The Ones: Shameik Moore
The actor, musician and dancer talks about his role in Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse.
Words: Brandon “Jinx” Jenkins
“The Ones” celebrates a new generation of defiant, talented individuals. Click here for more stories.
Shameik Moore is what people in the industry call a triple-threat — a creative who seems to have limitless potential even beyond acting, music and dancing. At the young age of 12, he started creating a name for himself as a dancer by battling at local clubs in his hometown of Atlanta. Each success on the dance floor begot more success and gave him the confidence to pursue singing and acting.
Shameik’s boundless energy was first re-directed towards acting auditions. He landed his first major television role at the age of 13, and around the same time, started dabbling in music and performing at schools in the Atlanta area.
This multi-hyphenate took his career to the next level by landing captivating roles, including Malcolm, the ambitious, relatable high schooler in DOPE and Shaolin Fantastic, the scene-stealing disc jockey in Netflix’s The Get Down. These experiences and triumphs all led to his biggest challenge yet: taking on the storied mantle of Miles Morales in the animated Sony Pictures feature film, Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse.
In Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse, Spider-Man joins forces with Spider-people of other dimensions to face a major threat. One of those spider heroes is Miles Morales — voiced by Shameik — a street-smart, Air Jordan-clad Spider-Man from Brooklyn who’s coming to terms with his newfound powers and responsibilities. Miles, the central protagonist of the flick, is also the newest inductee into Jordan Brand’s The Ones family.
Do you ever feel like your different talents compete with one another?
I feel like my talents only compete with one another in other people’s perspectives of me. They think, “Oh, he’s that good of an actor. There’s no way he should be trying to do music, too.” In my mind, they don’t compete with each other, because they’re all part of me as one person.
Do you feel like that dynamic is also present in your Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse character, Miles Morales?
My life and Miles Morales’ life have a lot of parallels. Miles is a creative soul, and I’m a creative soul. The movie starts off with him singing “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, and then it goes into him spray-painting. He’s painting with his uncle, and then he gets bitten by a spider. That changes his life. He was chosen out of the thousands of people who live in Brooklyn; this spider found Miles. For me to have been chosen out of all the people on planet Earth to be Miles Morales? That’s deep for me.
I heard that before this role even popped up on your radar, you wanted to play Miles Morales in a film. How did you first discover Miles?
I was kicking it with my older cousin and my little brother. We would play cartoons, video games and hip-hop music. The next thing I know, there’s Spider-Man on the screen, but then there’s this other Spider-Man. As I’m looking at him, he takes off the mask, and I was like, “Wait a second. Is he black? What’s going on?”
That was my first introduction to Miles Morales. He looked just like me. I felt like they had animated my face and put it on television. I always felt like I was him.
Then, while filming the movie Dope, my co-star, Kiersey Clemons, gave me this journal. She said, “Shameik, you should start writing down your thoughts.” I wrote, “I am Miles Morales. I am Spider-Man.”
You know how they found me for this movie? The directors went to go see Dope at Sundance. They were the first people to see the movie when we premiered it. That’s how they knew they wanted me to be Miles Morales. It’s a powerful story, because I wrote it in my journal while I was filming the movie.
The moment Shameik and I are introduced for the first time, he basically pop-locks his way in and out of the handshake. The setting couldn’t have felt any more “Spider-Man” or “New York City,” for that matter. It was cold and raining like hell as we walked through the John Allen Payne Park, situated right under the overpass of Brooklyn’s busy Belt Parkway. Despite this almost villainous backdrop, Shameik is full of life and moving in a way that lets me know he’s definitely Spider-Man material.
You’re coming into a rich legacy. Spider-Man is at least 50 years old, right? You’re the latest to take it on, but you’re doing voice acting. How did you make it your own?
That was the main thing I wanted to do, because I feel like my original vision — when I wrote it in my journal — was to be the live-action Miles Morales. I thought, “If I’m gonna be the animated Miles Morales, and it’s gonna be in theaters, and they’re really putting all this energy behind it, I’m definitely gonna do it, and it’s a great opportunity. I knew that I had to bring something new to this character, to make it iconic and where people can only imagine me doing it.
What do you feel like the directors saw in you to voice act Miles?
Well, I think [the directors] originally thought about Miles being more reserved, not as confident. My voice is naturally believable and has a little bit more confidence behind it. But they liked it. Then they started developing around that, because there are parallels between myself and Miles. I do have a loving family at home. I am creative. The directors definitely chose me the way that the spider chose Miles.
What role does defiance play in Miles Morales’ life?
Being Spider-Man, you gotta leave school and sneak out of the house so you can go save the day. There’s a lot of defiance there. When he gets bitten by the spider, it’s because he had been sneaking out to spray paint with his uncle. Even when Miles is walking around ignoring the fact that he’s Spider-Man, he’s going against the grain.
I feel like defiance is the first step on the path to greatness. You’re in a field where there is no scoreboard. There’s no way to look up at the clock and say, “Man, I dropped 50 tonight.” How do you measure greatness in what you do?
At first, I was really comparing myself to others. I highly suggest not doing that, because then you’re either beating them or you’re losing. Why compare? It’s not a race. It’s about the bigger picture and the body of work. I want the 100 years of work that I create to live long past when I’m gone.
One of my favorite quotes is: “I’m not born with this sauce, you gotta go acquire this sauce.” Fearlessness plays a big role in taking steps forward and having the type of confidence that can convince anyone else in the room.
Shameik clearly shares a kindred spirit with his on-screen counterpart. He doesn’t just share Miles’ thoughtful and fearless personality, he also shares a love for Air Jordans. Throughout the film, Miles can be seen sporting a pair of Air Jordan 1s, both as a mild-mannered teenager and as Spider-Man — a detail that isn’t lost on Shameik.
There’s another element that really stands out to me. Miles wears Air Jordan 1s.
What’s cool about this movie is that they treat the Spider-Man story like a myth — from getting bitten by a radioactive spider to the rest of the story. They take that, and they put it in Brooklyn instead of Queens. And then you get Miles Morales with some Js and a hoodie on, you know?
Do Air Jordans have a significance for you in real life?
Yeah, definitely. Everybody needs a pair of Jordans. It’s also cultural. People with all different styles wear Jordans differently. Jordans have a special imprint on me because of the history of the brand.
Do you have a first memory with Jordan Brand?
I was playing basketball in Atlanta. I was fast; I was a point guard. Shaking and baking. The coach was cool, and he was like, “Yo, we’re getting y’all some Jordans!” I got the 11s, and I was happy.
What’s it feel like when your character pulls down the Spider-Man mask over his face?
Well, I am not the live-action Miles just yet, so I haven’t pulled the mask down and felt it for myself. I imagine that it has to feel like putting on that first pair of Jordans when I was playing basketball. It has to feel like, “Oh, shoot. This is it. Time to lace up. It’s time to go!” It’s that boost of confidence, that sense of feeling like I’m more than Miles or more than Shameik.
Miles is a hero because of his mindset, not because he was bitten by a spider. He had to learn that in the movie. Being bitten by the spider isn’t what made him Spider-Man. He had to figure out who he was, who Miles is. Everybody is unique. Everybody has a story. Everybody has a path, and anybody can wear the mask. Anyone can be a hero.
The Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG ‘Origin Story’ is available starting December 14 on SNKRS and at select retailers.
Spider-Man™: Into the Spider-Verse makes its way to theaters nationwide on December 14.
© & TM 2018 MARVEL. ©2018 SPAI. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.