“Yo, that’s me and this is a place I randomly walk to or drove by and my face is up there.” – Shameik Moore
Dope was one of my favorite discoveries at Sundance, and at the center of that discovery is Shameik Moore. Moore plays Malcolm, a “geek” trying to avoid gangsters and drug dealers in the hood, hoping to get into Harvard. A series of comic misadventure lands Malcolm in possession of a stash of drugs and some big decisions about what to do with them.
I met Moore when he came to L.A. for the press junket for Dope. He’s been a dancer in music videos and singer, releasing songs on his YouTube channel. Moore will next be seen in the Netflix original series The Get Down from Baz Luhrmann. Dope is in theaters June 19 but you can read about Moore first in our exclusive interview.
Nuke the Fridge: How long did it take to do the flattop?
Shameik Moore: It was a process I guess. I don’t know. It was important to make sure it was right on set though. I would get there early and make sure I’m hooked up, have the right look going on on camera.
Nuke: Was it a tough audition to land the role of Malcolm?
Shameik Moore: When I got there I was really nervous and I almost lost my opportunity, but I ended up booking it and I don’t think it was tough. I just enjoyed the challenge.
Nuke: Do you usually approach auditions that way, enjoying the challenge of them?
Shameik Moore: Yeah, I audition in order to book it. I go with the intentions of getting a job.
Nuke: Did a lot go into preparing the final speech, the letter to Harvard?
Shameik Moore: I’m not the traditional actor I don’t think. “How did you study for this role? How did you do this?” I just did my job. I see the lines, I see the script. I heard the music. I looked at different types of movies. I had these conversations but I found Malcolm the character and I talked about him with Rick. We had a clear vision on what we were creating. I’m not a person or a talent or a creative being that operates off of what other people create or what other people do. I’m really focused on how I can create something new, something different, something special and not be somebody else or get influenced by somebody else’s creativity. I respect other people’s talent and other people’s creativity but I don’t try to imitate it or apply any of that. I just see it for what it is and I’m inspired to be me.
Nuke: Did The Get Down give you an opportunity to approach a challenge that way too?
Shameik Moore: Yeah, every role I’m doing, I’m getting the opportunity to be fluid and to express myself in a way that makes it special, that makes the role, the character special. I’m looking forward to starting to film that one.
Nuke: With the final speech, did you do the entire speech in each location so Rick could cut it together?
Shameik Moore: Yup, yes, indeed.
Nuke: The film ends with a look you give. How many different ways did you try the final look?
Shameik Moore: I think it was 18 takes. I remember that particular one. I think it was 18 or 19 takes just looking at the camera, different angles, different movements with the piece of paper and stuff.
Nuke: I haven’t ridden a bike in over 20 years. How long had it been for you?
Shameik Moore: It was probably a year or two years. Not too long but it was a little while.
Nuke: There’s a couple scenes where you’re holding your cell phone in your bedroom, jerking off. Was that awkward or embarrassing?
Shameik Moore: It wasn’t embarrassing and it was pretty awkward, but I had fun with it. I didn’t really trip about it. I’m pretty comfortable in my skin, so I’m cool.
Nuke: Was it always planned for you to dance over the end credits?
Shameik Moore: Not always planned, but they planned it afterwards. They told me what we were going to do. That was Malcolm dancing. I had to stay in character and do those dance moves.
Nuke: Did you choreograph them?
Shameik Moore: No, just off the top.
Nuke: There’s four Awreeoh songs in the film and on the soundtrack. Does it trip you out to think that people are going to be listening to Awreeoh?
Shameik Moore: No, I expect that. I definitely expect that. That’s N.E.R.D. sound. N.E.R.D. was huge and that’s a big part of the movie that people talk about is the music from the band and the soundtrack and everything. I expect that to happen. I would like that to happen.
Nuke: Do you have plans to go to college yourself?
Shameik Moore: Maybe in the future. I’m looking forward to it.
Nuke: Hopefully it won’t be as hard as it is for Malcolm.
Shameik Moore: Yeah, hopefully. I hope I don’t have to sell any kind of drugs and pull a gun on somebody to get to that place.
Nuke: What was your Sundance experience?
Shameik Moore: It was magical. It was special. It was my first time experiencing anything like that. Press, taking photos, seeing myself on screen, having the whole cast come out and support each other and just have that vibe. We were in a totally different state. It was cold. It was a vibe. Everything about it was special. It was new, it was fresh, it was different. It was special. Once in a lifetime experience.
Nuke: Maybe not once because you’ll probably go back.
Shameik Moore: I might go back, but I’ll never go back to the first time. The first time is a special experience.
Nuke: You’re right, the first Sundance is special. Now having the poster in movie theaters, how big of a trip is that to see?
Shameik Moore: Dope. And to see my face anywhere other than in the mirror. Online, on billboards, on television, in the movies, at the mall, on a train, on a bus, anywhere. It’s like yo, that’s me and this is a place I randomly walk to or drove by and my face is up there. That’s crazy. How many other people have gone through this route and my face as well.
Nuke: Did you ever identify with labels like “geek” growing up?
Shameik Moore: I don’t know about the label “geek” but I’m different. Naturally, I’ve always been into being happy. For me being happy has always been entertaining. Ever since I’ve found out I could, that’s what made me happy. I think Malcolm found what makes him happy and he follows that through the whole movie. He just goes with a feeling and he stays true to himself. I think that’s something I can definitely relate to.
Nuke: Did The Get Down come about because Baz Luhrmann had seen Dope?
Shameik Moore: No, The Get Down was just agents and managers, “Hey, look, we got another audition.” I went and auditioned. They liked me, flew me out to New York. Did my job when I got out there and I got the job. Then he found out about Dope. He saw Dope. “Oh, snap, this is amazing.” That’s what happened.
Nuke: Are you going to sing in that show?
Shameik Moore: Yeah, it’s a musical/drama. Rapping, singing, dancing, the whole nine. It captures the ‘70s and how hip-hop originated.
Nuke: Are those different musical styles for you?
Shameik Moore: Yeah, it’s the ‘70s so the music was totally different back then. That’s the music that we’re going to be creating. That’s disco music. All the music in the ‘70s is what we’ll be hearing on the show.
Nuke: Have you thought ahead to after The Get Down?
Shameik Moore: After The Get Down is my album.
Nuke: Do you have to separate movies and music?
Shameik Moore: Yes, I do. I have to be a brand, a business. Gotta control this thing, keep you guys up to date, looking forward to the next thing.