From ‘Spider-Man’ to ‘Wu-Tang,’ Shameik Moore Is Just Getting Started

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Photo Source: Caitlin Watkins

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Shameik Moore is quickly becoming a household name due to his appearances in critically acclaimed films and on buzzy television shows, including Sundance favorite “Dope” and Netflix’s “The Get Down.” Coming hot off his voice performance as Miles Morales in the Academy Award–winning “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Moore is trading the web shooters for the mic, starring as the real-world rapper Raekwon on Hulu and RZA’s gritty “Wu-Tang: An American Saga.” The actor recently sat with Backstage to talk about how he booked the gig, his process in preparing for a scene, and how he is able to seamlessly jump between voiceover and acting on camera.

Moore proved himself to the creator of Wu-Tang that he has what it takes.
“ ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’ is the origin story of Wu-Tang. And I got the opportunity to play Raekwon because of a relationship I’ve built with RZA, who created Wu-Tang. I was working on another project with him called ‘Cut Throat City’ that’ll probably come out next year. And I guess I showed him that I was capable of playing the role of Raekwon, somebody he knows and grew up with and whatnot, and so I took on the challenge.”

There are no breaks on set for Moore.
“It’s work. On ‘The Get Down,’ we were on set for 18 hours sometimes. There was a lot of those kind of days—but that’s a whole different story. It’s fun, depending on your mindset. Like, I could take that time and start learning things on set, when most actors aren’t on that. If that’s not you, then that’s not you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. For me, with my goals, I was able to take advantage of the extra time, watching them butt heads and figure out the formula, [because] I’m a part of the formula.”

Don’t be afraid to get creative with the script.
“I don’t learn my lines until about 10 minutes before. That way I’m not so rehearsed, and I’m [not] just saying [every line] where it’s like a poem or a play. When I act, I want it to seem so real, like I’m finding the lines in my head as I’m talking. I know what the scene is about, I know what’s going on. I look at a script—it’s words on a piece of paper. It’s a white piece of paper, but it’s black words. Now, the black takes up between, let’s say, 50 to 60 percent of the page. The rest of it is white. That white is the creativity; that white is you. That white is the freedom to make it you. No matter what actor is auditioning, they’re reading those same lines; those lines are there, regardless. The white part of the paper makes it unique.”

But definitely prepare if you’re just starting out.
“If you’re in the position where you have the opportunity to stand out amongst everybody on a movie or TV show, the process might be a little different than if you’re just making a guest appearance and you want to get your feet wet or whatnot. The first steps I took on my first three projects when going into the room was just to make sure I had what I needed to have down. And I think that’s a great first step, if you’re entering. I can do the whole 10-minutes-before thing now, because I’ve gotten comfortable with that process, if that makes sense. That’s not something I’d suggest to anybody that can’t do that. And most actors will tell you not to do that. Denzel [Washington] will tell you to never do that, Will Smith will never tell you to do that. I have my own process. Ultimately, just find what works for you and do the very best you can, and pay attention to what you like and don’t like. What you’re curious about and what you’re not.”

To Moore, acting and voice acting is “one and the same.”
“As an actor, you’re pretty much a voice actor—you use your voice. [I’ve been going] on auditions for voiceovers since I started acting; it’s one and the same to me. And if you’re an actor, it should be the same. Think about it like this, ’cause if it does feel different to you, all you got to do is act it out in front of the [voiceover] mic. If you’re supposed to be crazy or if you’re supposed to be cool, act cool in front of the mic—just do it like the camera is there. That’s the secret.”

On advice Moore would give to his younger self.
“My advice to younger me would be: It’s OK to be as confident as you are. You need to learn how to communicate your confidence to other people, but how you feel about yourself is exactly how you’re supposed to. Stop fearing acting or overdoing the music ’cause what’s for you is for you; it’s not your time, it’s God’s time.”

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s voiceover audition listings!