What was the process of getting the part and joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
I auditioned for the part over a year and a half ago while I was working a new musical by David Byrne at The Public Theater in New York. I was hustling hard at the time: rehearsals from 10 to 6 and auditions every day on my lunch breaks. At the start of the week I remember hearing from my agent I had booked a new TV show for Amazon that would shoot in South Africa. Wednesday, I went in for Black Panther, but wasn’t the right fit then the following day I went for Corvus Glaive and booked it! It was all quite fast. As luck would have it, you can never have it all and because of scheduling I had to choose between the projects and I ended up turning down Marvel because I so wanted to go to Africa. It was something my spirit was longing for and the experience was a much needed home coming. Later I thought to myself I must be crazy for turning down Marvel, but a few months later I received word that they were still interested in me for the role and I jumped on it.
Do you take a certain kind of honor from being a part of a project so expansive?
It was daunting to step into such a large machine with so many moving parts and such great talent. But as we got to work together I quickly realized how generous and welcoming the Marvel family was and began to feel right at home amongst the cast and crew.
Were you at all interested in comic books growing up?
There was a time that I wanted to be a penciler for comic books. One of my favorite artists growing up was the late Michael Turner. I was in awe of his ability to capture the rawness of each character brought to life. I still have boxes of Witchblade and Fathom comics in my storage.
Has your previous work in “Constantine” prepared you at all for this superhero project?
Yes, I believe every experience builds towards the next. The universe throws many hurdles at you to build enough strength to tackle the obstacles you may face in the next cycle. I think being aware of this process makes you value both your failures, successes and everything in between equally. They are all steps to get to the mountain top.
What aspects of playing a villain in a film appeal to you?
Antagonists are definitely the most fun. But in my mind I don’t see them as villains. It’s all about perspective and the circumstances surrounding their actions. Most times they are wounded and are simply seeking comfort or retribution for the pain they are experiencing. If you can see it in that light, “villains” are not so different from you and I.
Did you feel any nerves working around so many well-known actors and directors?
Of course, you always hear horror stories of actors getting fired at the first read through or on the first day of shooting so initially you’re on edge and eventually that subsides. Working with the Russo brothers [Directors] was a complete joy from day one. They were open to everyone’s input and that created a truly collaborative atmosphere.
Describe your everyday look?
Usually I’m pretty classic; love t-shirt and jeans with nice pair of boots then throw on one of my leather jackets. I’m ready to roll!
What look have you gone for as you go through the press circuit for Infinity War?
For press I usually go for a tailored suit. A well-made suit makes me feel confident and sharp. Special thanks to Ted Baker for the exquisite blue suit I wore to the Avengers premiere last week. I felt like a superhero.
Do you try and stay updated on the latest fashion?
Lol I just wear what makes me feel good.
What connections and influence do you still have to Florida?
All of my family, my Roots. 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 it had a huge impact. John and Rogenia Shaw (my parents) made sure I had a well-rounded experience and supported me in all my interests growing up from music to visual art to sports and eventually to acting, even if they didn’t quite understand what I was going after. They recognized my passion and drive and stood behind me. Ocala is the root, where my seed planted.
Tell us about any new projects in the works if possible
I have a new tv show coming up it’s called, ‘Blood and Treasure’ for CBS— it will premiere summer 2019. I’m excited to be teaming up once again with my boys from CBS’s Limitless Marc Webb, Stephen Scaia and Mathew Federman for this new action adventure series. We start shooting this summer in Canada. Can’t wait to get started!
Follow Michael: @mjshawnuff