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Young Actor Jovan Armand Strikes Big with Role in Shazam!

IN THE April 3 ISSUE

FROM THE 2019 Articles,
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andSteven Sanchez
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by Steven Sanchez

Billy Batson is the titular character in the comics and the soon-to-be-released film of the same name, Shazam!. Once he shouts that word, a lightning bolt strikes him thus transforming him into an adult-sized, high-flying, crime fighting superhero. With the young Hispanic actor, Jovan Armand, it’s like a lightning bolt has hit his rising star of a career as he makes the leap from the small screen to the big screen in the newly anticipated entry into the DC Extended Universe. The East Los Angeles native will be making his big screen debut in the film as the supporting character Pedro Peña.

actor shazam

Jovan Armand

The story revolves around young Billy (Asher Angel), a troubled orphan teen and product of the foster system, who moves in with the Vasquez family and their five foster kids, Pedro being one of them. Once Billy encounters an ancient wizard that endows him with superpowers as the next “Champion of Eternity,” the appearance of an adult Shazam is born (portrayed by Zachary Levi of Chuck). Taking place in the Justice League world, the story then revolves around his arc of being a teen with invincible abilities as he hilariously transitions into an adult hero while protecting his family and maturing from teen to young man.

Armand is known for playing Brick’s best friend, Troy, on ABC’s former hit series, The Middle and also produces music. He’s coming in at a time where audiences are looking for diverse representation in theaters, and the Warner Bros. film is using that approach. The foster family that takes Billy in is a diverse one, and it’s very liberating to see the genre go in that direction because it’s been a long time coming.

During our phone interview, we talked about what it was like to work with Zachary Levi, his favorite superheroes, and the importance of diversity in the film industry. The film will be released on April 5.

KRL: The first entries into the DC Extended Universe were dark and serious in nature (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and this film is taking a more light-hearted, comedic approach. How were the filmmakers able to juggle that blend of comedy, action, and wholesomeness at the same time?

Jovan: The film in itself is an action/comedy. It’s a kid having superpowers which makes it funny. Our director, David Sandberg, did a great job with the storyline and staying true to the comic book. It’s different from the other previous films in the franchise, and I believe audiences will be pleased with the direction of the film.shazam

KRL: Director David Sandberg was mostly known as being a horror filmmaker, having made Lights Out and Annabelle: Creation. Were there any doubts amongst the cast and crew on whether or not if he could pull of a comedic superhero movie?

Jovan: Everybody working on the film thought he was passionate and amazing. It was an honor to work with a filmmaker who was passionate about the source material, and he knows his craft.

KRL: What separates Shazam from the other characters in the Extended DC Universe?

Jovan: Shazam is a superhero, but underneath it all he’s just a kid. I’m not too sure if there are any heroes like that. Not only the character but the film overall separates itself from the other DC films because it has a multicultural cast. It makes the movie more relatable to all kinds of fans out there.

KRL: The main character, Billy, is a foster teen being in a family with other orphans. When most films delve in to the foster system, it is used for dramatic effect. It’s a touchy subject especially with everything going on in the world like kids being separated from their parents at the border, was it challenging for the filmmakers to offset the balance of showing the reality of the foster system while keeping the humor consistent?

Jovan: Yes, it was, the storyline is comedic, but the subject matter is serious. In the comics, Billy lost his mom at a young age. Through that he becomes rebellious, and I believe it’ll speak volumes to the youth out there who have been through the foster system. Now, they’ll have a superhero to look up to and relate to. The filmmakers blended those subjects really well.

KRL: I’m glad you mention the multicultural aspect. Billy is taken in by a family with other orphans of different ethnicities. It’s safe to say that we haven’t seen this kind of diversity in the previous DC films. Was that the approach from the beginning to have as much diversity as possible?

Jovan: The filmmakers drew everything primarily from the comics. His background is authentic, and in realistic terms, there’s all walks of life who are in the foster system. The filmmakers were staying true to the story but also staying true to reality. It’s great to have a diverse cast. That’s the change the industry needs right now.

KRL: When you got the role of Pedro Peña, did you do your own research on the foster care system? Did you talk to any orphans to better understand your character?

shazam

Jovan: Yes, I did a lot of research going into this role. Not only did I read as many comic books as I could to understand the world but my own character as well. I actually have a couple of friends who were in the foster system, and I talked to them before I incorporated that knowledge into my portrayal of the character.

KRL: Zachary Levi is portraying Shazam. From what I’ve heard I heard, he’s a nerd himself and loves the comic book crowd. What was it like working with Zachary on set, and did he bring that enthusiasm to the role when you guys were shooting?

Jovan: Yes, Zachary is a goofball. He’s amazing to work with. Very professional and he definitely knows when to crack a joke. He’s passionate about his craft and made sure we got the shot we needed, and because of what he brought to the role, I feel we have a good film on our hands.

KRL: Did you have knowledge of Shazam as a character before you were cast in the movie?

Jovan: I used to play the video game Injustice: Gods Among Us, and Shazam was the character I would play with and beat all my friends. So, I knew quite a bit about the character. Growing up my favorite superheroes were Batman and The Flash.

KRL: So, you were definitely on the DC train before this?

Jovan: Oh, for sure. My mom would tell me stories how I would wear a Superman suit every Halloween, so I was a pretty hardcore fan.

KRL: You’re also involved with music. Is it hard having to juggle both music and acting at the same time?

Jovan: Not really, only when it comes to scheduling on occasion. What I like to do is focus on my acting, but when I’m not working or auditioning, I like to get into the studio and make music. I’m producing my next single, and I got a performance coming up soon.

KRL: You were in the sitcom The Middle on ABC. It’s owned by Disney, and they own Marvel. Will that be a goal of yours in the future to possibly be in a Marvel movie?

Jovan: I’m open to any projects that come my way, but as of right now, I rep DC.

KRL: You’ve done television, independent films, and now a big studio picture with a wide release. What would be the passion project you would like to do in the future?

Jovan: I’ve always wanted to do a horror film. I worked with David, so I’m just throwing that out there. I’ve always loved horror films growing up. Overall, I’ll take whatever comes my way as long as it’s a good script and good storyline.

KRL: I always enjoy hearing about fun stories that took place on set. Was there a moment that stood out to you the most while making the movie?

Jovan: What comes to mind was a night where we were filming in Toronto. It was in an alleyway, and it was freezing. The crew was taking a long time setting up the next shot, and Zach started playing music. The whole cast just started dancing at the exact same time. I think David has a video of it.

Shazam! opens in theaters on April 5. Website: shazammovie.com

Steven Sanchez is a film graduate of UNLV. He’s a filmmaker, writer, photographer, and music manager. Obsessed with movies, comic books, and rock ‘n’ roll. A football fanatic, big fan of the Oakland Raiders. Enjoys reading and collecting vinyl records. If there’s a rock show in town more than likely he’ll be there. Loves his grandma’s home cooked meals. He has a twin sister and most people call him the pretty one. You can learn more about Steven on his YouTube channel and on Instagram @stevensanchez5807 photos and videos.

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