Michael James Shaw: Standing With Thanos
Words + Interview By: Krystal Luster
A talented individual on and off screen, Michael James Shaw discusses the importance of diversity in Hollywood, being a part of “The Black Order” in Marvel’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and sheds light on his personal and professional passions.
Where are you from originally and how was life growing up?
I’m originally from a small town in Central Florida called Ocala. It was great growing up there. Although, it’s mostly wetland and forest I was exposed to lots of art and culture as a kid and had great impact. My parents John and Rogenia Shaw, made sure I had a well-rounded experience and supported me in all my interests growing up even if they didn’t quite understand what I was going after. They recognized my passion and drive and stood behind me.
When did you begin pursuing acting as a career?
Growing up I excelled at lots of things. I used to draw and for a while I wanted to be a penciller for comics and had a fascination with animation. I also played baseball, did track and field (mostly field) and played football. In middle school I started exploring music, which lead to singing in the church choir then ending up doing a musical at the community theater.
What did getting the role of Marcellus in 2016’s mini-series “Roots” mean to you?
I remember that time pretty vividly, I was on a roll. I had shot a film with Todd Solondz, booked CBS’s Limitless and Roots came shortly after. It was the icing on the cake. It was a gift to work with such great talent (made more than a few lifelong friends on that set) and to play a free man of color in the re-imagining of this iconic American story. It was a perspective I was not familiar with but needed to be added to the American narrative. I’m so grateful and forever humbled by my Roots experience.
Tell us about your role in the Marvel film, “Avengers: Infinity War”.
In Avengers: Infinity War I play Corvus Glaive; an immortal general in Thanos’s army, The Black Order. He wields a blade that can cut through atoms and it’s also what keeps him immortal. He is also married to Proxima Midnight of The Black Order.
How exciting was it to be in the company of so many other talented individuals?
Very exciting and so humbling. At first you don’t know what to expect so I was pretty anxious but after the first day on set I let all that go. It was one of the most supportive and generous process I’ve ever been a part of.
Were you ever into the Marvel Comic series as a child/teen? If so, who was/is your favorite Marvel character and why?
I was a total geek for the X-Men. I religiously watched the Saturday morning cartoon, still have a collection of over 100 action figures, the command center and blackbird jet in my parent’s garage. I was really into Spider-Man as well but Venom was my favorite back then.
Having also worked on NBC’s DC Comics series “Constantine” as Papa Midnite, what do you think is the most different about Marvel and DC?
I guess the biggest difference is that DC tends to be darker, grittier and more dangerous, especially the world of Constantine, but I think Avengers: Infinity War will help bring all those elements to forefront along the classic comedic timing Marvel does so well.
How do you typically prepare for a role and/or audition?
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Then, forget about the lines and respond.
Who are some of your favorite actors/actresses?
I’m really digging Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld at the moment but Javier Bardem is definitely my top. He’s got a tremendous range and a great ability to transform, which can be difficult for men with stature. I really admire his work.
What can you tell us about the upcoming CBS action series “Blood & Treasure” (2019)?
Blood and Treasure is a classic action adventure series. Imagine if Indiana Jones and Oceans 11 had a baby. I play an arms dealer, funny enough, named “Shaw” who is not quite what he seems. I’m excited to start shooting this summer in Canada.
What are you currently working on as far as writing?
A couple of things and both are adaptations. One is a retelling of Strindberg’s Miss Julie and the other is a Greek tragedy reset in the Maroon and Geechee cultures of the south. I enjoy stories that deconstruct social systems.
How important is black representation in Hollywood?
It’s important to have representation of all cultures in Hollywood. Not just the majority. I think every child; white, black, brown, and everything in between should have a hero that looks like them to look up to and be inspired by. Movies like Moana and Coco are so important. Our healing as a nation begins with the youth and they’re ability to understand perspectives outside of their own.
Are you currently binge watching any shows?
A few: The Path, Chewing Gum and HBO’s Barry. It’s brilliant.
What else do you have in-store for 2018?
I’m currently writing an album. Music is my most personal expression. So while I’m shooting ‘Blood and Treasure’ this year, expect to hear from me soon in the music world.
You can follow Michael James Shaw on Instagram and Twitter @MJShawNuff.
Photo By: Breanna Nichelle