. He’d say, ‘Adam, you are completely angry at the world. I want to see you hate. That’s what I want you to build on.’ I’m thinking, ‘All right. Let’s roll with this, man.’ But it was challenging to navigate how to get close to everyone as actors and then to push them all away on ‘Action.’ If we are going to be the bad guys, we have to make sure to have that on point. A smile can throw everything away, so he was quick to remind not only me, but everybody, of that.
QUESTION: The Suicide Squad is the most diverse line-up in comic book movie history and in David casting you as Slipknot, you and he have, in essence, brought the first-ever Native American Super Hero to the big screen.
ADAM BEACH: [Laughs] Well, I mentioned to David that I was the only Canadian in the movie, which was huge because we were shooting in Toronto. But what was cool was that when we all together, I said to David, ‘By hiring me to play this character, you’re really giving me an opportunity to do my best at what I could do, so thank you.’ In the comics, Slipknot is a chemist named Christopher Weiss; he has always portrayed as a white character. But David said, ‘This is about who the character is. It’s about the human being. I chose you because I thought that you could bring the best in what I need for this guy.’ That was really nice to hear.
So, yeah, it’s nice to be that Native American Super Hero and to have the DC Universe be so diverse. But walking into it, because David knew this about me, he wanted me to bring my bundle and my pipe and the medicines I carry. He was hoping I brought something to add to Slipknot’s wardrobe, but I didn’t.
QUESTION: David brought all the actors in the cast together for a five-week rehearsal/‘boot camp’ to bond as actors and create the dynamic between your characters. What was that like for you and what effect do you think it had on the cast as a whole?
ADAM BEACH: David was kind of the leader, but at times it felt like he was more a therapist or an acting coach because he wanted all of us to bring our own personal pain to our characters. He’d say, ‘Okay, tell us why you hated your dad or hated your mom or hated your life?’ We were all thinking, ‘Oh, my God – this is pretty deep stuff’ [laughs]. I’d put my head down when someone would answer because it felt so personal. It’s nothing we would talk to other people about outside of that room, but we knew the depth of what we were doing just by David being honest with us and saying, ‘Look, I’m going to show you guys a part of me and I need you to show a part of you because we’re all here together as a team. So let’s make this work.’
When we’d rehearse, he wanted us to go off-books and just improvise. And seeing everybody bring who they are and their experiences into the scene, you’re thinking, ‘What the hell just happened here?’ If you look at Jay Hernandez and his character, Diablo – you can call him a fire-breathing dragon, ready to annihilate everything in his path – but Diablo is holding in this power that he has. He’s being taunted by Amanda Waller and Rick Flag to let it out. They’re saying to him, ‘You better work with us. You better do what you’re told.’ And Diablo just politely lets them know, ‘In an instant, I can kill you all. I can kill myself. But I’m going to try to live my life peacefully.’ It was so poetic. It wasn’t in the script; it was just in this beautiful place that Jay brought it to in the moment. It was unbelievable – even he was surprised when it came out. But every one of us had this little button that only David could push to bring what he was looking for out of us.
QUESTION: This cast seems to have such great camaraderie when you’re all together, with a lot of playful teasing. Was there anyone in particular who hit you with it the most or was it pretty much a free-for-all, all the time?
ADAM BEACH:It was a free-for-all, and it was amazing. If you look at Jai [Courtney], this crazy, fanatic Boomerang character would pop up out of nowhere. I think out of everybody, Jai was really the loose cannon, and everybody would feed off his energy. It was so funny. Ike Barinholtz [who plays Captain Griggs] is a comedian and he would come up with these one-liners all the time. But the eloquent quotes would come from Will Smith. If you had some sort of life struggle, he had a little quote to remind you to get the ego out of it and to just live a humble life. That was really cool.
QUESTION: What do you hope people will experience when they go see Suicide Squad in the cinema?
ADAM BEACH: One thing that I often talk to people about is the fact that there are a lot of misfits in the world who are left alone and are out of opportunities. I hope that those people will get to see this film and realize that they can be Super Heroes too. Because growing up, I felt like I was a misfit and out of opportunities but I was fortunate enough to turn my life around. Even though people might consider them misfits or out of place in society, everybody can fight against evil – that’s what I’m hoping for.
With the Suicide Squad, every one of us just has to pull our punches and we can change the world. There’s this quote that says, ‘The choices you make define who you are.’ It’s simple as that.