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meet the cast of dope

A$AP Rocky and Zoe Kravitz might grab the headlines, but the entire cast of Dope deserves their dues.

by Kaleem Aftab
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01 July 2015, 3:46am

It's hard to remember a recent film with as vibrant and exciting a cast as Dope. The ensemble are arguably the most exciting group of young actors to come together since the Brat Pack in the 80s, except most of these guys are also stellar musicians doing second jobs on the movie's soundtrack. Playing Malcolm, the nerd who gets involved in a drug bust is Shameik Moore, taking his first lead film role since he made a name for himself Cartoon Network's Incredible Crew. His two best friends are tomboy Diggy, played by Kiersey Clemons, and the excitable Jib, by Tony Revolori, best known for his star-making turn in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. Rapper Keith Stanfield was also around to give the lowdown on his role as Bug, a lost soul who wears the Blood colours with pride.

Shameik, with all these talented guys around you, how did you cope with being the central figure in Dope?
SM: Getting Dope pushed me to another place. It's one thing to be talented but it's a whole another thing to push your skill level: you got to go to bed on time; you have to get up and be on set; you have to know all of the lines, especially as I'm in each and every scene in the movie, except two quick scenes. The other cast mates need to be able to relate to the lead, so using a basketball analogy, you have to look to Kobe; you have to look to LeBron.

Did you find the characters relatable to real life people you know? For example Malcolm says he likes doing things considered to be "white" and Diggy goes to church where the congregation try to pray the gay away, while Jib claims to be 14% African.
SM: Where we were filming, I was thinking about my old friends. There was a scene that is not in the movie, where I was crying and I was able to draw from my own life. I mean the situations that happened to me are different, but I have those emotions, so I would tap into that. I don't act on screen and that is the craziest thing. I just take an instance, and an emotion and try to connect it to what would make me feel like that in real life.
KC: I'm very religious [She has a tattoo that says "Walk by Faith and not by Sight"], but I don't believe that you can pray the gay away. I say I'm religious because it's the only way to describe who I am. I can say I'm spiritual but I don't like it when they say that, because I think it's them being afraid to own up to the fact that they believe in Jesus Christ. I'm skeptical of the bible, but I do believe in a higher power.
TR: You know what's the funny thing about that is, firstly, when I auditioned for the project, the first day, first audition, Rick [Famuyiwa] said, "Improvise. Just go with it." That was the first line I came up with being 14% African and he never wanted me to change it after that and it ended up in the film. Which was fantastic. I was like, "Rick where's my writing credit?" Then he said "No." Secondly, it's not a lie, my brother did an ancestry.com test and it says I am 14% African. So if you can believe that site, it's not a lie!

Did Rick give you any films to watch from the 80s or 90s to base your characters on?
KC: He gave me, Keith, Tony and Shameik 90s films: Boyz n the Hood, Menace II Society and Belly. We sat down in my apartment and watched Boyz n the Hood and Belly, which was my. It was like watching a long dramatic musical video, which you can hate, or love.

And Boyz n the Hood is a much more serious depiction of urban life in L.A than the comedy of Dope.
KS: With Dope I think with the youth and everyone involved, to be funny and serious is what people gravitate towards. Comedy is a funny way to be serious. It works on so many different levels. This movie can make you laugh and cry and feel bad for people of so many races. You are all over the place emotionally.
TR: I grew up in LA so you drive through Inglewood, Compton and all these places often enough. I have friends who live there. It's not like it was in the 90s when you would just stay clear.

The film's second half morphs into a political message - do you think that given the likely audience Dope you're preaching to the converted?
KC: I feel like the people that are going to be drawn to the movie are those that are going to understand. The trailer doesn't show all the politics in it, but you see all these different races and people in the hood, so you kind of have to have an open mind to be interested in it. Rick covered all aspects and made everyone human. If you meet someone at High School and they're a bitch, they will be a bitch for a reason. Often they are very insecure.
TR: I really appreciate that Rick wrote a film about this. The way he did it was very intelligent - to make it a lighthearted comedy, so it doesn't feel like it's shoving itself down your throat with an agenda of race and things like that. 12 Years A Slave is a fantastic film, but sometimes as you watch it you feel that heaviness weighing down on you. This film provokes thought, but also leaves you with a smile.  

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Text Kaleem Aftab