It’s a strange time in the world of big budget movie-making, when the tools and skills required to make some of the greatest practical effects in history should be everywhere… but these days, doing it digitally is the go-to solution for almost anything. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the digital artists working on Andy Serkis’ performances have blurred the line between human and CG creation. But it can miss the point of a character or action sequence – and in the case of Suicide Squad, all involved felt it wasn’t worth the risks.

When we visited the set of the film, the producers informed us that it was decided early on that while director David Ayer wanted Killer Croc in his Squad, nobody wanted a CG character. That meant going for the real thing, with a real actor to fill out the role, and specialized prosthetics for a real performance. But in our interview with Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, we learned that the actor turned to reality for another aspect of the reptilian supervillain: cannibalism.

If casual audiences who may not know of the movie’s cast aren’t aware of Killer Croc’s ‘refined’ taste, then his desire to consume human flesh should establish that these villains are most definitely not good guys who just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Still, talk about a challenge for an actor as devoted to finding the heart of their character as Adewale. Yet he did his homework (well, not in the way some might fear), even if he, too, doubted that the big screen version of Waylon Jones a.k.a. Killer Croc really would be a maneater:

“I remember when we were doing the rehearsal process withDavid. And I asked David, I said, “I’ve been doing all this reading and I know he’s inhabiting crocodilian habits and features. But does he really eat people?” He said, “Yes.” He said, “He’s a cannibal.” And right there was my answer, because when you eat human flesh, first of all, it’s a taboo that you can never go back from. And it takes you to a certain level within yourself as a human, a darker side. So when you ask me how do I go into that character, that is really my go-to kind of key.

“I did a lot of research on cannibalistic habits from back to the Mayans and the Aztecs, right up to modern-day cannibals. There’s [a video of] this guy that I’d play every single day, and I have it right on my phone. It’s a Japanese cannibal…Issei Sagawa, who ate a French model. As sick as it sounds, the moment I start to play that video, I’m in the form of Croc, because it’s really important for this creature to be thirsty for flesh, even when he’s around The Squad.

For the unfamiliar, the villain’s appearance might imply that he is actually crocodilian. His appearance and origin story has been tweaked from comic to comic, but the basic idea is that Waylon Jones was the child of an abusive upbringing, meaning the insults and harm brought on by his rare skin condition weren’t even the worst thing to happen to him. In many ways, the cracking and toughening of his skin – making him resemble a crocodile – only made him as rough and harsh on the exterior as he was on the inside.

Deadshot Rick Flag and Killer Croc in Suicide Squad Suicide Squad: Killer Croc Actor Was Inspired By Real Life Cannibals

Although Adewale confirmed that a similar origin story would be at work on Suicide Squad, David Ayer wasn’t content with simply making Croc a ‘monster.’ He needs a soul, and heart, and the finished version definitely has it. Why else would Harley Quinn consider him to be a big, scaly teddy bear? Still, when entering into battle with a man who doesn’t just eat people, but craves them, it sounds like the Squad members may have a close call or two with their cannibal comrade:

“They always have to be wary and be aware of the fact that, at any moment, he might get the hunger and just take an arm But also, the relationship to want to do that. Does he do it because he likes it? Does he do it to set a message to his enemies, like instill fear? Whatever reason he does it, he does do it… So those are some of the things that take me in to cannibals. It’s not a pretty thing. But it gets me there. And also, I’ve made a distinct and concerted effort to actually keep away from the rest of The Squad. Because he lives underground, because he’s a loner, because he’s nocturnal, and because they have to be wary of him at all times, I’ve had to inhabit that through the process.”

It’s not all doom, gloom, and eating people, though: Adewale would go on to confirm that fighting the kinds of monsters in Suicide Squad means he gets to fit in for the first time in his life, when his powers and fighting skills matter more than his appearance. And given the checkered pasts of his teammates, it’s no surprise to hear that, by the end of the movie, Croc may have finally found the one family he could actually belong to.

Or, in the words of the actor himself, “he’s actually in a good space. He probably wouldn’t even eat them.” What do you think of the research for Killer Croc? Are you excited to see how such realism is injected into the comic book supervillain, or are you more focused on the villain’s design?

NEXT: Harley Quinn’s Original Suit Was Made For Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad is scheduled to arrive in theaters on August 5, 2016; Wonder Woman is slated for release on June 2, 2017; followed by Justice League on November 17, 2017; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League 2 on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on July 24, 2020. The Flash is currently without release date.

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