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Invasion's Shamier Anderson On His Epic, Alien-Battling Journey For Apple TV+ - Exclusive Interview

The story of a mysterious alien force invading Earth has been told over and over again in everything from films like "Independence Day" to TV adaptations of classics like "War of the Worlds." It might seem like every angle has been explored, but Apple TV+ is banking on the idea that an audience that's recently lived through an attack on the world by a non-human entity is up for watching a more straightforward battle against an otherworldly foe. It's why they've dropped a big budget on the globe-spanning alien invasion epic "Invasion" from executive producer Simon Kinberg, offering up a ground-level look at how an extraterrestrial attack affects the lives of everyone from suburban families to special forces soldiers. 

Heading up that latter cohort is Shamier Anderson as Navy SEAL Trevante Ward. Stationed in the Middle East, Ward and his team find themselves up against a powerful, mysterious enemy, and suddenly stranded far from home. It's a performance that often finds Anderson isolated in the desert or acting opposite characters who don't even speak his character's language, requiring an ability to command the screen and convey complex emotional arcs without a lot of dialogue. Fortunately, the actor, a veteran of shows like "Goliath" and "Wynonna Earp," appears more than up to the task. 

With "Invasion" looming on the horizon, we sat down with Anderson to talk about learning to move like a Navy SEAL, why dehydrating on purpose is a bad idea, and what we can expect from his upcoming turn in "John Wick 4."

How Shamier Anderson learned to eat the elephant one bite at a time

What drew you to "Invasion," as a project?

I actually just got an audition. Put simply, as an actor, I wanted a job, I wanted to work. And I got this project, which didn't come with the script at the time, that said "The Untitled Apple Project." Didn't have much information, but as actors, you're often given things that make no sense and they begin to make sense as the process evolves.

So I auditioned, put something on tape, and then a little later I got a call from Simon Kinberg that he wanted to sit down with me and have dinner. I was like, "Oh, wow. Simon Kinberg wants to have dinner with me. All right, cool." And so I brought a binder and I broke down the role, the idea of this character that I auditioned for, and music he listened to. And I just kind of built this whole world, and I guess something clicked and I got the job, and now I'm here.

What was the preparation like on the military side of things? Did you guys do a lot of background work on that?

Yeah. I actually worked with a consultant by the name of Remi Adeleke, who is an ex-Navy SEAL. And I worked with him closely on the entire show, heavy in the preparation process and the pre-production, with just understanding the physicality of a Navy SEAL. So, in the gym with him, the psychology of a Navy SEAL, the founding principles of a Navy SEAL, learning to eat the elephant one bite at a time, and just going on a crash course.

And when I say eating the elephant one bite at a time, it means taking on a task and respecting the magnitude of that task and doing it one step at a time, and just different mantras and principles like that, that really helped and inform my performance. And during the shooting period, I also made sure that I tried to stay in that headspace. I actually slept in the desert a lot of the time, which was really interesting, just to kind of stay in that isolated state and to really stay present in Trevante's world.

In your interaction with the consultant and any other military personnel, did you ever ask if they ever discussed alien invasion and what military plans would be for that sort of thing?

He was still classified, and there were certain things that I spoke about that he would say, "That's classified information." And it's like a movie, like, "Hey Remi, what about this?" "That's classified." I was like, "Wow, what mission was the mission around this person?" "That's classified." I know that guy that took out that guy, that maybe took out that guy. It was pretty cool. Those guys are vaults of information.

So, the insinuation was, there is a plan, but they just can't talk about it?

They just can't, yeah, precisely.

Shamier Anderson on battling unknown aliens and what he learned from Tom Hanks

So what, for you, was the biggest challenge when it came to filming this show? You spent a lot of time kind of isolated. Or were there other things that kind of jumped out at you as a big challenge playing this role?

I mean, one of the biggest challenges for me was just kind of working under the elements of this gargantuan production, travel to these different places, having to deal with the time zones, having to deal with being jet-lagged, having to perform. Then dealing with COVID, because COVID happened while on set, it was happening with the shutdown, the production. So having to deal with that, which was very, very interesting.

