Tragic Details About The Black Adam Cast

The following article contains references to suicide, addiction, mental illness, and domestic violence

The superhero genre is more popular than ever. Comic book stans flock to movie theaters to marvel (pun intended) at larger than life figures ridding the world of its evils. The New York Times argues that superhero films are the most ubiquitous in the history of cinema, symptomatic of an increasing need for escapism: "If heroes are idealized humans, then today's reflect an exaggerated Cult of Self. They are unique, supremely talented beings who transcend laws, even those of nature."

Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be the most prominent franchise, but the D.C. Extended Universe is gaining traction in Hollywood. From the recent Robert Pattinson incarnation of "Batman" to "The Suicide Squad," big budget D.C. flicks are on the rise. And a highly anticipated addition to these adaptations is "Black Adam," a spin-off of 2019's "Shazam!" A revenge film with some comedic elements, "Black Adam" stars Dwayne Johnson as an antihero intent on saving the world through unconventional means. In 2020, the erstwhile Rock topped Forbes' list of the biggest Hollywood earners, and delving into the highly sought after comic book genre will no doubt add handsomely to his burgeoning bank balance. 

Just like a number of Marvel actors have endured tragedy and misadventure, the stars of D.C. adaptations aren't immune to personal turmoil. "Black Adam" is no exception. From overcoming loss to channeling strife into stand-up, these are the tragic details about the "Black Adam" cast.

Dwayne Johnson struggled with depression

Dwayne Johnson has made a smooth transition from wrestling superstar to Hollywood A-lister. He plays the titular tweener in "Black Adam," a character that director Jaume Collet-Serra branded "the Dirty Harry of superheroes," per Variety. Much like the D.C. antihero, Johnson has had to confront his demons. 

As a wrestler, the charismatic star could either be the "people's champion" babyface or an egomaniac. But this gregarious facade hid a personal turmoil. Speaking with Express, Johnson opened up about his experiences with depression. "I reached a point where I didn't want to do a thing or go anywhere. I was crying constantly," he revealed. The WWE legend explained that his depression was exacerbated by a particularly painful breakup, which led to the darkest period of his life.

Mental illness was present in the Johnson household. When he was a boy, his mom attempted suicide. "My mom tried to check out when I was 15. She got outta the car on Interstate 65 in Nashville and walked into oncoming traffic," he wrote on Instagram, noting that he had to intervene to rescue his mother from passing cars. As Johnson told Express, he could very well have followed a similar path as her, but the pair eventually got through their trauma together. He tweeted that his story got a huge response from fans who were also dealing with mental illness. Accordingly, he reassured his followers that they're not alone and that opening up about their issues is fundamental to recovery.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Sarah Shahi was abused as a child

For many years, Sarah Shahi was best known for her television work, notably as Carmen on "The L Word." Now that she's had a career breakthrough, largely thanks to her role as Billie on "Sex/Life," Shahi is venturing onto the big screen. In "Black Adam," she plays superhero Adrianna Tomaz, a gutsy college professor, per The Wrap.

Shahi had a difficult start in life. A descendant of the Shah of Iran, her father was almost executed during the Iranian Revolution, as he was working for the American embassy. "My dad was on the hit list and he and my mother were allowed to flee the country," she told the New York Post. In Texas, where she grew up, Shahi was frequently subjected to racist taunts. Her birth name is Aahoo and kids would call her "Achoo" or "Wahoo." As the actor recounted, "I would try to play it off with the other kids and laugh. Inside I was dying."

At home, things were no easier for Shahi. Her father was abusive and addicted to alcohol, gambling, and drugs. When she was five-years-old, she and her mom fled in the middle of the night, per People. "I didn't pack anything; I just had my pajamas," she said. "It was January, and it was cold as we headed to a women's shelter in nearby Arlington, Texas." Without the help of the shelter, Shahi said, she and her mother likely would have been dead.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Aldis Hodge faced racism from a young age

Aldis Hodge is cast as Hawkman in "Black Adam," a role for which he got totally ripped. For Hodge, acting is central to his activism, since his childhood aspirations were never taken seriously.

