As I speak to Joel Kinnaman about “Suicide Squad,” one of his castmates, Jai Courtney, walks by. He stops a long, serious response about getting into the role to give him a “Whazzup.” The “Suicide Squad” junket is not just a chance to sell a wild, renegade comic book movie, about a team of villains forced by the government to save the world. It’s a chance to reunite. The actors have been through something. Before shooting, director David Ayer (“End of Watch,” “Fury”) had weeks of rehearsal in which his ensemble cast — which also includes Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Viola Davis — shared group therapy sessions and were asked to do crazy things. For Kinnaman, who plays a soldier tasked with keeping the baddies in line, it meant getting called mean names by Davis, his superior.
It sounds rough, but it made them closer, and not just because they’d been through something crazy. Indeed, the Swedish actor, 36, says they still, all of them, hang out and call each other as often as they can.
Ayer has said that one reason he had this unusual prep for the film was not only because it would make everyone close but it would be an experience you would never forget.
He really succeeded with it. He almost had this menu for character deepening preparation that he opened up to everyone. I talked to this guy David knows named Jamie, who was a former LAPD officer, a 26-year veteran of the Rampart division. Both he and David would initiate these conversations where we’d go really deep. They had big questions like, “What is your biggest fears?” “What are you most ashamed of?” You answer them truthfully and you go really deep. You get to the bottom of yourself in a very therapeutic way. The difference is a therapy session is for your own personal gain. This was so David could get information, so at the right time on set he would completely betray our trust, in front of everyone. [Laughs]
That sounds like it's hard to deal with.
Not to sound too pretentious, but being an actor, my passion is getting a different understanding of yourself. By doing that you get a deeper understanding of all people. You train your empathy to go much further than it would normally. To do that you have to be really honest with yourself. You have to be brave, emotionally brave. Very rarely do you get challenged in the way David would challenge you. It’s not a cushy ride. It can be a little dangerous and it can hurt and it can be embarrassing. But that’s all part of it. Very rarely do you have a director that dares to go on that journey with you, to take you in those territories. Never would I have expected that to be on a superhero movie.