You're Shameik Moore, you're 19, you've been dancing since birth, you've been acting since you were a child (you cite a first appearance in a Cartoon Network commercial, [For the Pop Pop Toy] and singing all along. Acting kept you off the streets. This summer, Dope, the film at the center of this year's Sundance bidding wars, will be released, with you in the lead, in your first feature, the timing of which, much like Selma from earlier this year, is uncannily appropriate.
“While I was filming I felt inspired to make a change. Obviously I'm not happy about any of the recent events that have been taking place in the black community, but I am happy that a positive message is being sent out to the world through me. Dope is a classic that will have a positive effect on history.”
What’s the elixir of youth?
It’s definitely dancing—it makes everybody happier. When somebody feels they can’t dance, as soon as they start they smile about it. These are things that people don’t even notice, but just that smile, like, “I can’t believe I’m dancing right now,” yes, exactly.
Is dancing not akin to acting?
When I’m dancing, I’m not acting. When I’m dancing, I’m being myself. The way I dance is the way I talk. The way I dance is the way I think, the way I move... My dancing is literally my story. It’s a sentence.
What’s the future of movement in society?
I think it’s going to take some people to inspire everyone to move, and to be free with it. Whether I’m seriously dancing, or acting the fool; doing the Charleston in the middle of the street. I notice my closest friends will now just start dancing at the 7-11, they’ll just start dancing. Just start singing out loud. Can’t even sing, but just start singing. Expressing themselves. I like that.
How did dance show up like this?
Dancing has always been a way of expressing—just think of babies. You know, we always express ourselves that way. When we’re in the mirror, by ourselves, or in the shower—we dance all the time, and we don’t even notice.
What about eternity?
I don’t think that my suit will live forever, my body. But my spirit will definitely live forever—and that’s how I operate. I go to the gym, I drink water, I eat healthy—all that stuff—this is what you see of me. This is how [I’m] representing [my] spirit. And my spirit, the way I see it, my spirit is an animal: It’s strong.
I need to wake up and take a shower, I need to wake up and hit the gym, I need to wake up and eat healthy. Anything less, and it’s like: “Why? Your spirit is so fly. You dance out of nowhere; people see that and like it. You can have conversations with anyone–you have to present yourself that way.” I have conversations through my spirit. I’m always myself. That’s not ever going to go away. It’s infinite.
Photographer: Yoshino at YoshinoStudios.com.
Stylist: Monty Jackson for theonly.agency.
Groomer: Tami Shirey.
Photography Assistants: Daniel Kim, Daniel Ramirez, and Will Chan.
Special Thanks to Evan Duning at The Dream Factory Studio, Los Angeles