In an interview with HuffPost, he opened up about the racism he faced as a child. "I grew up in New Jersey, around the KKK and all that," he revealed. "At a very young age I realized the world treated me as 'less than.'" Due to pervasive racism, he said that people assumed he aspired to be a basketball player or rapper, dismissing his dreams of following a more intellectually stimulating path. Accordingly, Hodge sought to combat stereotypical representations through his work as an actor.

Speaking with NPR, he said that the KKK's activity in Jersey is scarcely discussed, but he faced the brunt of the white supremacist organization's presence. To this day, he continues to experience racism, detailing an instance in which a white man hurled a slur in New York. Throughout it all, Hodge's mother was a powerful influence in his life. Although the family were homeless for an extended period of time, his mom emphasized the importance of education as a means of liberation for her sons. "She sacrificed a lot so that we may pursue our dreams ... She was very conscious of the fact that she's a single mom raising two black men in a world that would not be so kind to them," he explained.

If you or a loved one has experienced a hate crime, contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services to help. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Pierce Brosnan lost his wife and daughter to cancer

In recent years, acting vet and erstwhile 007 Pierce Brosnan has been keen to venture out of his cinematic comfort zone, appearing in films such as "Cinderella" and, of course, the "Mama Mia" adaptations, featuring his much maligned singing skills. He continues with these eclectic choices with "Black Adam." The D.C. flick sees him play Doctor Fate.

Despite that ever present twinkle in the charming Irishman's eye, he has endured ineffable tragedy. In 1986, Brosnan's wife, Cassandra Harris, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, per Interview Magazine. After living with the illness for five years, she died aged just 43. Speaking with People months after Harris' death, Brosnan admitted that he struggled to deal with the aftermath of the loss. "There is an incredible cruelty in it all, losing a person you shared everything with," he said. "This is the first time in my life I've ever experienced bereavement, and it's overwhelming."

In an interview with Playboy, Brosnan opened up about the pain of watching his beloved wife slowly slip away, her illness essentially meaning that she was gone before she was actually gone. "The dialysis was brutal," the actor said. "Finally I said, 'Stop it' ... You want to get them back just to say good-bye, but I realized we'd already said our good-byes." Tragically, Harris' daughter Charlotte, whom Brosnan adopted, died of the same illness years later, per People. She was just two years younger than her mom, leaving behind her young children.

Noah Centineo's struggles with mental illness and addiction

Newcomer Noah Centineo, who is best known as one of the titular boys in Netflix's "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," plays Atom Smasher in "Black Adam," per The Hollywood Reporter. In preparation for his role, the actor has been regaling fans with thirst traps on social media. This vivacious demeanor is quite the contrast to who Centineo was a few years earlier.

In a video that began resurfacing in 2018, the actor revealed that he had been sober since the age of 21, having dealt with substance misuse and anxiety, per Teen Vogue. "If you guys are having trouble, if you're out there and you're like, 'oh man, my life sucks,' I get it," he reassured his fans. "Trust me, we all have those days. I wake up sometimes and roll over and sleep until 4 o'clock in the afternoon."

Opening up to Harper's Bazaar, he said that his emotional issues were heightened by his parents' divorce when he was 15, which left Centineo and his mom living in a hotel room for a while. "There wasn't really much I wouldn't do ... I smoked a lot of things," he said of his substance misuse. "I was really upset, man. It was a really dark time in my life." Thanks to self-care in the form of meditation, journaling, and, most importantly, opening up about his problems to those close to him, he is able to manage his mental health issues.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Quintessa Swindell faced racist and transphobic discrimination

Up-and-coming star Quintessa Swindell is ready to wow fans with their turn as superhero Cyclone in "Black Adam," per The Hollywood Reporter. As a nonbinary person of color, Swindell struggled to fit in when they were growing up.

In an interview with Observer, they discussed the difficulties they faced growing up in the South, being raised by a single father. "Being a Black non-binary person in and of itself was the hardest thing, especially growing up in Virginia where it's like, 'Oh, I'm too Black for this group, [but] I'm too white for this group' ... So, it was constantly ebbing and flowing between who I was at the time and what I felt comfortable with," they said. It wasn't until Swindell moved to New York that they realized they weren't alone, since trans and nonbinary identities were stigmatized in their home state and rarely discussed. 

