New York -- Shamier Anderson is well aware that his Hollywood profile is rising, and he isn’t taking the moment for granted.
“I’ve been on the grind for a very long time, and I’m still grinding. And it’s not lost on me that I’m pretty ubiquitous in the marketplace right now. However, my work ethic hasn’t changed,” says the 31-year-old Canadian actor. “I’m lucky, and that’s something that’s not lost on me … I also recognize that this moment will pass, right? And that’s something that humbles me.”
Most wouldn’t blame Anderson for indulging in the moment, as his latest film, the Keanu Reeves-led “John Wick: Chapter 4,” debuted last week at No. 1 with a franchise-best $73.5 million domestically at the box office. Anderson plays the Tracker, a bounty hunter, who’s stalked Wick around the world in hopes of collecting a huge payday.
“I get to share the screen with people that I used to look up to, that I still look up to, a la Keanu Reeves, Donnie Yen, Laurence Fishburne,” said the Wing Chun kung fu student. “Those are the moments that make me go, ‘Wow, things are changing.’”
Things are indeed changing, but it’s been a slow and steady journey. He’s starred in the film “Bruiser,” a February release, with Trevante Rhodes, and appeared in movies such as 2020’s “Bruised” with Halle Berry and 2018's “Destroyer” alongside Nicole Kidman. His first film credit came in 2010's “Nostrum.” Each role has served as a building block to form a budding, substantial career.
“These are my colleagues. These are my sparring partners. How are we going to get to the truth and do a great job and kill it? And when they call cut, I go, ‘Can I get a picture?’” he said with a laugh, stating working with Reeves was a “pinch me” moment. “I’ve done some incredible films with some incredible A-list actresses and actors, and I still get butterflies … I’m always learning, and I’m learning with a smile on my face.”
Anderson grew up Toronto, raised by a single mother alongside his two brothers, one of which is Stephan James who starred in 2018’s Oscar-nominated “If Beale Street Could Talk,” as well as Ava DuVernay’s “Selma.” Hollywood was always in sight for Anderson, who studied musical theater at Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts, but not for James.
“I always make a joke saying Stephan has never been to an acting class in his life, and I’ve trained all my life,” said the older brother. “He’s Golden Globe nominated, Emmy nominated, NAACP nominated … he’s more decorated than a Christmas tree at this point. But it just kind of speaks to just how this business works. There’s no blueprint.”
However, the siblings are creating their own layout, and it’s now a family business.
Following protests after the murder of George Floyd during 2020’s coronavirus pandemic, the brothers formed the Black Academy (Building a Legacy in Acting, Cinema and Knowledge) to battle systemic racism. They also created the Bay Mill Studios production company to amplify Black Canadian creatives. Anderson says the company recently sold a project centered around famed painter Jean-Michel Basquiat to a major streaming service. Though Black music from Canadian artists like Drake, The Weeknd and PartyNextDoor has reached global heights, the film industry hasn't made similar strides.
“There are actually a lot of iconic Canadians in the film business: Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, James Cameron, Ryan Reynolds. I mean, it’s a long list … Sandra Oh — a bunch of cool folks," he said.
"Black filmmakers — Black actors and actresses— that’s where it’s a bit scarce,” said Anderson, who intentionally straddles the line between actor and activist. “There’s not enough Black individuals in the arts at the highest level … there’s no shortage of talent. It’s just opportunity.”
To highlight Canada’s wealth of talent, the Black Academy created the Legacy Awards. It's the country’s first Black awards show, described as a mashup of the NAACP Image Awards, Grammys and BET Awards. Deborah Cox was among the performers for the inaugural show, which earned four nominations, including best host, from the Canadian Screen Awards. Honoring a wide range of Black Canadians including athletes, musicians, actors and philanthropists, the show has a multiyear commitment to air on Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
And while his social and creative accomplishments are a source of pride, Anderson’s widest smile appears when discussing DJ Shamgod — his musical alias.
“I’ve been deejaying for 15 years. I used it as a way to pay for bills, to make money when I wasn’t getting acting work … just recently this past year, I said I’m going to go public with it,” explained the multiformat DJ who performed a set at the John Wick after-party in New York following the premiere. “This isn’t another actor trying to be a musician. I’ve been doing music. I really am on the turntables, and I really throw down.”
Anderson will return to “Invasion” on Apple TV+ and has roles in the films “A Lot of Nothing," now streaming, and Brad Furman’s “Tin Soldier.” He is light years away from his Scarborough neighborhood watching his mother struggle to make ends meet. But he says his path is a reminder that the tortoise won the race — not the hare.
“It’s looking at the little boy in me and going, ‘I told you so. It’s all working out,’” said Anderson. “It’s incredible to see the work pay off.”
Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.