The big interview: Shazam! star Asher Angel

The teenager spills the beans on the smash DC superhero movie

The big interview: Shazam! star Asher Angel

Who is Billy Batson? What’s he like when we first meet him and what’s going on in his life?
There’s a lot going on in this kid’s life. Billy got separated from his mum, so he’s basically just out there on the street. He’s a loner. He has no family – it’s just him alone in this world. And he finds out that he has this amazing superpower, that by just saying one word –“Shazam!” – it turns him into an adult superhero. Then it’s decision time. What are you going to do with these superpowers? Are you going to be good, are you going to be bad? What’s going on?
Once he gets over the panic of having superpowers and being an adult, which is kind of crazy, he figures things out with Freddy [the son of his latest foster parents]. Freddy is like his manager and they get to know how to control these
powers together. And it’s also relatable because Billy finally finds a family, and he would have never thought it would have been the kids he met in foster care.

What is Billy feeling when he’s thrust into this house full of foster kids?
He’s like, “I don’t want any part of you guys. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to get to know you. I want to just go out in the world, just look for my mum. And if that’s not good enough, then it’s just me.”

What does he think of Freddy that first night when they meet, when Freddy exposes his love of all things superhero-related?
He’s probably thinking, “This kid’s so dorky, such a geek.” But then, as he keeps talking, he’s like, “Hey, he’s actually cool and funny.”

They’re about the same age – do you think that helps Billy feel a little more comfortable?
Definitely. At the beginning, the thought is, “Okay, it’s another foster home. I’m just going to sneak out and run away.” Of course, that’s what he’s thinking. But once he really gets to know Freddy, that’s where he really clicks, and then he starts exploring relationships with Darla, Mary and everyone.

How does Billy find his way to the Wizard, and what happens?
He’s on the subway and somehow he’s transported to the Rock of Eternity. He’s scared, he doesn’t know where he is, and he sees this Wizard who’s hunch-backed and on his throne. Billy’s thinking, “I just want to get out of here, I don’t want to be here.” And then the Wizard says, “You are the champion, you are the one.” And Billy’s just thinking, “Are you crazy? Who would believe that, out of all the people, it would be me?” The Wizard tells him, “You’re strong in spirit, you’re pure in heart,” and Billy says the word “Shazam!” and realises that whatever this is, this isn’t a dream.
He’s six-foot-two. He doesn’t know what to do, and the only person he could go to is Freddy. Actually, I think one of my favourite moments is when Zac Levi [the actor who plays the superhero version of Billy] goes up to the window and he has a sign that’s like, “Don’t scream,” and Freddy just freaks out.

How did you and Zachary Levi work out how to play the same character, as actors?
We didn’t have a lot of time, because I was shooting another show – I think we had like two days to figure it out. I did a couple self-tapes for him, he did a couple self-tapes for me. You know, we really already had the same mannerisms and the same facial expressions, but we definitely did pick up on like a couple of tics that we both have so we could incorporate that. But we really just had to trust in each other and in [director] David [F. Sandberg].

How did David help you discover Billy?
There was a scene that I did for him, and I think that’s really what made him think, “Okay, you are Billy Batson.” And he told me, “I don’t want it to be like the comics where Billy is not the nicest guy. I want this one to be, well, he’s just sad. He wants his mum.” Throughout the movie, you really see Billy evolve. When he gets superpowers, he’s this happy kid and he’s starting to open up and the real Billy is actually coming out.

There are a lot of kids in this movie — what did you all do in your time off?
There was a lot of fun stuff to do. I mean, it was cold in Toronto, but we took field trips, we did dinners. We did some sleepovers, and that’s how we really bonded: playing games and watching movies together. Jack [Dylan Grazer, who plays Freddy] and I really bonded at Comic-Con, that’s where we really became friends because we were with each other all day doing interviews.

What would you like to happen if you had a magic word and could change something in your life?
[Laughs] Can I pick more than one? Definitely to fly. Flight would be amazing. To explore the world, travel to different places – that’s always been a dream of mine. Superhuman strength, would be awesome, too. Just by saying one word you get these huge muscles and you don’t have to go to the gym, you can just be like, “Hey, look what I can do. Can you do that?” It’d be really cool if you could be the richest person in the world and just hand out money. You could give the homeless money, open shelters, give it to charity. So that would be very cool.

What do you think is the most inspirational trait Shazam has?
Probably him helping others. He’s human, and he’s a kid who’s had a hard life and he really chooses the right path. He’s choosing the right side to help people even though he feels no one ever helped him before now. So, I think that’s kind of cool that he wants to help others even though what he’s been through has been really hard on him. But he has learned from it.

What do you feel like now that you are officially part of the DC superhero universe?
It’s crazy, it’s unreal. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I’ve always had a dream about going into the movie theatre and either seeing the trailer or seeing the movie, and I can’t even tell you what it was like seeing it for the first time. It was so exciting and I couldn’t believe it. 

What do you think audiences are going to experience when they’re watching this movie?
I think they’re going to experience a lot of action, of course, but also a good story about wish fulfilment. And it’s just light-hearted and funny.

I think what makes Shazam! different from any other superhero movie – where they’re flying through the air and fighting each other – is that this is a superhero that’s a kid. He thinks like a kid. And what kid out there doesn’t want to be a superhero? Actually, what person out there wouldn’t want to have superhero abilities?

I think Zac killed it, and I think people are really going to like him. I mean, obviously he was amazing in the trailer
and it’s going to draw them in, and when they see the movie, I think they’re going to like it even more.

Shazam is now in cinemas across Abu Dhabi.

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