Victor Stone was an all-star athlete before he suffered a near-fatal accident. He was transformed into a Frankenstein-esque creation – by his own father playing god, no less – and then tasked with saving the lives of others, a cyborg protecting humanity.
If William Shakespeare ever returned from the dead to dabble in comics, Vic would be his brand of tragic character. Thus, it makes poetic sense that the man behind the Cyborg in the new Justice League movie is Ray Fisher, a stage actor known for appearing in the Bard's works, along with To Kill a Mockingbird and the Off-Broadway production Fetch Clay, Make Man, based on the life of Muhammad Ali.
Aside from a cameo in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Justice League is Fisher's first film, as well as the first live-action portrayal of the 37-year-old character. Performing in some motion-capture pajamas (to be digitally replaced with Vic's cybernetic body), Fisher was tasked with imbuing humanity in a role that was largely computer-generated.
But, according to Fisher, his stage work helped him channel the Cyborg – and conjuring the CGI world of superheroes and villains. In the interview below, conducted at the Justice League experience in London, Fisher discussed his leap from stage to superheroics, as well as the artistic value of comic book cinema. He also talks about Victor's new look compared to the Teen Titans animated series, and his journey in the movie from lab mistake to member of the team. Plus, he expounds on the pros and cons of wearing mo-cap pajamas as compared to a super suit.
Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller were telling me about the challenges of wearing super suits, but you got to wear some comfy mo-cap pajamas. Did you luck out?
Ray Fisher: There are pros and cons. Putting that on, you have to really imagine you are what you are pretending to be. The suit does a little work for some of the other characters, but they can be super uncomfortable. When it is really hot on set, I do not envy them at all. When it's really cold on set, they don't envy me at all.
This Cyborg looks different than what we've previously seen in comics, or the animated Teen Titans series. What was the concept behind this?
He is born of the Mother Box technology, so in his design, he looks Apokoliptian. Cyborg, in his previous generations, does look half man/half machine. And in the new Teen Titans, you see a lot more flesh. But in this, it is quite monstrous on the outset. The idea was that they wanted it to have this feel like he was straight from Apokolips.
At one point Barry Allen comments that your characters are the accidents, and Vic views himself as cursed instead of gifted. What would make him feel like he belongs?
It's a work in progress. By the end of the film, we see the beginning of his healing process. It sets him up to continue that healing process in future films. If you end up growing a character too quickly, you don't have anywhere to go after that point. His journey is not over by any stretch. There is a moment where Victor has a realization that he does want to be alive. One of the big qualms Cyborg had with his father was that he took Victor's life into his own hands. He didn't give him the choice to be who he now is. In a lot of comic iterations he says you should have let me die, and what makes you think I'd want to live like this? The point where he realizes he wants to live is a huge moment for the character.
This is your first movie, but you have a lot of stage credits. Tell me how that training prepared you for this world of gods and monsters.
Imagining things are there that are not really there, with the green screen, is very much like theatre, when you're looking at the fourth wall. But with respect to the other characters I've played, Muhammad Ali was the first black superhero, and fought Superman. So, to be able to play these larger-than-life characters on stage translates into what we do here.
Do you view this superhero genre as an art form compared to your theatrical work?
For sure. Looking at Batman v Superman – which I can watch objectively, since I'm in it for all of two seconds – I see different layers. It is not preachy, and represents the gray we live in as human beings. And these characters are Greek mythology, and goes to the kinds of stories told before Shakespeare.
Cyborg is a character who can't take off a mask, and protects people who may view him as a Frankenstein monster. How does that resonate with you?
For me, specifically, I see a Victor Stone, a young black man who has gone through this circumstance. And in the comics it transcends the physical, and goes to the idea of what it means to be human. That is a metaphor for who we are. And a lot of the comics from the 1980s were politically charged, so it meant a lot in those days to have this hero facing those issues within his own community, and the world at large. We can learn something from each of these characters in this day and age. They are not perfect, and handle their hardships in different ways.
Victor Stone's story is one of acceptance, of self and others. Also accepting his father for the person he once was, absent from his life until he turned him into Cyborg. And acceptance of oneself in that he is both Cyborg and Victor Stone simultaneously.