From Disney Channel series regular-turned-superhero, Asher Angel has finally crossed that line past his teenage years. But like most young adults, his continued sense of finding himself is never finished.
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You might know Asher Angel for his music, maybe you remember him from the Disney Channel series Andi Mack, or caught a glimpse of his cameo in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. Or you may know him better as the one who plays fifteen-year-old Billy Batson in the DC live-action superhero film SHAZAM! From acting to exploring musical ventures, Angel has been a consistent face in the industry since his early teen years.
Now at twenty, he has got a better grasp of who he wants to become in both facets of his career. The big two zero is opening new doors for him—more mature themes, bigger collaborations, and new opportunities. He even got to record a song for his Hulu film Darby and the Dead starring alongside Moana star Auili’i Cravalho. But now, Asher wants more.
From biopics, producing, and tours, Angel is looking for more things to challenge him, all while still trying to figure himself and adulthood out. He’s starting his journey with SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods with co-stars like Zachary Levi, Jack Dylan Grazer, Helen Mirren, Rachel Zegler, Ross Butler, and Lucy Liu. With a star-studded cast, this new installment to the franchise sees Billy and his family battling God-level villains, while combatting the difficult choices one must make in transitioning into adulthood. A reflection of his own experiences, this film not only tests the character and the lengths he’ll go to protect his loved ones, but Angel and his acting chops to tap further into his emotional range.
In an interview with NYLON Manila, Angel discusses at length working in SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods, moving forward with his music, and cementing his legacy within the industry.
In a genre that constantly releases new films and TV series, the content can get overwhelming and stale. What does SHAZAM! Fury of the Gods offer that’s something fresh, new, and different in the superhero genre?
I think with SHAZAM—it’s wish fulfillment. It’s a kid that’s living this pretty hard life and then gets granted these superhero powers from a wizard. Since he’s young, he doesn’t really know how to be a superhero or harness that superhero energy; he’s trying to figure it out. I think that’s what makes it really unique and special. Our family dynamic [as well].
It’s very family-oriented and that’s really relatable. It’s light-hearted, fun, and there are just all these different aspects to it that make it stand out—that makes it different. More importantly, it’s going to make you laugh, it’s going to make you feel good, and it’s not just this dark movie. I think it’ll take you on a journey.
The main premise of your character is a young kid who gets these powers and turns into an adult superhero, played by your co-star Zachary Levi. How did you work with Zach to make that transition between the two versions of Billy smooth and still keep that essence of the same character?
Zach and I spent a lot of time together bonding and just trying to figure this out together. I mean, we didn’t have a lot of time. We kind of just jumped right into it and I say this all the time: Zach’s got that kid-like energy just inside of him. It was very easy to figure out our whole process. To be honest, we just spent time with each other and just went in there and winged it. We had trust in each other and it turned out great.
What is it like having a peer like Jack Dylan Grazer—who also grew up in the industry—and how does that affect your onscreen chemistry as brothers?
I love Jack so much. He’s such a great person and, like you said, he has grown up in the industry, too. He gets it. We have this incredible bond now and we’re very close; he knows I’m always going to be there for him and I know he’ll always be there for me. It’s this real special connection that we have that’s a lot deeper than just working on-set together. We’re family now. Onscreen, you’re really going to see that chemistry with us and the entire cast and everybody. We’re all super close so it’s definitely going to come through on the big screen.
You talk about the family dynamic of SHAZAM. In the first film, you see Billy going through this chase for a relationship with his mom. Would you like to explore that relationship and character arc more someday?
I feel like there are a lot of things worth exploring for Billy because he’s not an adult—he’s just now trying to figure out his life. He’s young, he’s eighteen. What’s special in the second film is you see his character development; you see this arc in Billy. Because in the first film, he found his family, he got these superpowers, he’s living the life he kind of always wanted.
Now, fast forward [to] a couple of years [later], he has been with his family, he has been going through the motion, and adulthood’s on the horizon for him and he doesn’t know what’s going to happen when he’s eighteen. He doesn’t know if he ages out of the foster care system, or if he still gets to be with his family. To be able to deep dive into that for this next film was really cool. I’m excited for people to see this different side of him.
Have any new artists you’ve been listening to given you inspiration on new music that you might be working on?
