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The following story contains light spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.
WHEN SHAMEIK Moore saw Miles Morales for the first time, it was quick: the character only appeared on-screen for a couple seconds, in and out, during an episode of the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series on Disney XD. Moore had never seen Miles—a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican Spider-Man who was first created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and introduced into the Marvel Comics universe in August 2011—before, but immediately thought he looked exactly like someone he knew, and knew pretty well: himself.
"I was like, Wait, someone drew my face," he says on a Wednesday afternoon in midtown Manhattan, recalling the first time he saw the character while simultaneously pulling up on his phone a very specific side-by-side image of himself and Miles that someone on Reddit cooked up back in 2015. "It just kind of went from there."
From that moment, Miles Morales became ubiquitous in Moore's life. While filming Dope, he began journaling his thoughts, the first of which said "I am Miles Morales. I am Spider-Man." After that movie premiered, Moore got word that its director, Rick Famuyiwa, would be helming his own live-action Miles Morales movie; that didn't end up happening. But Chris Miller and Phil Lord, who were behind hit movies like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie, were at Dope's Sundance premiere.
A few years later, when Miller and Lord were getting Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse off the ground, they got in touch with Moore’s team asking him to send in a voice note. It turned out to be his first audition before eventually becoming cinema’s first Miles Morales.
Fast forward a few years later, and Moore has settled wonderfully into the Morales role, voicing him to perfection in 2018's Into The Spider-Verse, a role he's now reprising for both the sequel, Across the Spider-Verse, and next year's Beyond the Spider-Verse. But he doesn't want the Miles journey to end there.
Producer Amy Pascal recently confirmed that a live-action Miles Morales movie is once again in the works—and Moore has his sights set. "I want to wear the mask," he says firmly. "I want that real bad."
Translating a performance from animation to live-action can be tricky, but Moore, now nearly a decade into his big screen career at age 28, knows exactly what he would do. "I would take all the mannerisms and characteristics from the animated version of Miles and apply it to my physicality. I would bring my spirit that's already in Miles through the animation," he says. "I don't want to pat myself on the back or anything, but I would put my entire soul into having the best live-action Spider-Man performance that we have ever witnessed."
But first, we've got an animated Spider-Verse trilogy to complete. Men's Health talked to Moore about his experiences voicing Miles Morales, and what these movies can mean on a deeper level.
Men's Health: Now that this is your second time playing Miles Morales, what kind of prep did you do the first time and how did that change going into the second movie?
Shameik Moore: Honestly, dude, I don't get a script. Prep for working with Chris and Phil was really doing The Get Down with Baz Luhrmann. They have similar styles, as far as the freedom goes.
We'll go to set on The Get Down and the scene itself, everything that's written, will be completely switched before we start shooting. It's like, "Okay, we studied those lines, but we have a whole new set of lines right now." There's fluidity in their creativity. They're not really stuck to one thing.
With Chris and Phil, it's basically the same thing. We'll go to the booth and I'm just following directions, and they're great at putting me in the space I need to be mentally, or where my heart should be, or where the words should be coming from. So, prep for this thing really is just trusting.
Is it normal, for this kind of project, to not get the script ahead of time?
I don't know. It's the only one I've done, so... well, Hailee [Steinfeld, who voices Spider-Gwen] would say that the other projects that she's done, she did have a script up front, and she knew exactly what it was, and she would be able to dive deep on her own, and do her own homework, and show up to work at her best. So, I guess maybe it's not normal.
When you're in the booth recording lines, are you there by yourself or are you bouncing off the people you're in scenes with?
Most times I'm by myself. Because all the cast members have... Hailee was in Japan, while I'm in New York. And Jake [Johnson, who voices Peter B. Parker] is in Chicago. Issa [Rae, who voices Spider-Woman] is in L.A.
Hailee and I got to do a few sessions together. Jake and I have done many, many, many sessions together. Brian Tyree Henry and myself have done a lot of sessions together. So, it's been nice. Those are the best moments, when we get to work with each other in the same room.