Citing "Orange Is the New Black" star Laverne Cox as a trans pioneer, Swindell acknowledged that Hollywood is guilty of perpetuating bigotry, but they nonetheless believe real change is on the horizon. Accordingly, Swindell has emphasized the importance of nonbinary and trans representation in the media, since they didn't see anyone who represented them on television when they were growing up. "It's starkly different from what I grew up watching ... I think these changes represent this generation's desire to live authentically more than ever ... and to realize what harm can be done if we're not inspired to make change," they told Hunger.

Joseph Gatt was bullied for having alopecia

Best known for his role as Thenn Warg on "Game of Thrones," Joseph Gatt can now add "Black Adam" to his acting résumé, playing Squad Leader. At the age of 12, Gatt was diagnosed with alopecia; two years later, it manifested into alopecia universalis, an autoimmune disorder causing total hair loss, according to a study on Wiley Online Library. As a result, Gatt was bullied severely for being bald. 

Speaking to Close-Up Culture, he divulged the devastating ramifications of alopecia prejudice, explaining that he was judged for his disability by everyone he met, and had no support network. "I was bullied by my school mates and by people in the streets," he said. "My parents and doctors at the time didn't understand the disease, so they couldn't help me. I thought my life was over, that I would either kill myself or grow up ugly and alone."

He elaborated on the discrimination he faced in a lengthy Facebook post, revealing that he didn't leave the house due to relentless teasing and ensured he wore a hat on the rare occasions he did venture outside. "[I] know what it's like to be bullied all day every day for most of my young life," he recalled to FANgirl. The actor told Close-Up Culture that his work with the Children's Alopecia Project helped him realize that he isn't alone in his struggles; embracing his uniqueness was central to the actor realizing that life is worth living.

War forced Mo Amer out of his birth country

Comedian Mo Amer is known for tickling our funny bones with his Netflix stand-up special, but now he's venturing into the D.C. Extended Universe with a top secret role (as of this writing) in "Black Adam," per Deadline. As a funnyman, Amer uses humor to cope with his harrowing past.

At the age of nine, he and his family were forced to flee Kuwait due to the Gulf War and relocated to Houston, Texas. "We lost everything overnight," he told Al Jazeera. "Banks were shut down, everything was gone." Then, when he was just 14, his dad died, which led to him truanting from school. Appearing on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," he said that he began working in a flag store as a teen and was subjected to racist abuse from customers. This worsened in the aftermath of 9/11; as Amer told Texas Monthly, he began feeling unsafe as a Muslim and joked that he would pretend to be Italian to ease people's preconceived suspicions about him.

Though born in Kuwait, Amer is of Palestinian extraction. Initially, the displacement he faced as a refugee led to immense anger, but he has tried to channel it in a positive manner, namely through creative pursuits. "As Palestinians, we have no other choice. What else are you going to do?" he asked The Guardian. "I went through an angry phase and I still get angry. I'm a human being. But if you're angry, you can't think straight."

If you or a loved one has experienced a hate crime, contact the VictimConnect Hotline by phone at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services to help. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

James Cusati-Moyer was born with a life-threatening disease

Theater actor James Cusati-Moyer is set to make a name for himself on the big screen with an as yet TBA role in "Black Adam," per Deadline. The Tony-nominated actor lives with a serious chronic illness. As he revealed to GQ, he was born with congenital heart disease and has also suffered from severe depression and anxiety.

When he was younger, the actor told the outlet, he used recreational substances to make himself feel better, but now he has embraced sobriety and natural supplements. "I always need to think about heart health ... When I was 14, I had this life-changing open heart surgery that gave me a second chance at life," he explained, noting that while the operation saved his life and he can perform most daily activities with ease, he nonetheless suffers from "skipped beats or palpitations when I'm nervous or anxious or depressed." Moreover, Cusati-Moyer said that his condition leads to insomnia, for which he is medicated naturally, and he mainly manages his symptoms with dietary modifications.

