‘The Suicide Squad’ star playing Polka-Dot Man ‘didn’t know anything’ about the character when he was cast – then realized the surprisingly profound connection they share

David Dastmalchian plays Polka-Dot Man in 'The Suicide Squad.'
David Dastmalchian spoke with Insider about getting cast as Polka-Dot Man in James Gunn’s ‘The Suicide Squad.’ Warner Bros.
  • You may not know who Polka-Dot Man is now, but you will after seeing “The Suicide Squad.”
  • Director James Gunn told Insider he wanted to find the dumbest villain and give him a soul.
  • The role resonated with David Dastmalchian, who was bullied and called Spots and Polka Dots as a kid.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Obsessed with DC villains and Marvel superheroes, David Dastmalchian spent his money on comic books growing up in Kansas.

So, when his friend and director James Gunn reached out to him in 2019 about a potential role in “The Suicide Squad,” Dastmalchian told Insider he was beyond elated.

“I was like, ‘What!?'” said Dastmalchian, who is no stranger to superhero movies and previously appeared in “The Dark Knight” and the “Ant-Man” films. “The whole time I’m thinking, ‘Suicide Squad! What character could it be? I know everybody. I know all the characters.'”

Over the years, the comic, which was created by John Ostrander in the late ’80s and served as inspiration for Gunn’s film, has followed various groups of DC baddies who are sent on top-secret missions for a sketchy off-the-books government organization called Task Force X (aka the Suicide Squad). If they misbehave, boom! They’re killed on sight.

The squad has showcased well-known villains ranging from Poison Ivy and Killer Frost to Black Adam and Harley Quinn.

Dastmalchian was ready for just about any character Gunn was going to throw his way – except an obscure Batman villain who’s often portrayed as a joke in the DC Universe.

“He says, ‘Polka-Dot Man,'” Dastmalchian said, admitting he was caught off-guard. “I’m like, ‘Huh.'”

“Aside, honestly, from the video game, from a couple of appearances in ‘Gotham City PD,’ and a little tiny cameo in ‘The Lego [Batman] Movie,’ I didn’t know anything about Polka-Dot Man,” he continued. “I was like, ‘What the heck?’ I was very embarrassed… I thought James was hoping I would know who Polka-Dot Man was.”

Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Sheldon Moldoff, the character, otherwise known as Abner Krill, made his first comic appearance in 1962 as Mr. Polka-Dot and was more of a nuisance than an outright villain to Batman and Robin. He performed dot-related crimes and hijinks (one involved a leopard).

Each colored dot on his costume contained a different power.

Polka-Dot Man's first comic appearance in Detective Comics #300
Polka-Dot Man’s first comic appearance in Detective Comics #300. DC Comics

Dastmalchian said Gunn assured him that he’d tell him everything he needed to know to play the character. At the time, Dastmalchian had no clue how much of a personal connection he’d have to the role.

When “The Suicide Squad” is released simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on August 6, not only will you know who Polka-Dot Man is, but you’ll likely be rooting for Krill. He may even become one of your new favorite DC characters.

James Gunn purposefully chose Polka-Dot Man to be in ‘The Suicide Squad’ after Googling the ‘dumbest super villains of all time’

Polka-Dot Man's first comic appearance in Detective Comics #300
Polka-Dot Man’s first comic appearance in Detective Comics #300. DC Comics

“From the beginning, I was just trying to figure out who would be in the Suicide Squad,” Gunn told Insider during a virtual Q&A after a screening of the film recently.

Gunn wanted the film to include a mix of characters, “some of whom are very well known to comic-book fans, but not to general audiences.”

“Seriously, I would look up like who are considered the dumbest super villains of all time on Google and at the top of every list was Polka-Dot Man,” Gunn said.

“I wanted to take this character and give him a soul,” Gunn added, saying a lot of what drove him with this movie was Abner Krill, “who we think is like the dumbest character of all time, who is made fun of at the beginning of the movie by the other dumb super villains who think he’s dumb. Yet he has this incredibly dark, dark, dark backstory.”

Dastmalchian has a surprisingly profound connection to Polka-Dot Man

David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man in 'The Suicide Squad.'
As his name suggests, Polka-Dot man shoots polka dots in ‘The Suicide Squad.’ Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Once Gunn filled in the holes of Krill’s story for Dastmalchian, the director allowed him to bring as much as he wanted to the table. The actor told Insider he had a Polka-Dot notebook where he jotted down little stories and histories about his character.

“I immediately connected with Abner on several levels,” Dastmalchian said. “I have personally struggled with abject depression and mental unwellness, which we know Abner is definitely dealing with – feeling very alone, feeling very isolated. He’s haunted by darkness in his past and his childhood.”

“I think it’s something that almost all of us, if not all of us, have felt at one time or another in our lives,” he said. “So being an outsider, feeling alone, feeling hopeless – that’s just such a common state of being for so many of us at so many different parts of our lives and Abner embodies that in a really powerful way thanks to James’ beautiful script.”

Indeed, with Abner Krill, Gunn takes a character you have no business caring about, and turns him into an extremely relatable character who gives a voice to those who may feel different, misunderstood, and alone.

“I think most of us in the world probably relate a lot more to Polka-Dot Man than we do Captain America,” Gunn separately told Insider in the post-screening Q&A, referencing the heroic Marvel character played by Chris Evans who was injected with a super soldier serum and frozen in ice for decades before becoming the leader of the Avengers.

Dastmalchian said he’s hoping people can identify with that so they don’t write Polka-Dot Man off as a “gimmicky, goofy” character.

His connection to the ‘villain’ runs even deeper than that because of an autoimmune disorder

“Something that personalized it for me in a way that James didn’t see coming was the fact that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder called vitiligo when I was in third grade,” Dastmalchian said.

“Basically, my body destroys it’s own pigmentation,” he explained as he raised his hands during our interview. “As you can see, I have spots – polka dots – all over my face, my elbow, my knees.”

'The Suicide Squad' actor, David Dastmalchian, shows Insider's Kirsten Acuna small spots across his hands due to vitiligo.
David Dastmalchian unexpectedly tells us that, like his DC character, he grew up with spots all over his own body. It’s a little tough to see here in this screenshot from our interview. Warner Bros.

“When I was a kid, going to the pool, Spots, Polka Dots. I had all kinds of nicknames from my brother to some of the bullies at the pool,” Dastmalchian said, adding that he struggled with that and “a great deal of insecurity” for a very long time until he met his wife, actress and writer, Evelyn Leigh.

The two were married in 2013.

“The way she looked at my spots, and what I thought was a deformity, as something really beautiful and personalizing was kind of awesome for me,” he said. “It changed the way I looked at it.”

Evelyn Leigh and David Dastmalchian are seen at the 'Avengers: Endgame' premiere in 2019.
Evelyn Leigh and David Dastmalchian are seen at the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ premiere in 2019. Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Without giving too much away, in “The Suicide Squad,” Polka-Dot Man is given a new origin story in which his spots grow on his skin, threatening to kill him from the inside out.

Even more interestingly, Dastmalchian’s personal connection to the character was a complete coincidence. Gunn was unaware of Dastmalchian’s diagnosis when casting him, and it didn’t influence Gunn’s writing of the character.

“James and I were very close and he had never even really thought much about it,” Dastmalchian said of living with vitiligo. “When he cast me, I said to him how meaningful it was for me to get to play a character who’s made fun of for his spots and then finds power in that. I think it was really cool.”

“The Suicide Squad” is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max on August 6.