Do you have any standout memories from shared sessions?
I just looked at Hailee across the way and to be able to... I've never worked with her on camera, so it was nice to be able to look in her eyes and say the lines, instead of talking to [co-director] Kemp [Powers] or [producer] Phil [Lord]. Talking his mouth, trying to sauce up Gwen, and flirt with her or whatever. It's nice to be able to see Hailee across the way and speak.
Jake has me laughing 80% of the session. It's almost like those sessions, we have to do two of them because we're laughing and talking half the time, especially when Phil gets in there. But that's also how a lot of the jokes come about, because they're riffing with each other and I'm just there soaking it up.
There's more of a warm relationship between characters now that this is the second film in the series. Do you think your relationship with Hailee and Jake reflected that in the film or vice versa?
We got to know each other while we were working. Hailee and I got to know each other after the first film, and it led into this film, which was nice. Jake and I got to know each other while working. Same thing with Brian Tyree Henry.
So, it does reflect, I think, really well. Peter B. Parker and Miles are basically me and Jake. Me and Hailee aren't necessarily Miles and Gwen in that way, but we're definitely really good friends now. I like hanging out with her. She's super witty and smart and has such a strong "Respect me" presence. She's very admirable. She could be a politician or something.
One of my favorite surprises in the movie was the Donald Glover cameo.
Did you meet him? How did that whole thing work?
I met Donald Glover when I was doing The Get Down, at a GQ event. I was one of the GQ Men Of The Year that year, and he was there. It was real nice.
I don't really have much of a relationship with him right now, but we exchanged numbers at this last award show we did here in New York for the writers. We exchanged numbers. We connected. We have a dinner that we need to schedule. When I saw him, he was like, "Oh, yeah. I think I need to do something for Spider-Verse, actually. I think I'm going to do it." And then I told the directors, and they were hyped. "Oh, he's going to do it?" I was like, "That's what he told me!"
I think him seeing me and us connecting actually played a role in that happening, because they went out to him for a while, but there was some sort of hiccup... you'd have to ask him about it.
How recently were you still recording dialogue for this movie? I've heard differing things.
Like three weeks ago.
Three weeks ago? Wow.
Really, three weeks ago. It's like maybe some lines sounded a little nasally, just fine-tuning. Final animations come in, and there might be a moment where they need me breathing, and they don't want to go through the four years of audio to find clips of me breathing. So, they're like, "Just come back and let's get it right now." Or maybe a line didn't read well or play well in a testing screening, because they test it through every phase of it to see how the audiences respond to the film and whatnot.
What's your favorite easter egg, or surprise, that people may have missed in the movie? There are so many little details.
So many details. It's really sick that Spot is the dude that got hit with the bagel. I remember noticing that in the first movie the first two times I saw the film, and it really stood out to me. So for him to be the Spot in the second one... I think that's beautiful, and really representative of the movies; like, you should pay attention to every detail, because it could lead to something big.
I feel like all Spider-Man movies are these really learnable, teachable, coming-of-age stories. Miles has a lot of different adult men in his life, from his father, to Uncle Aaron, to the various Peter Parkers. What do you think the ultimate takeaway for young men should be from these Spider-Verse movies?
We take one step at a time as young men, one foot in front of the other, and we pull bits and pieces from everybody that has an impact on our lives.
Uncle Aaron brought out Miles's creativity. He nurtured his creativity as an artist. He was a safe space for Miles to go to and talk to about girls or really anything it felt like. They were almost best friends, but he was the adult. And, while in his life, he was a villain, he loved his nephew.
That can show young men, this person or that person may be into some things I'm not into, but their character speaks beyond that. Same thing with the father figure, Jeff. Jeff is more stern. He has expectations of his son. "We believe in you. We're going to get you in this school. We're going to set you up to be the best version of yourself. We're going to push you to be the best version of yourself, because we love you."
That's important. It's healthy to have a father love you so proudly. Like, "You didn't say I love you back." That's not normal, but it should be made normal.
This interview has been condensed for content and clarity.
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