Speaking with V Man, he opened up about his past experiences of abuse and addiction, and explained that his own personal pain led to him choosing acting roles through which he could channel his anguish. "Any stories pierce you or give you a sense of discomfort—that's how you deal with [your own] pain, and get through those feelings," he said. "Those stories don't turn me off; they're the ones that attract me."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Jennifer Holland's tragic family life

Jennifer Holland is no stranger to the D.C. Extended Universe, having played Emilia Harcourt in "The Suicide Squad," which was directed by her husband James Gunn, and "Peacemaker." In an interview with The Direct, her co-star Steve Agee confirmed a long-standing rumor that Holland will be added to the expanding ensemble cast of "Black Adam."

Behind the scenes, she couldn't be more dissimilar from the often callous Harcourt. The loss of her parents affected Holland profoundly and she has been emotionally candid when discussing her multiple traumas. "I grew up in a family where there was a lot of alcoholism ... I didn't want to see myself have the same struggles," she told Talk Nerdy With Us. Despite this discordant family life, it was thanks to her mom that she became an actor, per The Hollywood Reporter. But tragically, both her parents died many years ago. "There is a hole in our lives, where you once were, and that hole can never be filled ... just want to hear your voice- one more time," she wrote in a moving Instagram tribute to her mom.

She may have lost her parents, but the actor revealed that she found a surrogate father figure in her husband's dad, Jim Gunn. Tragically, she also lost Jim, who died in 2019, per Schrader. "You have changed my life, Jim," Holland wrote in a eulogy to Gunn Sr. "I love you, and I am so blessed to have no question about how much you loved me."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Joseph Gatt was arrested for allegedly messaging minors

Joseph Gatt's role in "Black Adam" has been hampered by his legal troubles. In 2022, the London-born actor was arrested and charged by Los Angeles police on suspicion of sending inappropriate sexual messages to children, per TMZ. Police obtained a search warrant to enable access to the actor's Los Angeles home and the department confirmed that they were looking to identify further alleged victims. 

As KTLA reports, the Los Angeles Police Department's Juvenile Division, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force began conducting the investigation following a tip-off about his apparently suspicious online activity. Moreover, the outlet notes that these aren't the only offenses against minors that the star allegedly committed: Gatt has an outstanding felony warrant relating to another incident. On Twitter, Gatt vehemently denied the claims, which he branded "horrifying and completely untrue." He added, "They are 100% categorically wrong and reckless. I have confirmed errors and misleading information in today's press release ... I look forward to clearing my good name."

Per the Los Angeles Times, he was released on $5,000 bail shortly after his arrest. Following his release, he was snapped by the Daily Mail attempting to look inconspicuous while running errands in Los Angeles. Subsequently, it is unknown as of this writing whether the "Black Adam" filmmakers will pull a Ridley Scott and recast the role of Squad Leader in the wake of these claims. The following month, Dwayne Johnson confirmed that reshoots and "last touches" were underway, but it's unclear whether this pertains to Gatt's arrest (via CB).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

Dwayne Johnson's dad died unexpectedly

Dwayne Johnson is the son of Rocky Johnson, a renowned wrestler and pioneer: As one half of the first ever Black tag-team champions in the WWE, he paved the way for people of color within the industry, per CBC. Dwayne was close with his dad, but the pair's bond was strained at times, mainly due to the Johnson patriarch's strict parenting. "It was incredibly complicated and it was incredibly tough," Dwayne said at an NBC press tour, per People, adding that the relationship was "fueled by tough love." Despite their difficulties, they partnered for Wrestlemania 13, whereby Rocky came to The Rock's rescue following a post-bout beat down. At the end of the match, the pair sweetly embraced.

Sadly, Rocky died in 2020, aged 75, per BBC. His sudden death came as a shock to his son. "I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him. I'd give anything right now to give him a big old hug and a big old kiss before he crossed over and just say thank you and I love you," Dwayne said in a heartbreaking Instagram video. "But I didn't get a chance to say that." 

He went on to reveal that Rocky died of a blood clot that traveled to his lung. Accordingly, he explained, his father was killed quickly and likely didn't suffer, which provided him with immense comfort despite never having the chance to say goodbye. "That's my old man, he was always quick," he poignantly joked.