Actress Alexandra Shipp is preparing for her star to start soaring soon. The 24 year old actress is taking over the role of Storm in Fox’s X-MEN franchise, a role made famous of Oscar-winner Halle Berry. When X-MEN: APOCALYPSE arrives in theaters in May, Shipp will get the chance to make the character her own, and it sounds like the creative team behind the film has given her plenty to work with.
While Berry’s take on the character was criticized by longtime fans of the X-MEN books for being sort of one-dimensional, and for lacking the gravitas (or even the accent) that they associate with the character, Shipp says that the character’s origin in APOCALYPSE gave her plenty to work with, in a chat with Collider:
“My Storm in particular is kind of a, well yeah, sheâ€™s the past derivative of Halleâ€™s Storm. This Storm is a little bit different because youâ€™re meeting her in Cairo. Youâ€™re seeing kind of a little bit of where she comes from. Youâ€™re seeing all the pain that sheâ€™s gone through. Itâ€™s not like sheâ€™s in the mansion having a great time. Sheâ€™s so different from all of the other kids because they come from families. They come from some sort of love and support whereas Storm hasnâ€™t had that since her parents died in that plane crash into the house when she was like 5.
“Itâ€™s like, sheâ€™s kind of just all really messed up and the only mutants that she knows are bad mutants. The only mutants that she knows are the mutants who use their powers for stealing, or protecting thugs or whatever. Itâ€™s not like, ‘Oh, weâ€™re going to save the planet.’ Itâ€™s like, ‘Forget the planet, I need money so Iâ€™m going to distract you with some wind and then Iâ€™m going to pick pocket you.’ Sheâ€™s in survival mode so when she meets Apocalypse, sheâ€™s kind of like hit this revelation where she has been struggling to feel like she belongs somewhere.
“Then this extremely powerful being comes to her and says, ‘Iâ€™m what youâ€™ve been waiting for, I will take care of you.’ For her, thatâ€™s like, click. She doesnâ€™t know anything about the X-Men. The only thing she knows is about Mystique when she saved the president, but thatâ€™s basically it. Other than Mystique, every other Mutant that sheâ€™s known has been bad so, thatâ€™s kind of where sheâ€™s coming from. I donâ€™t necessarily see her as a bad person, or as a bad mutant. I donâ€™t see her as a villain. She doesnâ€™t know that sheâ€™s a villain. Thatâ€™s just all sheâ€™s ever known, is just bad.”
The actress expands on this idea later in the interview, when she says that Storm’s upbringing affects how she views the other young mutants she encounters, like Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, and Tye Sheridan’s Scott Summers.
“Yeah, I think she sees them as children. Storm is a different kind of smart. Sheâ€™s had to survive, sheâ€™s a bit street smart so I feel like if and when she makes it to the mansion, itâ€™s going to take a little time for her to warm up to these normal white people. You know what I mean. Sheâ€™s been in Cairo, sheâ€™s been fighting, and her life is just so much different. Sheâ€™s so much more street smart and there isnâ€™t a, she didnâ€™t go to school, really. She didnâ€™t have a lot of the same things that they had. Maybe there is even a little bit of animosity and a little bit of jealousy because of that. We havenâ€™t explored that yet, but Iâ€™mhoping that we can in the next movie.”
Shipp also reveals that she didn’t seek Berry’s blessing or advice. In fact, she hasn’t had any contact with the actress as of yet. So if she didn’t seek any words of wisdom from Berry, who played the role four times, then what did she turn to for research? Read the comics and watch the cartoons, of course.
“Oh yeah. I read a bunch of comics. The one comic that I didnâ€™t get to read was Stormâ€™s introduction to X-Men. Thatâ€™s because itâ€™s worth like $30,000 and I was like, ‘Okay, is there like some online pictures of it that I could see?’ And theyâ€™re like, ‘No, thatâ€™s why itâ€™s worth $30,000.’ Iâ€™m like, ‘Oh, okay, got it.’ I did like a whole bunch of back story on it. I read a lot of the newer comics because there are a lot of newer comics that are doing a lot of her back story, especially her stuff with Tâ€™Challa, and I wanted to know who she was.
“I read a lot of comics. I watched the cartoons just on repeat. I just kept it going â€™cause you could watch them on Hulu Plus. So I just had it going in the background just like all the time and whenever Storm came on, I love how her accent changed a whole bunch, which was awesome. Youâ€™re just like, ‘Wow, sheâ€™s gone from English to sister girl, all the way back.’â€
While on the subject of accents, the actress confirmed that she will be using a Kenyan dialect in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE.
Shipp also went in-depth on her bond with Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse.
“We kind of find each other. Like though the crowd, it all parts and I see his blue face. Then we kind of just like, ‘Ah.’ There is a moment.
“I think itâ€™sâ€¦Storm is always looking for father figures. What I found in the comics and stuff like that, is that Xavier kind of ends up being that for her. When she joins X-Men she finds that love for him. In the beginning, I think most girls who have daddy issues go looking in all the wrong places and Apocalypse comes and he takes care of her, gives her new clothes, you know. Takes her out for a nice dinner, no Iâ€™m just kidding.
“Itâ€™s a little bit of everything, man. Itâ€™s just all kind of all over the place and I think what it is, is she admires him. She believes in him because for so long humans have treated her like crap. He is like, ‘Well, in my day it was different.’ Sheâ€™s like, ‘Letâ€™s get back to there, letâ€™s get back to that.’ Sheâ€™s a weather goddess, you know. Sheâ€™s a level, what is she, level 4, level 5 almost? Sheâ€™s almost on Magnetoâ€™s level when it comes to her power.”
Shipp says that Apocalypse helps to enhance and unleash her powers, which is a recurring theme in the X-MEN films; This idea that villains like Magneto and Apocalypse like to appeal to the inner darkness in everyone and have them use that rage to rule the world instead of assimilate into it. One of the big thematic ideas of these films is that we can all go either way, and it’s often who we turn to for guidance that helps push us in one direction or another. Sounds like that continues in APOCALYPSE.
She goes on to elaborate on Apocalypse’s impact on her, and her fellow horsemen, even further.
“Yeah, sheâ€™s mega level and yet sheâ€™s been reduced to a street urchin, you know what I mean? Apocalypse can see this and he can see this with all the other horsemen, is that these gods, essentially, have been reduced down to nothing and have been forced down to have theyâ€™re families killed, to have their lives destroyed. All because of what? What their born with? Thatâ€™s a huge reason why the horsemen go with him, is because theyâ€™re like, ‘Well, youâ€™re right, I am awesome and everyone should know that Iâ€™m awesome and everyone should treat me like Iâ€™m awesome.’ So the minute he kind of says that, of course in his own words, in his Apocalypse words, it strikes a chord and youâ€™re like, ‘Yeah dude, youâ€™re right. I will follow you because you are right. I am that. I know exactly who I am and he affirms it, the way all cult leaders do.’ You know, he makes you feel good. He buys you a cookie and pats you on the head.”
On a lighter note, Shipp also revealed how her fan-favorite mohawk look was achieved: That’s not her hair. Every morning, they’d shave her head and glue a wig onto her head.
Shipp sounds very excited about taking on the Storm mantle, and we’ll get to see how she does in her inaugural voyage when X-MEN: APOCALYPSE comes out on May 27.