Shameik Moore Breaks New Ground as First Black Spider-Man With His 'Into the Spider-Verse' Role
By Elliott Smith
Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Sony Pictures
A few years ago, during the downtime of filming his motion picture debut, Dope, Shameik Moore thought back to an image that had stuck with him and decided he would try whatever he could to make his vision become a reality.
“I saw a cartoon a few years earlier where Miles Morales made an appearance, and I was like, he looks just like me, and I was very surprised that he was black,” Moore recalled to ET during a recent interview. “My co-star on Dope had given me a journal, and we were trying to will our success into existence. So, I was like, ‘I need to write this down.’ And I wrote, ‘I am Miles Morales. I am Spider-Man.’ ”
His goals committed to paper, Moore had no idea what would come next. But filmmakers Chris Miller and Phil Lord saw Dope at the Sundance Film Festival and decided the 23-year-old actor would be a great fit for their upcoming animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, making Moore’s prediction seem prescient. “A few months after that, I ended up booking it – after they auditioned a few thousand people,” Moore said. “It was perfect. Positive thinking.”
Moore’s voice brings Morales to life in the colorful and compelling Into the Spider-Verse, a much different chapter of the long-running superhero story. After Brooklyn teenager Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider in the subway, he suddenly discovers his new powers and a range of Spideys from across time and space, including Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), Spider-Ham (John Mulaney) and Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage). But that’s not exactly what Moore had in mind when he wrote down his dreams.
“I had been making a name for myself as an onscreen actor, so when I wrote it down, I was thinking about playing Spider-Man physically,” he said. “But Sony and Marvel aren’t in a place where they’re ready to do that yet. It made sense. Even with Peter Parker, there was a lot of animation before it became live-action. But whatever you throw at me, either on camera or in the vocal booth, I should be able to deliver for you and exceed expectations. That’s my mindset.”
To have Morales, an African-American and Latino superhero, on the big screen as the focal point of a huge Marvel movie is not a fact that’s lost on Moore. While he said that he was equally stirred by action heroes like James Bond and Jason Bourne, the idea that young children will be inspired by his portrayal of Miles is important.
“When I first saw a black Spider-Man, it hit me like, ‘Yo! This dude is black!” Moore said. “I didn’t really know I was missing that until I saw it. And there’s a lot of people who don’t know who Miles Morales is yet. I am the voice of this one, and I can’t wait for kids to feel the way that I felt. And who knows, if I don’t play the live-action Miles Morales, maybe that kid will.”
Into the Spider-Verse marks another major career milestone for Moore, who broke out in Dope and followed that up with another vivid performance in the Netflix series The Get Down. In the aftermath of Spider-Man, Moore will play a major role in Cut Throat City, the latest feature from Wu-Tang Clan mastermind RZA. “The type of person I am, I want everything now. I’m working on patience,” Moore said.
For now, he’s enjoying the leadup to Into the Spider-Verse, which figures to be another Marvel box-office smash and has drawn rave reviews from critics both for the film itself and Moore’s work. “To play Miles Morales, the first black Spider-Man, and for multiple people to say that it’s the best Spider-Man movie that’s been made?” Moore said. “So many people have been iffy about this movie because there have been so many Spider-Man movies – ‘Do we really need another one?’ ‘Does he have to be black?’ For so many hardcore critics to say that it’s the best one made, that says a lot about this movie. I’m so happy to be a part of such an iconic and groundbreaking project.”
For more on Moore's take on our favorite webslinger, check out the video below: