Shamier Anderson is loud and proud of being a kid from Scarborough. He’s has always been vocal about representing the community anywhere he goes. The Canadian actor is well on his way to becoming a household name after starring on Wynonna Earp, Netflix’s Awake, and on Amazon Prime Video’s Stowaway earlier this year. Now, he stars as the lead on the Apple TV+ big budget sci-fi series, Invasion.
Created by Simon Kinberg and David Weil, Invasion follows five ordinary people across the globe after Earth is visited by aliens.
We caught up with the actor to discuss his role on the show, the lengths he went to in order to serve the character and the story, and his new production company Bay Mills, which he co-created with his brother Stephan James.
You’ve been busy with so many films and TV shows lately. What were you looking for when Invasion came along and how did a character like Trevante catch your eye?
I was looking for my next meal, or my next paycheck [laughs]. Nah, just joking, I really am joking. No, it was the scope and scale of the show that was attractive, the individuals that were attached to it. Simon Kinberg, who in my eyes is a legend, he’s done incredible work with the X-Men franchise, Deadpool. A lot of names just made sense for me. But at that moment in my career, I didn’t really have much of a choice. The audition came in, and I was just super grateful for the fact that they’re even considering me for this gargantuan series. I put myself in an audition on tape, sent the tape in, had dinner with Simon Kinberg two days later. Then a week later, I got the job. And then the rest is history.
David said that previous alien invasion narratives always had a white western man at the center of the story and he wanted to tell this story from a global perspective. I loved seeing the Middle Eastern couple’s infidelity struggles or when you are having a conversation with a local man in Arabic talking about stars and you both don’t speak each other’s language. I love that scene. Was this diverse storytelling part of the appeal for you as well?
Yeah, I think for me, Invasion is a character-driven drama at its core set against the backdrop of a massive alien invasion on earth. The thing about this that got me excited was the idea that this was going to be focused on sci-fi, special effects, all this cool imagery, which is an aspect of it, but it was really rooted in characters and in humans, and from a global perspective. And I love that you said that, the truth is, yes, we do only see films usually from one lens. And this film, you get to see it from multiple perspectives. And that, to me, is really exciting.
I’ve read that there is very little that you won’t do to prepare for a role. So what were the lengths you went to to prepare to play an American Navy Seal who is stationed in Afghanistan?
It was filmed in Morocco. My process is extremely immersive, which I think people are catching wind of now. But it’s mostly rooted in anxiety and fear about messing up if I’m being honest. So I just want to ensure that I’m doing justice to whoever I’m playing. So for this project, it was important for me playing a navy seal to understand the psychology of a seal. I got to work with Remi Adeleke, who’s an incredible Navy specialist and was an ex-navy seal. This man put me in a crash course of what it was to be like a navy seal. And through that crash course it was a fitness element so long runs, push ups, chin ups. There’s a psychology element understanding the mantras of the seal, understanding that when you’re going into a situation you got to eat the elephant one bite at a time. Then there’s the human element, the brotherhood element and having camaraderie with your seal buds so working with my guys, swimming with them, doing workouts together, breaking bread with them.
And outside of that as we started working, I actually spent some time in the desert. I slept in the desert; I spent a lot of time in the desert. The production was like, ‘What?! You’re sleeping in the desert! Why? We can’t do that… there’s insurance reasons.’ But I think it was important for me not to stay at the hotel, which can be very comfy and hospitable, but to really understand Trevante’s mind of being in isolation, and sleeping in the sand in a tent, drinking water from your canteen, finding food or eating rations. I thought it was important in order for me to service the role to be as immersive as possible and thankfully to my creative team, they allowed me to, to explore them in a way.
“I mean, I’m a kid from Scarborough, as I say loudly and proudly all the time. And to be able to be in any of these projects are incredible and to be at the forefront of an Apple gargantuan series is not lost.”
Were you at the desert for the entire stay that you were filming for the role?
For the most part, I’d wake up every morning before everybody and I’d get to set before everybody where appropriate, but I would say a large majority of the shoot I spent as much time as I could in the desert. I was up, two in the morning, working out, just really locked in; they will usually have tents for us where we stay cool. I didn’t utilize any of those things as I would be in the sun. They usually would spray us to kind of simulate sweat and I didn’t want simulated sweat. So I would work out in between takes… its little things like that just to really feel the heat and to feel it on your body. I mean this role is a tumultuous process with what this character was going through so I tried my best not to simulate it, and not to take me out of the element. The people are so gracious onset that they want to make sure you’re hydrated, you’re fed, you’re taken care of and unfortunate reality for Trevante is that he doesn’t have those things, and you’re watching it as an audience member and you’re just seeing Trevante in that space. As demanding as that role was, I wanted to try to do my best to offset any of the luxuries an actor may have on set versus what the character would be experiencing in real life.
Trevante has a lot more backstory that we’re aware of at the beginning. I’ve seen the first five episodes we were given and I’m still waiting to know more of his backstory. Did you get the scripts of all the episodes in the beginning to know his complete character arc and see the bigger picture?
Great question. This project was very secretive. When reading scripts, you get dummy links, sometimes things would change. But I think that for me it was a pleasant challenge to be able to really build the backstory. I got to work with Andrew [Baldwin] our showrunner and David Weil, the co-creator of the show, to really understand the background of this man. So I got to read some scripts. I was given enough of the foundation that I was able to build on top of that. With Trevante’s story, and with every perspective in this show, they’re experiencing this in real time, this alien invasion was very new to them, to everybody. I actually didn’t read any of the other storylines, I didn’t want to influence my performance by understanding what’s happening in the rest of the world as Trevante discovers what is happening in his world. But for me, it was all about rooting myself in that truth of knowing how to navigate Trevante on the show.
With Invasion, you’ve previously said that it’s the biggest budget that you’ve been a part of in your life. Can you talk about being a lead on a show like this and what was your experience filming it?
A friend of mine once told me, despite the budget, you’re still looking through the lens like any other project, and the truth is the truth. That’s the through line. After the daunting idea of what the scale and scope of the show was, and just kind of recognizing that, respecting the height of the mountain, so to speak, and just getting on the climb, it helped normalize the experience for me and it wasn’t as daunting at the beginning. But 100 percent to be on a project of that scale and magnitude was not only something that I was excited about, but something that was just such a dream of mine. I mean, I’m a kid from Scarborough, as I say loudly and proudly all the time. And to be able to be in any of these projects are incredible and to be at the forefront of an Apple gargantuan series is not lost. At the time, it was probably the biggest budget project, but I’m currently working on another project right now called John Wick 4. And I think they are ties, it’s probably close. They’re neck and neck right now. Hopefully the next big project will be like a DC or Marvel project. But we’ll see.
Fingers crossed for that! Holding onto humanity in a state of crisis is essentially how I saw the series—maybe because of the current state of the world and the virus invasion. Was that weighing on your mind when you went back to filming?
Yeah, so we started pre COVID. So there was no global pandemic happening. And then halfway through filming, we had to stop because of the pandemic. And then we had to go back to filming. But 100 percent, there were parallels and similarities to that. And we all found it kind of eerie and fun and cool. But it was just kind of interesting of that idea of life imitating art, or art imitating life, however you want to see it. But definitely something I considered going into this role. I think specific to Trevante’s journey as much as we feel in isolation, and we have our blinders on, we’re very much working together, and we are in this together. I’m a big believer of one race being the human race. When it comes to moments like this, humans are tested, their integrity is definitely tested, and you got to make sure you look within yourselves in these moments. I think what makes the show really, really special is that we’re able to watch this now and look at the similarities that this is what’s happening in the world—something that’s happening on one side of the planet and that’s happening on another side of the planet and our reactions to that as humans is very interesting.
David said that when he and Simon created Invasion, their main goal was that the alien invasion felt absolutely real to the point where people wonder, ‘What would I do in an alien invasion? How would I react?’ It certainly made me think about it. So I wanted to throw the questions at you: If the world was being attacked by aliens, what’s your end-of-the-world survival plan?
Well, first off, I’m gonna make sure I have a lot of hand sanitizer and masks. OK, I probably need a bunch of flashlights. OK, I’m a big foodie. So I got to make sure I’ve stocked up on all my Jamaican patties, all my jerk seasonings, all my bully beef from my Jamaicans out there, all my tin mackerel brought by Jamaicans out there. I’d have to stock up on that and then make sure I have some sort of external electricity box because I gotta make sure I’m watching the Raptors at the end of the world, you know what I mean? I got to be supportive of my Raptors and then probably my loved ones with me, wherever we’re at. I’m sure there’s a lot of things that I’m missing, but like, my knee jerk reaction to what I need is to make sure I got all my yardie food and my family with me.
Nice! I just heard about the production house you just launched, Bay Mills. Congratulations on that. As a changemaker, what is your goal when it comes to the kind of content you are hoping to produce and contribute to the industry?
I’m really proud of Bay Mills studios, which is the first production company that my brother and I co-founded with the head of the studio. Bay Mills is the name of the community that we’re from. And we just signed our first look deal with Boat Rocker Studios who, funny enough, produced Invasion and are big, big champions of our work to actually producing the first-ever Black award show for CBC with us. With this production company we want to make sure that we’re not only championing underrepresented creatives in the non-profit space by doing the award show, but being able to be at the forefront, and to be in the decision-making seat when creating television shows and movies. And then other platform Agnostic Content is something we’re really excited about, and looking forward to impacting and changing the world through art and creation, through Bay Mills Studios, and just crazy to be a boy from Scarborough that just launched a production company with my brother.
Thanks so much for the chat! Wishing you all the best and looking forward to the Black Awards Show next year!
I appreciate it. Thank you so much! Alright Complex, appreciate you.