Exclusive: David Dastmalchian discusses how Polka-Dot Man became a symbol for people struggling from pained histories and trauma in The Suicide Squad.
Warning: SPOILERS for The Suicide Squad (2021)
Polka-Dot Man (a.k.a. Abner Krill) is one of the more absurdist aspects of The Suicide Squad, but, according to actor David Dastmalchian, his arc and culminating final moments nevertheless make up the heart of the entire film. The Suicide Squad is Dastmalchian’s first (and presumably final) outing in the role of Polka-Dot Man, whose dark humor and deadpan deliveries endeared him enough to audiences to become a fan-favorite overnight. Writer and director James Gunn judiciously altered Polka-Dot Man’s backstory for the film to make him a more sympathetic figure.
The Suicide Squad reveals that Abner and his siblings were experimented on by their abusive mother (Lynne Ashe) who was a scientist working for S.T.A.R. Labs. These experiments were the genesis not only of Abner’s powers, but also the psychological trauma that would eventually compel him to kill his own mother. Her murder is what lands Abner at Belle Reve Penitentiary – a correctional facility for metahumans and the black site where Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) recruits members for Task Force X (a.k.a. the Suicide Squad). Abner’s arc ultimately resolves in a poignant (yet comedic) moment in which he weaponizes his trauma to grievously injure Starro. His tragic past ultimately affords him his triumphant moment of superheroism, just before his death at the hands of the alien starfish.
Dastmalchian recently sat down with Screen Rant to discuss the emotional beats of Polka-Dot Man’s character. He calls Abner’s death, “an important scene, and [he] really wanted so badly to get it right for James [Gunn].” The actor is highly complimentary of Gunn’s writing, as he elaborates upon the universality of Abner’s struggle to overcome pained history and trauma. Check out the actor’s full comments below:
The only thing was we didn’t shoot the battle with Starro until the end of production, and it was like a six month shoot. So, I got to build towards the “I’m a superhero” moment for six months. Which in so many ways was a great gift, because I got to really familiarize myself and completely embody Abner in all of his other scenes, and all of the other discoveries that I was making about him along this journey. It made it that much more emotionally impactful for me when we did get to the battle of Starro.
The only drawback to that is that it was this looming fear in my mind, because it is such an important scene, and I really wanted so badly to get it right for James. I mean, he wrote this beautiful character and this beautiful scene, and that’s such an important moment. I put a lot of pressure on myself to discover what that scene would mean to fulfill his vision for his script, and also for the audience’s experience to have real meaning.
James never set out to make Abner’s depression or his suffering a joke. He puts a lot of heart into the characters, even the ones who are for all intents and purposes the butts of the joke, which makes it resonate that much more. Because I think all of us at some point or another were bullied, especially those of us in the geek sphere. But everybody knows what it feels like to not belong; to not fit in; to have people judge you and mock you, and then to be plagued by and pained by something that haunts you.
Granted, it’s in Abner’s case an interdimensional virus. But for some of us, it’s insecurity or a physical attribute that we really struggle with our insecurity about, or depression or anxiety or social anxiety or feelings of failure professionally; feelings of failure personally. All of that stuff haunts all of us. I think James just struck such a great chord with the writing of this character. I’m so lucky I got to play him.
Dastmalchian has been vocal about his intimate connection to Polka-Dot Man’s struggles. The actor may not have committed matricide himself, nor does he have the power to expel incendiary polka dots from his finger tips, but he does understand what it’s like to be “pained by something that haunts you.” Dastmalchian’s connection to the material certainly comes across on-screen, as Polka-Dot Man is one of the absolute standouts from the film.
Unfortunately, Dastmalchian is unlikely to reprise the role any time soon in light of Polka-Dot Man’s demise. There are, of course, numerous ways to work around the character’s death in signature comicbook-logic fashion, but there don’t appear to be any immediate plans to bring the character back at the moment. And perhaps the character is better off remaining dead anyway – Abner’s story reached an emotional and logical conclusion at the end of The Suicide Squad, so reviving the character may cheapen his arc. Regardless, Dastmalchian’s Polka-Dot Man was a pleasure to watch, and will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the DCEU’s most memorable characters.
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