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Warning: The following contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Shazam! Seriously, don’t read ahead until you’ve seen it!
At the end of Shazam!, to defeat Doctor Sivana and the Seven Deadly Sins, Billy Batson transforms his foster siblings into adult superheroes of their own to fight alongside him. The introduction of the Shazam Family was a surprising and fun secret, as we got to see Darla, Eugene, Pedro, Mary and Freddy Freeman enjoy the thrill of having superpowers. It also allowed for some fun cameos as older actors portrayed the adult versions of the family. Two of these cameos were particularly special, as director David F. Sandberg explained:
Also, we sort of realized afterwards that both Adam Brody and D.J. Cotrona (Super Hero Pedro) were cast in George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal, the movie that almost happened. Adam Brody was The Flash and D.J. was Superman. So, afterwards, we said, ‘Oh, shit! They finally get to be superheroes in a DC movie.’
It wasn’t intentional or some planned out thing, it just worked out that Adam Brody, who played the adult Freddy Freeman, and D.J. Cotrona, who played the adult Pedro Peña, were both once attached to star in George Miller’s ill-fated Justice League: Mortal as The Flash and Superman, respectively. That film, which also would have seen Armie Hammer as Batman, is on the long list of superhero films that might have been.
That history of coming so close to being a part of a DC movie only for it not to happen adds a bit of poetry to their cameos in Shazam! As David F. Sandberg told The Hollywood Reporter, it was exciting once they realized that Adam Brody and D.J. Cotrona were once attached to Justice League: Mortal. It was a happy little coincidence that is really cool in hindsight.
What’s makes this even more special is that Adam Brody and D.J. Cotrona didn’t even know what they were auditioning for. The actors had no idea they would be playing superheroes or members of the Shazam Family. Something about them must have just said 'superhero.'
It’s like the two actors were destined to be in a DC comic book movie, and without any knowledge of their DC past or design on the filmmaker’s part to remedy past ills, the universe exerted its will and they wound up in Shazam! Beyond just the special quality these cameos take on with this knowledge, they actually worked out really well in their own right.
Pedro Peña didn’t talk much in the film, so we didn’t get to see a ton of his personality, but D.J. Cotrona certainly looked the part of a superhero with the strength of Hercules. And Adam Brody as an adult, superhero Freddy Freeman is about as perfect as casting can get. In addition to looking like Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody has a history of playing that kind of talkative, nerdy character. It’s great to see The O.C.’s resident comic book nerd Seth Cohen finally get some superpowers.