Some think that Bushmaster, portrayed by Mustafa Shakir, is one of the best Marvel villains ever portrayed. You ain’t heard? We recently interviewed the actor about what is sure to be his breakout role in Netflix’s Luke Cage series.
Shakir discusses some of the finer details of this explosive yet very human character, his motivations, as well as why he feels that he was able to pull off this mind-blowing, violent yet relatable character.
Cheo Coker Talks About His Love for Jamaica and the Importance of Authentic Jamaican Accents.
The Shadow League: This is the dopest portrayal of a Jamaican villain that I have ever seen. It doesn’t come off stereotypical. Everything is genuine, even the motivation for his actions. What was it like bringing this character to life?
Mustafa Shakir: It was like kismet. Many of the elements that make the character who he is, I understand historically. Much of the ancestral stuff is highly-relatable. It was a lot of meat to chew on, a lot of things to get into internally for my own process, but also things to investigate the things that made this character work. He was really a dream character, you know? The level of complexity that he has begged to be expressed, it’s so enormous.
The opportunity was there and I took it, and I’m really glad that people are responding to it. Ultimately, I think of Bushmaster as a person who had some events take place in his life that drove him to make choices later on. In my mind, as an actor, you can’t judge a character. You have to really believe. It’s an exercise in humanity, period. It wasn’t really hard. He was just dealing with some circumstances.
TSL: What was it like being around all that creative blackness on and off camera?
MS: This show is part of a fight to have our voice be validated. That alone is motivation enough. So these voiceless beings can find a way, through the culture, to be accepted. That’s what made the experience. It’s very enriching.
Once upon a time, back when black people weren’t creating and crafting film and television ideas for mass consumption, you could count on so many stereotypes to go forth and represent black people in a really loopy way.
TSL: Where did you study acting?
MS: I don’t have any formal training. I tried to take a couple classes, but what I felt was that the teachers were just trying to make me into them, trying to tell me how to feel. I’m like ‘I really don’t need you to tell me how to feel.’ It’s like they were trying to climb into my head, and that makes me uncomfortable.
TSL: How much of a fan were you of the subject material before a got this role?
MS: I love sci-fi. I’m a Trekkie and all that stuff. Although he’s prominent in Power Man and Iron Fist comic books, there’s not a lot of backstories. So, I wasn’t too familiar with him. Overall, I’ve been very receptive of the comic books, heightened abilities, and sci-fi overall.
Luke Cage is back. After clearing his name, Luke Cage has become a celebrity on the streets of Harlem with a reputation as bulletproof as his skin. But being so visible has only increased his need to protect the community and find the limits of who he can and can’t save.
TSL: Your character was really putting hands on Luke Cage throughout the series. What was it like being the man to beat the man?
MS: It was fun! It reminded me of two great heavyweight fighters going at it. Ali v. Frazier, Tyson v. Holyfield, that type of thing. It was really cool to depict that and do that fight training. I’m a pugilist, and I like to move, so that’s the best of two worlds coming together for me.