‘Suicide Squad’ Director and Cast on the Intensely Personal Rehearsal Process

     July 11, 2016

When you think about actors preparing for a movie like Suicide Squad, your mind may not initially go to intense psychological preparation. Sure stunt and stamina training is necessary, but for writer/director David Ayer, Suicide Squad is not just any comic book movie. The filmmaker behind Fury and End of Watch is known for his intense rehearsal processes for his actors on each film, and Suicide Squad was no different.

Last June, I visited the set of Suicide Squad along with a small group of reporters, and during our conversations with Ayer and the cast it became clear that not only was their rehearsal process intense, but it also served to solidify their bond as a Squad. Per Margot Robbie, the very first day of rehearsals Ayer encouraged the actors to bare their souls:

“I had done as much research as I possibly could. I mean, I’m still reading comics as we go. It’s really hard to read all of them. But I guess it just takes it to a much deeper level, and he finds parts in you that relate to the character. Which is something that you think you’re doing when you do your prep. But then you start working with someone like David and realize that you haven’t done that at all, and like subconsciously you were just using your top layers, because you don’t want to go to the deeper layers cause that’s, you know, terrifying, and you definitely don’t want to expose that in front of people that you don’t know. But Day One we’re in the rehearsal room in front of everyone I’d just met and David’s like, ‘So tell me about your childhood.’ It’s immediately in deep and you’re completely exposed and it’s kinda awful but ends up being extremely helpful for the character work and development.”


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Clay Enos/ & © DC Comics Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Jay Hernandez, who plays Diablo in the film, said that the rehearsal process also helped further evolve the characters:

“There was a long rehearsal process. I got here pretty early, and it was a daily routine, sort of spending time in rehearsals and working with David and other cast members exploring the characters, exploring the scenes, kind of figuring out who they were and where these moments would take us. A lot of times they went completely different directions than I thought they would sort of reading the script and that was part of the joy, I suppose, of these rehearsal processes. We get to know each other as people. We get to see what we were gonna sort of bring to the table on the day in terms of actors, and we got to sort of like try on different takes. Sometimes a scene could play two, three, four, five vastly different ways, and we would explore all those options and kind of find what worked the best for us and for our scene partners. It was just a great process of exploration and really finding the character and getting a deep sense of understanding of who these people are and kind of where the story needed to go.”

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Clay Enos/ & © DC Comics Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Killer Croc, added that the intensity of the rehearsals made the cast like a family, and it all became clear once cameras started rolling:

“We all trained together. Everything was done together. We worked out together. We rehearsed together. We cried together. We hurt together. We laughed together. There was definitely a magical method to the madness. Once we began principal photography, we saw why David works that way because it’s such a solid bond, solid squad. You’ll hear this from the other cast, it’s so tight and we support each other in getting through it. Once we came out of that intense training course, not only were we like a family but we were pretty much ready for anything that he was going to throw at us.”


As Ayer tells it, his process is all about making the characters as emotionally honest as possible:

“As far as helping the actors, for me it’s specificity to help them tap into their own lives. Help them tap into their own experiences and their own hearts. Their own families, their own traumas, their own pains, their own loves. Any time an actor can do that it’s going to yield a better performance, I think a more honest performance. At the end of the day, like I said, sure this is a movie about supervillains but they’re just people. They’re just people, so as long as the actors are emotionally honest then the characters will feel real to us and we’ll understand because that’s the film.”

The filmmaker’s commitment to making this “comic book movie” incredibly character-driven is admirable and promising, so here’s hoping all of this intense preparation comes across in the finished film. For more on Suicide Squad, peruse the rest of my set visit coverage in the links below:

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Clay Enos/ & © DC Comics Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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