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Asher Angel talks the true magic of Shazam! and on-set pranks at SDCC 2019
Asher Angel's first San Diego Comic-Con experience was nothing compared to this year's. With the world having now seen Angel's take on Billy Batson in Shazam!, his entire life has gone, well, super-powered.
"It's like I didn't even do the first one," Angel told SYFY WIRE in an interview at Warner Bros.' "Chilladelphia" carnival activation at SDCC 2019. "I never had adults really come up to me before and ask for a picture. It's great. It's wild."
The trajectory of DC's superhero cinematic universe seems a lot brighter these days. Long known for dark and gritty superhero flicks with a sullen and bleak worldview, the studio famously struggled for a time to hit its stride when it came to capturing real superhero magic. Marvel had long won the box office time and time again, and beyond big names, its success had a lot to do with its leading messages of hope. A larger color scheme than black, gray, and steel blue doesn't hurt, either.
And then came Shazam! Right on the heels of the surprise hit Aquaman, Shazam! was bright, hilarious, and boasted a lot of the heart that had long been missing from the DCEU. It's not the sort of film audiences and fans were expecting, but it was just the bolt of creativity and vibrancy the studio needed.
"I think Marvel is doing their thing over there, we're doing our thing. I think [DC is] slowly tracking, watching, and seeing where everything is going," Angel says, adding that he believes the turning point wasn't actually his film, but rather Gal Gadot's turn as Wonder Woman. "It wasn't very dark. It's still different, but heading where Marvel's going."
When posed with the question whether he would have touched the orb or done the work to become Shazam, let's just say Angel's answer is a bit different from Billy Batson's.
"Knowing me, I definitely would have. It would have taken longer to do the other thing, so might as well [choose the orb]," he says. A refreshingly honest answer. He'd also stick with Envy as his main sin, just as Dr. Sivana did.
"I feel like a lot of people won't admit, don't want to admit that they'd choose envy," he added. "The others have all these big superpowers, but Envy ... is just hiding in the shadow, being jealous. I feel bad for [Envy]. Everyone else knows their place."
However, had he decided to go the way of the wizard, there are plenty of powers to choose from. A whole tested and verified list, actually. But which would be Angel's power of choice?
"Electricity manipulation is really cool," he says immediately. He also says it'd be cool to fly, but as someone whose phone is always running out of battery, he'd like to do a bit of good in the world. "I'd love to charge people's phones. Zap some things for fun, why not?" A good Samaritan for the 21st century.
A lot of Shazam! brings up the idea of family in many forms. For Dr. Sivana, family was painful and hurtful. For Billy, family meant constantly seeking our acceptance but being afraid when it sought him out in return. Ultimately, though, Shazam! is about getting to choose your own family. Family doesn't always begin and end with blood, a lesson Billy learns in a painful way after finally coming face to face with the mother who abandoned him years ago. But where there's darkness, there's light.
"The environment [Billy's] grown up in has been really tough on him, he's never been able to trust anyone in his entire life," Angel says. He finds the idea of people identifying with choosing your own family incredibly heartwarming. "[Billy] got separated from his mom from a very young age, going in and out of foster homes. That's happening to kids today," Angel says. "So, I think it's really special that you can find family with people who care about you, [who] love you for you."
Not that family means constant love all the time, especially when the people who love you really like to prank you on set. Especially if their name is Jack Dylan Grazer, aka Freddy Freeman.
"Jack was probably the worst. It's probably me, too. I can't just do that to him." Angel, says, laughing, though he quickly corrects himself for fear of retribution. He admits that he and Grazer, together, probably did the most pranking on set, especially when it came to fooling their co-star Zachary Levi, who plays the grown-up superhero version of Angel's Billy Batson. While he wouldn't divulge the worst prank that happened on set, he did reveal a particularly messy one Grazer pulled on him that still haunts him to this day.
"I was on set finishing up some shots and there was some baby powder nearby and Jack was playing with it. I was like 'Bro, I know what you're about to do, leave it, you're in my personal space. Go.' And he was like, 'oh yeah, look at this' and it just gets all over me," he reveals, shaking his head in despair as he remembers that moment. "I'm just covered head to toe in baby powder. And then he runs away. So now everyone just thinks I fell into a bath of baby powder and no one believes me to this day. I had to go through hair and makeup all over again, which kept me on set for another two hours."
Well, a fun set is a happy set, even if it's covered in baby powder.
Shazam! is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.