When James Gunn was conjuring up the opening credit sequence for HBO Max’s “Peacemaker,” he and his creative team had one goal: to make it so interesting, engaging and funny that people wouldn’t want to skip it.
And they succeeded — the show’s opening sequence is a viral sensation.
Choreographer Charissa Barton recalls that the catchy ear worm “Do Ya Wanna Taste It” by Wig Wam was in the script and early drafts, and to prep the dance moves she listened to it on repeat. Gunn’s suggestion to her was, “think of the 1960s and 1970s variety shows for inspiration.”
Production designer Lisa Sopher says when it came to drumming up ideas for the sets, “I went home and spent the whole night drawing things out. A pile of Lamborghinis with bombs sticking out of the back, three wolves just howling at the moon and other ideas.”
Barton kept in mind that she would be working with non-dancers and her ensemble would feature the show’s cast: John Cena, Danielle Brooks, Freddie Stroma, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, Chukwudi Iwuji and Robert Patrick, as well as recurring actors like Elizabeth Ludlow, who plays Adebayo’s wife. Barton says, “I found what felt right, accessible and attainable. It started in my body. I shot moves and sent James footage with the song over the top.”
With Gunn giving her the green light, Barton’s challenge was taking it to the actors — but before that, she tried it out on her husband, Alan Tudyk. She says, “He’s a non-dancer, but also an actor. Having him with me through a lot of the process gave me a great person to bounce things off of.”
Barton’s next step was to do some research online, looking into who had movement training or any previous dance work. She says, “I saw that Danielle Brooks was an excellent mover. I thought, ‘Yes, she can move.’ I learned Jen Holland was a former gymnast, and so I got this sense of what the different levels could be.”
What Barton wasn’t sure of was how each actor would approach learning of the dance moves. But fortunately, “they were such pros and so committed to the idea of learning,” she says. “If we got stuck on something, it was a matter of repetition and reinforcing.”
While some met her expectations, others surprised her with their abilities. “Robert Patrick is an incredible actor and when he’s tasked with something he commits to it. I was impressed with his ability to move,” says Barton. She also had good words to say about Ludlow, who was admittedly trepidatious at first. “She had it. She was a good mover. What I was seeing was very different from how she was processing it.”
And who was the mastermind behind flipping off the camera? “Danielle Brooks,” says Barton.
As for the title screen itself, creative lead and main title designer Duarte Elvas was careful to let the dancing stand out. He says, “We didn’t want to interference with what was on screen. Our goal was to enhance and compliment and take a little inspiration from the music.” With that, Elvas and fellow title designer Erin Sarofsky looked to hair metal posters from the ‘80s as well as glam metal, and neon stood out. Elvas adds, “Sometimes people forget our job is to turn a legal document into a piece of art. The titles were measured to make sure people’s names and titles were the same sizes.”