There are a lot of great artists out there that are releasing a lot of good music, a lot of songs that are really well-written and that are connecting with people. That makes sense. I’m looking at my peers and people around me trying to take things that I can learn from and implement into my process, and things that they’re doing that I can use as well. It’s very important to learn from others, watch people around you, and observe. Because you learn things from them.
How do you standout in a very competitive market?
Most of the music I make is storytelling. I try to make it super personable, and I think that’s very important. Because if you’re not making music that can connect with others out there, and you’re not hopeful—I mean you’ve got to be hopeful that [the] things that you’re writing in the song and these feelings that you’re putting into paper, and these emotions that you’re feeling—you’re hoping that others have felt it as well and eventually feel it in their life. If it’s about a relationship, love or heartbreak; as humans, we all experience all these different things in our lives. As I said, just try to be super personable and hopefully that connects.
How’d you think growing up within the film and media industry has affected your own musical artistry?
[Both] can definitely elevate each other and crossover, but they’re also very different. In terms of storytelling, when I tackle a character, it’s about that person’s life. But in the music, I’m talking about my life and the things that I experience. It was kind of a weird transition for me because the acting did happen first so, that was kind of my main focus. But then shifting over to the music space and writing and talking about these certain things, I’m not [just] writing for someone.
[While] I’m also writing for someone else, I’m also writing for myself. If I can’t write down how I’m feeling then it’s not going to connect to other people. Because it just won’t go through. That was definitely a weird transition getting used to that, but I love it now. It’s really cool getting to flip back and forth from the acting space and the music space and it’s what I want to do; they’re my two passions.
Now as a twenty-year-old, what new topics and themes do you want to explore in your music?
I think the development side was a journey for me. Because the last time I released music, I was so young. It was okay—I was doing my thing. But now, growing into an adult and talking about real things is what I’ve always wanted to do, especially [now] that I’ve experienced it. It’s hard to be sixteen and talk about things when you haven’t experienced it. Now that [I have], it’s been easy for me to write about things because I’ve gone through it.
I’ve been working with some really amazing people whom I’m kind of trying to just keep to myself right now because it’s a pretty big thing for my music career and the trajectory of it so. But yeah, on the development side, things have been really special and I finally feel like I know the kind of music I want to make and I know the kind of artist I want to be. I think that’s really important. I’ve figured that out now and I’m really excited about the journey.
Was it hard to transition or escape from that Disney part of yourself that has followed you since the start of your career?
I think for a second, I was still auditioning and stuff while I was on the show. But I think SHAZAM! was the big breakthrough for me in terms of that. I’m very proud of the show that I was on and the people that I worked with. We were the number one Disney Channel show and broke a bunch of their records, and the show went down in the history books for them. If you look at Zac Efron’s career, people know he started off on Disney Channel. You look at Zendaya, [and] Zendaya started off on Disney Channel.
I don’t think that stuff ever goes away and I don’t think there’s anything to shy away from. I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to be in SHAZAM! and I think that definitely elevated me in so many different ways. From capturing the young audience and the young demographic to the older demographic. I think that was a big win for me and I was really thankful for the opportunity.
Speaking of capturing the older demographic, are there any new themes that you’d like to explore in your acting that you weren’t able to do when you were just a teen?
I want to do some sort of autobiography, like a biopic of someone’s life. I would love to deep dive into something like that. Whether it’s about a musician’s life where I get to incorporate the two—some kind of biopic. I think would be really cool. That’d be a really good challenge for myself to do something like that; I’ve never done anything like it. I don’t have a certain person [in mind]—I just really want to connect with the script. I think once that comes in, I’ll let you know.
What do you want to cement in this industry now that you’re in your 20s?
I feel like for the music, I just want to be able to make stuff that can connect with people out there—that’s relatable. Be able to go on tour and perform that for people live and make them smile and make them happy. In terms of the musical journey, that’s kind of what I’m planning on doing and what I want to accomplish. For the acting side, I think it’s just to keep working.
I think that’s the biggest thing in this industry is to just keep working and just the longevity of your career is super important. I want to be doing this twenty years from now so I need to continue to perfect my craft, continue to get better so I can just keep making work that’s special and can also connect with people out there so. I think for me, it’s just to keep doing what I love and as long as I’m doing that, I’m happy.
Photographer: Ben Cope @ben_cope
Stylist: Luca Falcioni @luca_falcioni_
Fashion Assistant: Frank Benkovic @frankiebenkovic
Groomer: Grooming by Michelle Harvey at Opus Beauty using Amika
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