And then also, it was challenging ... this is an emotional role. At the forefront, you're thinking, okay, Navy SEAL, tough guy, but this is a character-driven piece. And with it being character-driven, you actually have to deal with the history, and the character stories, and the backstory, and Trevante's character goes on this incredible journey where he is trying to get home.

So, it was so draining for me being in the sun all the time, having to be emotional, having to stay focused. And I did this crazy thing, which I don't recommend to anybody, which is, obviously, my character gets dehydrated because he's in the desert. And the luxury about being on set is, everyone wants to make sure you're taken care of, is always giving you water, and I made the silly decision of not drinking water for an entire day just to see what that would do. And it definitely helped the process, for sure.

How much did you know about the aliens that you'd be facing, given a lot of it was done in post? What kind of download did you get on that as you were shooting?

A lot of that stuff, I mean, from my experience, at least, evolved over time. I actually didn't get to see very much of it, the mock-ups or the simulations, until later in my experience on the show. But, as things evolved, I was able to kind of get an idea, but these are still rough drawings and rough simulations on the camera. They would show me a laptop of, like, "Okay, this is what it looks like, this is how it's moving, this is what it does." But a lot of it for me was just my interpretation of what the alien was doing via the direction from the director and our showrunner, Andrew. So that's kind of how I imagined it, but when I watched the trailer, like the rest of the world when it came out, I was seeing them for the first time in that capacity. So it was like, "That's pretty cool."

Do you have a favorite alien invasion story other than this one that you've just enjoyed as a fan, and also, did you draw on anything from previous stuff that you'd seen for this role?

Great question. Favorite movie was "Men in Black" for me; love, love, love, love, love "Men in Black." I just loved how they just normalized it and gave it a nice comedic twist, I think that was interesting. Other films that I actually used to enjoy, not just the "Aliens" film, because it's not so much about aliens, but more it's about the human experience, and human amongst chaos: "Contagion," "I Am Legend," "World War Z," the one with Brad Pitt, and "Cast Away," believe it or not. I watched a lot of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away," just so I could understand what isolation felt like. A lot of those movies have similar themes, it's just men and women going through life, dealing with crises, and the stakes are super high. So, that's kind of the movies that I watched, just to give you a short view.

Shamier Anderson talks 'Invasion' in a pandemic world, and teases 'John Wick 4'

What do you think of a show like "Invasion" coming out now, at a time when we are kind of all facing a global crisis? Do you feel like that it's going to resonate more because of the situation we're all in right now?

I hope so. I mean, I'd hope so. I would hope that it would resonate. I think there's just too many similarities to ignore, so we'll see how the world receives it. Maybe they'll be scared, like "This is too close to home, I can't watch this right now." That can also have that effect. as well.

Given what we've seen over the past couple years, do you think in a situation like what we see in "Invasion," people would actually be able to come together to face an alien threat?

I think, if I'm being honest, I don't know if people would be able to come together, but I do think that authorities ... I mean people will probably come together, but I think we would treat it the same way we would treat any threat, but I just think it would just be amplified by a thousand. And how quickly we can eliminate that threat will dictate how we continue to be in unity during that time. But that's just my thing. And I mean, we see these films, right? Independence Days of the world, even "Jumanji," that moment when in the third act, when people are raiding the grocery stores. And even in "Contagion," you get to see people's true colors in those moments.

Is there anything at all that you can tease about "John Wick 4," either your part in it or what we can expect?

Keanu Reeves is the nicest guy on the planet Earth.

We've heard that.

That's the confirmation. I can't speak too much on it though, unfortunately, but I'm in Paris filming it now. It's ... it's just wow, I'll just leave it at that, just wow. I'm a fan of the franchise, and to be able to be a part of it and to be with Keanu Reeves every day is just ... wow. I can't wait for the world to see it. You all are going to love it.

"Invasion" premieres on Apple TV+ on October 22nd with the first three episodes, followed by new episodes weekly, every Friday.