Nathan Fillion was eager to act. Literally.
Standing on a fake beach for James Gunn’s The suicide squad, the actor was in the sand up to his elbows, which made the bulky leather gauntlets he donned to play the reformed villain TDK (The Detachable Kid) less than comfortable.
As Fillion’s forearms perspired and stuck to the heat-retaining leather, large grains of sand stuck in between, he improvised.
âMy solution was to take a pair of socks, cut off the toes and put them on and put the gloves on,â he said. Reverse.
Fillion’s Masked Mercenary is a quirk even in the alien’s world that makes you stronger The suicide squad, DC Comics’ most exuberant superhero blockbuster to date (and a near-sequel to 2016 Suicide Squad).
As TDK, who has the odd ability to detach his limbs and control them from a distance, Fillion engages in a tongue-in-cheek riff on Arm-Fall-Off-Boy (an honest comic book character who made his debut in Secret origins # 46, in 1989). As this bizarre hero dodges bullets along a South American shore, Fillion says all the sand gave him uncomfortable realism to make up for the manufactured chaos.
“It was a lot of suffering for the craft,” Fillion says. âBeing sleeveless and wearing a leather chest piece that doesn’t have flex, every time you move your arm you’re rubbing it over the edge of that leather. And when it’s skin to leather, the skin will shed.
That said, Fillion is the definition of a pro. Ubiquitous on network television, the actor is currently best known for his starring role in ABC’s police procedure. The recruit. He has already spent eight seasons playing a novelist-turned-detective on Chateau, also on ABC.
But his geek credits go back further than that. Fillion played Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in cult sci-fi series Firefly, reprising the role in the sequel to a feature film Serenity. He also played the famous Captain Hammer in a web miniseries Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.
But in The suicide squad, in theaters on August 6, he’s just a tiny player within a sprawling spandex ensemble. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flagg, Margot Robbie Harley Quinn’s Agent of Chaos, and Viola Davis Grave Supervisor Amanda Waller all return from the first Suicide Squad; new cast reunited include Idris Elba (as Bloodsport), John Cena (as Peacemaker), Sylvester Stallone (as King Shark), Michael Rooker (as Scholar), Pete Davidson (as Blackguard) , Taika Waititi (in an undisclosed role) and Sean Gunn (as Weasel).
In an interview with Reverse, Fillion reveals what it’s like to work with his frequent collaborator James Gunn, why he thinks TDK went to jail in the first place, and – of course – that Unexplored fan movies.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
When you found out that you were playing a character known as “Arm-Fall-Off-Boy” in the comics, what was your first reaction?
I don’t exactly play this character. There are similarities. But it’s a matter of trust. Anytime someone you trust calls you up and says, âI want you in a project, and I want you to play this character,â you can be sure it’s going to be awesome. I always look forward to understanding the function of the role you play in the story. I love this process. When James Gunn gives you a job. It will always be something worthy.
Where does the name “TDK” come from? It’s not comics to my knowledge.
I am a bit bothered. I thought it meant “The Dark Knight”. So one of us is disappointed. I hope it’s not me.
What do you think prompted TDK to serve jail time in the first place?
Clearly, a theft of sorts. He has an ability that made him think flying would be easy. The problem is, TDK is not entirely brilliant. I think his weakness is his overconfidence. He thinks he’s the cat’s pajamas. He thinks he’s superhuman. He is not. He is above average at best.
You mentioned building trust with James Gunn. What shorthand did you develop while collaborating with him on various projects?
This [trust] happened on To glide. This confidence translates into the fact that you have the opportunity to fail without repercussions. You can try something new. You can experiment to find something amazing and not worry about failure. I don’t mind failing if it helps us find something great. To fail in front of James is wonderful because it will really make him stink and we can laugh about it and move on. It’s that shortcut you have with old friends, not because you’ve known them for so long, but [because theyâre] friends who are there, whether things are good or bad.
Have you ever had a role that you feel you “failed” to play?
Yes. When I was younger, I spent two and a half years on a sitcom. My first half-season? I did a great job. My second season? Spectacular. My last season was the worst. I failed because I was trying to be funny rather than just being honest. It was a difficult lesson to learn.
Two guys, a girl and a pizzeria? I have this on DVD.
It’s this one. I will not tell [the show was] a failure. Just for my learning experience, I slipped a bit. By the way, where did you find a DVD of that?
Right here. Have you ever thought of a Two guys the comeback?
A few years ago, I met one of my former cast members. We were laughing about the good old days and he said, “Wouldn’t a reunion be great?” Wouldn’t that be cool? Just do it once and see what happens. So yes, it was mentioned. Nothing is planned. Nothing is in preparation. But the idea was brushed aside.
No spoils here, but has the breadth of TDK’s role allowed you to experiment as an actor?
Again, this is not what I want. The role has a function. Once you understand what this function is, it becomes the driving force. That’s what I want. I want to serve history.
Tell me about your costume. What was it like to dress like an action figure?
The costumes delight me. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Also what [our] the wardrobe department was A) phenomenal and B) rushed. They had time to finish these things.
I had never been involved in a project that had costumes [play] such an integral part. For me, the experience was something you dream of. “I can’t wait to put on this costume and do these things.” But you don’t think about the downsides. If you wear gloves on a beach, sand will seep into them. It will rub the skin of your wrists. It takes you down an ankle. And I wasn’t the worst off. Poor Mayling Ng, with the hours she must have spent putting on makeup, and rubber stuck on her … It was complex. The costumes collapsed because we are in the water.
How was the helmet?
It exactly matches [to my] lead. I was surprised at how comfortable it was. Peacemaker [headpiece] didn’t seem comfortable. But mine had flex. I could hear, I could see. I was fine with mine.
Before The suicide squad, you voiced Green Lantern in DC animated films. How does it feel to play a very different character in the DCEU?
It’s good to have a song, you know? I am above all a fan of this kind of films. This is exactly the sort of thing I would love to do on a Sunday: ride in the saddle with a big box of popcorn, sprinkle some Buncha Crunch on it, and watch a show. Playing something unexpected, stretching a bit and expanding your repertoire is the icing on the cake. I am going to work every day to do a job that I love. This is something that no one can take away from me.
A few years ago you “scratched an itch” play in Allan Ungar’s Unexplored fan movies. Do you still want to play Nathan Drake again someday?
He scratched an itch just to be able to see him as a fan of the Unexplored franchise. The fans just wanted something. Right now I’m super excited to see what they’re going to do with this property. Now we have Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, guys who have never let us down. I’m super excited to see them together. Two tastes that taste good together. I want to watch them on a Sunday with popcorn and Buncha Crunch.
I thought I was the only one who mixed popcorn and Buncha Crunch.
It’s perfect in the dark. You don’t know if you’re going to have a piece of chocolate.
The suicide squad opens in theaters August 6.