Given that his first big role on the big screen is as Cyborg in the much anticipated Justice League, it would be easy to label Ray Fisher as the rookie of the main cast. And while it's true that his fellow superheroes have had various levels on experience and success at the multiplex, 30 year old Fisher feels that all his time on stage in acclaimed productions Off Broadway gave him the focus on and the discipline to be ready to “take on the physical challenges of making a film this size”. During an interesting phone chat with Entertainment Affair the actor opened up about how much play there was involved in bring Cyborg for the first time and why he will always be Team Snyder.
Question: Like many celebrated comic book characters, there have been many versions of the character you play in Justice League. Were you familiar with any of them? Which version of Cyborg did you encounter first?
Ray Fisher: I encountered the Teen Titans version of Cyborg in the early 2000’s. I was just about to start high school at the time. Either that or I was in my freshman year when I saw that cartoon show. But it wasn’t until after I got the role that the studio and DC send me a huge stack of comics. All of them Cyborg related, from the 1980’s which is the original version of Cyborg, all the way up to the New 52 version. From that point on I started reading everything I could get my hands on.
Q: Do you consider having to read a bunch of comics “work” or can we take the quotes off that?
RF: I wouldn’t call it work (laughs). I would call it play for sure. I got to play that a lot for this movie.
Q: Did you find anything in that research that surprised you and you wanted to incorporate to your version of Cyborg on screen?
RF: In my opinion the 80’s version of Cyborg is one of the most interesting versions of that character. He is dealing with some very real issues. Dealing with the loss of his body in a very recognizable way. Also in that version the creators were dealing with a very specific America at the time. This is back when DC was dealing with social issues in a much different way. They did not hide from what was going on in the world, which made the comics super topical. For me that version of Cyborg was absolutely interesting, because he is also dealing with being a black man in America. So that gave him real world issues mixed in with the conflict of waking up to being a Cyborg. That gave me a lot to chew on.
Q: Most of your cast-mates have to deal with the fact that another actor has played their role famously either in a movie or on TV. But you and Jason Momoa have the opportunity to define your characters for the first time on screen. Did you find freedom in that as an actor? The fact that you will not be compared to another version and its your version that will be the point of reference for Cyborg?
RF: I think, that is bound to happen. A lot of people are already comparing my version of Cyborg to the cartoon version on Teen Titans, which (for some audiences) could be difficult to get pass, because my version is definitely not that version.
Q: Not at all.
RF: (Laughs) Right? Not at all. So for me the key was to stick to the script and to this version of the story helped me ground that aspect of the process. And to be fair there have been other versions of Cyborg. There was a gentleman (Lee Thompson Young) who played him on Smallville for television. But being able to bring him to the big screen for the first time I do feel that gives us a certain amount of license in trying to develop the character, and with Zach (Snyder, director of Justice League) and Chris Terio (screenwriter) at the helm of everything, they gave me the tools I needed for sure to succeed with it.
Q: I would think that after this film you would feel certain ownership over the character. Will you have any kind of input in what story or what happens to him in his stand alone film?
RF: In regards to the Cyborg movie it's a waiting process right now. It's all in development. It's one of those situations where all I would focus on would be to protect the character. Because no matter what happens, who’s directing or producing, you are the one who is carrying the character through all these different films. I do feel ownership over my craft as an actor and a slight ownership of the character in this particular universe. But everything is a collaboration, through and through. And throughout the process I’ve never felt that my opinion has gone unheard.
Q: I know you guys are all professional actors and trained to be in the moment. But how quickly did you get over the fact that you were doing scenes with Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the heroes? Did you have that feeling of “this is so cool” every time you were rolling?
RF: That dissipates very quickly because you realize how big the production is and you have to get to work. First and foremost I’m there as an employee to do my job. And second to that, I’m there as a fan of these characters. So whenever I was not on camera I would freak out alot when I wasn’t shooting. I would sneak in and watch whatever they were doing on my days off. Free time was spent training and then going to the set to watch Ben, Gal or Jason shoot something extremely cool that definitely lead to me geeking out in more ways than one.
Q: The is a kick ass ride, but what makes it unique is how perfectly cast it is and the chemistry between you guys. Your director choose you individually, but did you guys feel that chemistry once you started working together?
RF: Who you have chemistry is such a wild interesting thing. Because you have a group of very different people from very different backgrounds. But it works because that is the same context for the characters. They come from many different world but have to work together to succeed. So having to mirror that made it easy and it always felt perfect between us. If there is such a thing as perfect casting, this would have to be it. It feels right for this version of Justice League. Not to sound cliched, but it feels like it was meant to be.
Q: Zach Snyder your director doesn’t get enough credit as an actor’s director. And yet he is the one responsible for casting all of you. How would you describe your working relationship with him?
RF: Honestly, he deserves all the credit in the world. If it weren’t for him I would not be part of this. None of us would be. With him you always feel like you are having a fluid conversation when you are discussing the ideas you are working on for the film or the character. And to work with someone who is so genuinely passionate- He is not in it for the money or fame. He is doing it because he actually really cares about these characters. Its something that should be common place in making a movie by actually is very unique. I never felt stupid asking him any type of question and I never felt like my opinion would go unheard. I think that happened because he realized we are all as passionate about the film as he is. I think that if you talked with everyone who worked on this movie from the janitor all the way up to Ben Affleck, they will tell you the same thing.
Q: Every Actor who does a superhero movie has a special story about their relationship with their costume. What was yours like?
RF: (Laughs) My costume was basically a pajama. So my relationship to it was love/hate. Thereare some days that you are grateful that is thin enough to be cool on a very hot set. But other times you are shooting at night in the cold and it was freezing. But I always felt that Zach and the effects team had my back so everything that we did would work on post.
Justice League is now playing in theaters.