While most 16-year-olds are figuring out what to do with their lives, Asher Angel has always known what he wanted to do since five years old.
It was at that age that he made his acting debut in a little film titled Jolene, headlined by Jessica Chastain. He followed that with more than a few stage productions.
As a tween, Asher auditioned and won the part of Jonah Beck in the 2017 Disney Channel TV series Andi Mack. Along the way too, he initiated a music career, which saw him tour the United States last year.
This month, he makes his silver screen entrance via the DC Comics’ superhero movie Shazam!, sharing the lead role duty with Zachary Levi. (Read our review here.)
In an email interview, the Arizona-born teenager admitted he has been working so much that he has not had a break for a while. But, he doesn’t mind it at all. “When you are doing what you love, it never gets old, it never feels like work,” he explained. “It is hard to find ‘down’ time, but when I do I love to hang out with my friends, go to the movies, play basketball, and just be a 16-year-old kid.”
As for how he knew immediately that acting was the career for him, he shared: “My mum was an actress, and I think that had a lot to do with (my decision). “I just remember going with my family to the kid’s community theatre and watching a play.
“When it was over I told my parents that looked like fun and I wanted to try it. That was the real beginning for me. It sparked my creativity and passion, and I have not stopped since.”
Just say the word
Although Asher wasn’t a comic book fan – “because I wasn’t exposed to the genre … but I am one now!” – he was keen to audition for a role in Shazam! as he found the film’s plot compelling and different from other superhero stories.
As soon as he learned he got the part, he went to the comic book store with his dad and “bought all the content we could (on Shazam!) so I could deep dive into the story.” He names Batman, Superman and Shazam! as his current favourite comic characters.
In Shazam!, Asher plays cynical 14-year-old foster kid Billy Batson, who’s run away from six foster homes while looking for his real mum who disappeared when he was three years old. He’s finally placed with the Vasquez family, that’s raising other foster children including Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer).
One day while taking the subway, Billy ends up in a place called Rock Of Eternity where he meets a wizard who grants him superpowers. All the youngster has to do is say the word “Shazam” (an acronym for Greek gods and heroes: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury) and Billy, who not only gains powers, actually becomes a super muscular adult (Levi).
The problem is Billy has no clue how to be a grown-up or a superhero, much less fight a supervillain in the form of Dr Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong). Luckily, he gets help on the superhero front from Freddy, a superhero fanatic – providing some of the film’s humorous moments.
Angel describes Shazam! as a fun action movie. “It’s a superhero movie meets Big. The classic wish fulfilment where a 14-year-old boy is granted the power to turn into an adult superhero. It’s going to be an unforgettable ride in storytelling with amazing visuals. I can’t wait for it to hit theatres.”
While Asher and Levi don’t share any scene in the film, the two actors spent time together talking about the character and reviewing the script, especially when they and director David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation) were figuring out some of Billy’s mannerisms.
In the film’s production notes, Levi said: “We needed to find some common ground to give both performances a similar essence. Billy has a sarcastic streak, and we both picked right up on that.”
According to Asher, Levi is someone who’s easy to talk to: “Zach is an incredible human being. His energy is contagious … He’s just a genuinely nice, caring person and is a role model who is easy to look up to and aspire to be.”
Asher is obviously excited to be part of Shazam! and working on such a big-scale movie. One thing he found different from working on TV – other than bigger sets, and more people involved on a single project – is that he got to do his own stunts.
“My characters on TV never had to do any stunt work. That was a lot of fun and I hope to do more in the future,” he exclaims.
Forging a path
Unlike Billy who has to grow up somewhat quickly after getting superpowers, Asher – who is the eldest of three siblings – already thinks like a responsible person, with a clear sense of what he wants to achieve in his chosen field, constantly finding ways to challenge himself.
One contributing factor to his level-headed ways is having supportive parents: When Asher was cast as a regular in Andi Mack, the whole family relocated to Utah where the series was filmed.
“My parents have been incredible in so many ways,” stated Asher. “They have always gone above and beyond for all of us and that has not changed. They always remind us that they just want us to be happy and to make decisions that we can all be proud of.
“My parents continue to expect the same from me that they always have.”
While he does look to other artistes for inspiration like Justin Timberlake – who was also a child star and has handled fame somewhat well – Asher already has the right attitude when it comes to work despite his young age.
“I think the most important things an actor should have is self-confidence and a very strong work ethic.
“There is a lot of rejection in this business. If you are truly invested, you just have to keep showing up confident in yourself and be prepared for the next opportunity.”