Shamier Anderson is known for going to inordinate lengths to prepare for his movie roles, from immersing himself in the Fruit Town Piru gang to sleeping in the Moroccan desert.
“My preparation process is always rooted in anxiety and not wanting to f**k it up,” the Scarborough-born actor tells ET Canada. “It’s like studying for an exam, you know what I mean?”
For his new family drama “Bruiser”, he did everything he could to get into the mindset of his character Malcolm, a car-salesman stepdad caught in a complicated relationship with his 14-year-old son Darious (Jalyn Hall) and his biological father Porter (Trevante Rhodes).
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“I went to a car dealership every day and sold cars as Malcolm, as a car salesman,” Anderson shares. “I shaved my head bald because stress [causes] hair loss. I felt like Malcolm probably lost a lot of hair because he’s always stressed.”
What’s more, Anderson didn’t speak a word to co-star Rhodes during the filming process. Save for some ornery lines when they had scenes together, they didn’t talk on set, during breaks or even after shoots. Since his character was meant to be at odds with Rhodes’, Anderson felt the best way to make the tension feel authentic was for there to be, well, actual tension.
“I actually didn’t speak to Trevante Rhodes, who played Porter,” Anderson shares. “I didn’t talk to him on set, I didn’t talk to him off set, I didn’t get to know him. We met quickly at a rehearsal but I didn’t really want to rehearse.
“It’s not necessarily because I wanted to be defiant but more so so I could keep the tension alive. For me at least, I’m a Canadian, I’m a nice guy, and so I want to be friends with as many people as I can, especially my colleagues. But for this particular piece, it was intense. And I think with that intensity, it needs to be felt off set and on and, you know?”
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If fact, ever since “Bruiser” wrapped filming, Anderson and Rhodes still haven’t really chopped it up.
“Much love for Trey because to this day, I still don’t really know who the guy is,” says Anderson. “So hopefully we could go to dinner one day and actually get to know each other because I did not speak to that guy at all.
“I only know him from ‘Moonlight’. That’s it. Just ‘Moonlight’.”
Directed by Miles Warren, “Bruiser”, streaming now on Disney+, is an empathetic, emotionally corrosive feature about a Black teen torn between two intensely flawed, yet intensely loving, role models. There are themes of family and toxic masculinity, but Anderson says he was drawn to the film’s script because of the way it subverted Hollywood stereotypes about Black fatherhood.
“What I loved the most was, simply put, it was about two Black fathers wanting to love their son,” he says. “That’s something we never see, let alone one father. [Black] fathers in films are always depicted as incarcerated, dead or absent. Here we have two fathers wanting to be in their son’s life. And to me, that was that was the motor.”
While he describes Hollywood’s previous depictions of Black fathers as “myopic,” he says his main focus is on telling more nuanced Black stories like “Bruiser”. It’s one of the many reasons he and his brother Stephan James launched The Black Academy, a non-profit aimed at fostering Black Canadian talent in various industries. Last year, the two launched the inaugural Legacy Awards, Canada’s first all-Black awards ceremony.
“I’m less interested, quite frankly, in what Hollywood has gotten wrong and more so how can we be of service even more, to be better?” says Anderson. “That’s why I’ve started things on my own, like The Black Academy or my production company Bay Mills Studios. Don’t hate the player hate the game, or whatever the quote is. [Laughs.]
“But the point is, coming from the ‘borough, is I know that closed mouths don’t get fed. And I think Miles took that and said, ‘Listen, we’re going to do this.’ And I was very blessed to be part of that with him in telling this story. Hopefully more of these stories come to fruition.”