Shameik Moore
Born and raised in Atlanta, Shameik Moore starred as Malcolm in the 2015 Sundance favorite Dope, and recorded several songs for the film’s soundtrack with Pharrell. He got his start acting alongside Nick Cannon on Cartoon Network’s sketch comedy series Incredible Crew, and with his first feature film role in 2012’s Joyful Noise. Musically, Shameik released his debut mixtape I Am Da Beat in 2012 and is set to release his album What I Want in 2015.

Written and Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Dope premiered at Sundance 2015, garnering the Dramatic Editing Award and a nomination for Grand Jury Prize. The film stars Shameik Moore as high-school senior Malcolm who loves 90s hip hop, BMX biking and plays in a punk band with best friends Tony Revolori (Grand Budapest Hotel) and Kiersey Clemons. The Inglewood, California-based coming of age story also features A$AP Rocky and Zoe Kravitz.

The Atlanta-born Shameik Moore landed his first lead role in the Sundance hit Dope. Set in Inglewood, California and executive produced by Puff Daddy and Pharrell Williams, the comedy-drama sees Moore as Malcolm, an ambitious and nerdy kid obsessed with 90s hip hop, who gets accidentally embroiled in a drug deal. Moore’s performance got him cast in a central role in Baz Luhrmann’s television show about teens living in the Bronx in the ’70s, “The Get Down,” premiering on Netflix in 2016.

Holly Grigg-Spall: Playing the character of Malcolm in Dope is your first major role in a feature film. How did you prepare for the audition?

Shameik Moore: I sent in a self-tape from Atlanta. My agent and manager had sent me two auditions—one for the Tupac biopic and one for Dope. I sent in the one for Tupac, but I didn’t send in the one for Dope, and they called me and told me I had to. So I was like, cool, let’s do this. I did another self-tape. The guy who recorded me thought I did a really good job and said, “This one might be the one, man!” Two days later, on a Friday, they called and said they needed me in LA by Tuesday. I called my mom and was like, “Yo, we need to go to LA. We need to be in LA!” We ended up shooting two weeks later. It’s just crazy because I wasn’t going to send in the tape, but they just knew it. They were looking for me. They were looking for Malcolm, for real. And they weren’t finding what they were looking for. It’s meant to be.

HGS: Do you feel you have anything in common with Malcolm?

SM: I think the way he doesn’t feel he fits in with his environment. I could relate to that. I’m a dancer. When I was younger, I would be around people into other things, getting into trouble. They weren’t in the same frame of mind I was in. I would always feel… not that I wasn’t cool because I was definitely cool, everybody liked me, but I was never the cool guy in the situation. The bad boys were always the ones who people thought were really cool and people wanted to hang with. Shameik was always on his own. I got along with everybody, so I didn’t have any problems. Malcolm has enemies. A lot of people want to hurt Malcolm. He gets caught up in situations where he could be killed. He’s into 90s hip hop, positivity, bettering himself and his life, and the people around him are into gang-banging and drugs and all that. So I can relate in that sense.

“I feel that Dope turned out great
because while we were on set,
we all saw greatness for this project.
It came down to how bad I wanted it.”
— Shameik Moore

HGS: The film centers on a friendship between you and two other teens. So who are your best friends in real life?

SM: One of my best female friends, Kiersey Clemons, plays Diggy, my friend in the movie. I have so many male friends and I see them as my brothers. I just think of everyone back home and the people in We Entertain who I vibe with. My closest male friend though, I think, is Kofi Siriboe. He’s an actor too, and he’s about to be big. He’s got some movies coming out. We’re in the same mind-frame.

HGS: Most people haven’t had the chance to see Dope yet, but as you know there’s been a lot of hype around the movie and you in particular. Everyone must be telling you why they think that is, but I want to know—from your perspective, why do you think that is?

SM: I feel that Dope turned out great because while we were on set, we all had positive energy and passion. We all saw greatness for this project. It came down to how badly I wanted it. In my world—in Meak’s World—it’s about what I say is going to happen. I’m into what I can do and not what I can’t do. I’ve been keeping a journal and reading books like The Alchemist. I wanted Dope to be a certain way, and it happened that way because we didn’t really give it a choice. That is what’s really the cause of this success so far. The movie hasn’t even come out, though. The trailer hasn’t even come out, so I mean success with Sundance.

HGS: When people do see the movie, what would you like them to take away from it?

SM: I really feel like everybody will get a different perspective on the black community. It gives you a whole new pair of glasses to look through. They’ll leave with a positive frame of mind and learn something new. Everyone will be able to relate to this movie—it’s one of those movies you can watch forever.