Will Smith has played a wide variety of roles over his career, from his beginnings as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to his significantly more serious role as Dr. Bennet Omalu in last year's Concussion. Almost every one of those roles has one thing in common: Smith plays the good guy.
It's not an unusual thing for a top-earning leading man such as Smith to only play protagonists, and even as the eternal protagonist Smith has been able to play a range of characters with different personalities. Sometimes actors want a change of pace, though; to be able to play a role that is outside their wheelhouse. For Smith, Suicide Squad offered that change of pace as he finally gets to play a character that, if not necessarily the bad guy of the movie, is certainly no Boy Scout.
An actor of Smith's caliber doesn't get to where he is without carefully selecting his roles, and Smith was entirely aware of what he was in for when he signed onto play Deadshot. In a recent interview with EW, Smith explained why he took the role and how it has offered a new opportunity for him:
"I had never played a character that legitimately didn’t give a f—. It’s very freeing not having to carry the moral spine of the movie. I couldn’t find a model to understand what would make someone comfortable killing another person for money. David walked me through that. He found a book for me (The Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas), and I worked through getting into the mind of serial killers. Once I accepted the [notion the author puts forth] that it feels good, that really exploded the idea in my mind of Deadshot."
Although he may not be the "moral spine of the movie," Deadshot is still very much one of its protagonists, and usually protagonists have at least one redeeming quality to keep audiences emotionally invested in them. For Deadshot, that redeeming quality is his enduring love for one special person in his life:
"His Achilles heel is his daughter. He loves this little girl and that creates this bizarre conflicting mindset where he enjoys killing people but that’s something this little girl doesn’t want from him. She wants a daddy."
The "killer with a heart of gold" trope is certainly nothing new in movies. Keanu Reeves played just such a character in 2014's John Wick and will be reprising the role for next year's John Wick: Chapter Two. Most of those characters tend to operate in lone wolf scenarios, however, whereas Deadshot will have to work with a team as part of Suicide Squad's Task Force X. It's the dynamic of that team of ostensible villains working together that promises to make the movie fun.
Suicide Squad opens in U.S. theaters on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; 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 a release date.