James Canellos ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Turning twenty years old can be daunting to any teenager. You enter a decade of new responsibilities and prepare to jumpstart your life into adulthood. For Shameik Moore, that means starring in movies. In Sundance darling Dope Moore plays Californian high schooler Malcolm, a self proclaimed hip-hop ‘Geek’ who stumbles upon his neighborhood drug dealer’s merchandise. On the verge of the film’s release Moore reflects on the past year in his life, the positive influence he hopes to have and the relationship between Dope’s humor and Treyvon Martin.
This is your first lead role, for many viewers this is their first time seeing you perform, what kind of impression were you hoping to leave?
Well my whole mark, for my brand as Shameik is I want to affect history in a positive way. Like, I really just want to inspire people, I hope people leave the movie feeling like “This is a really great movie”. I want people to smile, I’m big on positive energy. And I want people to feel positive energy after they see or hear or witness anything from my brain as Shameik.
First, thank you for portraying a passionate pop culture fan so thoroughly, how much of Malcolm was fabricated and not fiction?
I like to load it into me, I like to make the character me in a way. Like when I’m acting, I’m not acting, I just change what I’m saying. Like if I had this written already, if I had a paragraph written for me, if I’m having a conversation with a reporter and yada yada yada, I’m literally just saying what somebody wrote, I’m still having the conversation with you. I don’t really change it it’s real life for me, so I kind of just load it into myself if that makes sense? That’s how the process works in my head. Malcolm, I’m not really timid with women as Shameik. I’m definitely a good boy, you know, I have bad boy tendencies but I’m definitely a good boy. You know I like to stay out of trouble and have positive energy, I like all kinds of music, I love having great conversations with people. In that sense, things that you love about that character I can relate to. As far as him being influenced as like that scene with Nikia, she says in regards to a party “I’ll go if you go” and he went to a party. Like if I didn’t want to go a party I’m not going to a party. That’s kinda where the difference is with me and Malcolm, he’s smart, he’s a brainiac smart. I’m smart and intuitive, but I don’t think I’d score the highest score on an SAT for Harvard. We have differences, like musically, the music that describes him is the band he’s in Oreo. The you know “Don’t Bring Me Down” [We both begin singing, laughs]. Yeah exactly, all that. My music is more like R&B it’s pretty different.
A major theme of this film is being loyal to yourself and how easy it can be when you hang out with the right people, how well was your chemistry with Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori off screen?
Kiersey is one of my best friends; I love her. Tony, that’s the homie, he’s a funny guy. Like Tony will walk into a room and say something stupid and people will look at him and then everybody will just start laughing. Tony’s just that kind of dude you can be around who will just make everyone laugh. Being around people like that who can make you laugh is such a good thing. Kiersey keeps me on my toes, she just keeps it real with me, she’s really talented man. Great friends.
I really admire how you guys showed how quickly someone can go from a Student A person to a Student B person. It really humanizes the supporting players who could have easily been Malcolm at one point. What went through you personally as you prepared for that scene with your confrontation with Bug (Keith Stanfield)?
Man that day, Rick [Famuyiwa] was kind of really serious. You know it was really dark outside, I just remember that vibe. He was like “Yo this is the moment”. I remember reading the script, I pictured Malcolm crying, he’s holding the gun and I could only see him crying. I needed it to be real and it wasn’t coming out that way. I just remember feeling all of those emotions fighting each other, like I’m really sad right now because I put myself in that place for the scene. I’m also thinking you just came and attacked me, I’m trying to save my mom, we gotta sell these things, you don’t know what’s going on with me. I don’t want to be this person, but I have to handle my business now. Between those two that’s what translated to my face in that scene. It was really a big contrast and I think that was the genius behind that scene.
This film feels like it will have a large following, hopefully, what is the legacy you would like Dope to have in let’s say 10 years or so?
I want people to be like; “Yo, you remember Dope?! Man when that movie came out I had to see it three times”. I want people to be talking about moments in the movie, just remembering these moments and thinking back to when their friends were laughing with them as the scene plays out. I want people to relate themselves to characters even ten years from now. I want people to say I remember that ‘Slippery Slope’ line and I started saying that afterwards. Or remember just the word ‘Dope’. I just want people to be affected by it in a positive way. I want people to be reminiscent and when they talk about it I want them to smile and have that little glare where they just say the title and the whole room lights up cause of it. I hope it can be that one movie that changes things for the better.
You do an awful lot of singing both in the film and professionally, are you going to focus on your music career or releasing albums in the near future?
I’m filming a new project on Netflix called The Get Down it’s with Baz Luhrman and I’m the lead of that and it’s like a musical, a drama I get to dance and all that stuff, I want to put my full heart and soul into that, the way I did with Dope. When I’m done with that I’ll have an album ready, I’ll be ready to tour and do all that stuff that I’ve been wanting to do with this project, but with this project since Dope is about to come out it’s called 30058 which is the zip code of Atlanta. When Dope comes and people look me up, I want it to be, if you want to hear who I am or where my music is or where I’ve been or where I’m going musically, which you can look forward to on my album. You can go to my website and you can check it out and see different visuals that I won’t necessarily be promoting everywhere. It will probably go viral everywhere because it’s really good music and it’s the kind of music you can play repeatedly. People love Drake, people love Chris and they’re going to love my music, but I’m not going to be able to do what they do with their music at this second until I’m done with The Get Down because I just want to put everything into that.
Will there be an appearance by Oreo on 30058?
I can ask Pharell. No seriously that’s possible. That’s a good idea [Laughs].
That scene towards the end where Malcolm is writing his essay while putting his hood over his head, was that Malcolm just becoming this new character or was that a tribute to Treyvon Martin?
It was the Treyvon Martin incident for sure. When I said, “Am I Student A or Student B?” Like when I lift up the hood, you can’t judge anything by color at this point, you fell in love with this character because he’s a good person and he went through a bad situation and came out on top in a positive way. He’s a really smart kid and he didn’t want to be involved in anything, now he’s asking: Am I good guy? Or a bad guy? Do you want to attack me or do you want to be my friend? That’s the moment where everything resonates like man I really like that kid. It makes you think about Treyvon Martin and that’s the point. It’s not necessarily about him because we never say his name. It’s about Malcolm and this story, but it resonates as the same thing; these are good kids.
Dope is in limited release now.
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