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Interview: Brian Tyree Henry talks ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’, Stan Lee’s Legacy, Voicing Jefferson Davis, and More!

Brian Tyree Henry is having quite the year. He had a minor role in Netflix’s Irreplaceable You, played Sterling K. Brown’s wounded brother in Hotel Artemis, a detective in White Boy Rick, a crime boss in Widows, and collaborated with Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. A very impressive resume for someone who is just getting started, and he has so much more lined-up for the future. Now, Brian Tyree Henry joins the biggest comic book property in the world for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where he voices Miles Morales’ father, Jefferson Davis. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Tyree Henry to discuss the latest Spider-Man movie Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse for Geeks of Color. During the interview, we talked about the portrayal of Jefferson Davis, Miles Morales’ big-screen debut, the voice recording process and much more. 

Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore.  (Courtesy of Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation)

How it feels to be apart of the Marvel family now:

“I feel a lot of ways. It’s kind of bittersweet, you know, because, I kind of really wanted to meet Stan Lee and shake the man’s hand and tell him how grateful I am that he has created this world for us. I was saying earlier if you want to talk about geeks, it’s me! There was nothing like when I first opened my first Uncanny X-Men and saw Storm and Gambit…he’s Creole and he’s from the South and that’s fire!”

When speaking about the opening credits of the Marvel movies Henry said:

“When that movie comes on, you see the Marvel ticket and the screen comes on in the pages flip and then you hear the music. I literally tear up every time like I always tear up. Then as it expands you see they start adding characters. So, when I saw Black Panther get in it I was like “AHHHH”, this is unbelievable.”

On being apart of the Marvel family:

“I’m overwhelmed with joy and overwhelmed with happiness that I’m a part of this universe, because, Miles Morales an incredibly special, incredibly special!”

Any challenges when it came to voice acting?:

“Yes and no, because there’s a different kind of vulnerability you have to have. You’re in a room with headphones on and you’re in there acting a fool, you don’t really see the animation. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You don’t know but what you do have to do is interpret what’s on that page. There’s a scene where I have to deliver news to Miles through a door and it’s so heartbreaking. The pain of what I’m having to share is real. And, that kind of reluctance that a teenager will have to his father at that age and trying to reach this kid no matter what. No matter what you thought you’d done right it’s still something that’s like missing, you are still not reaching that far.”

Miles Morales and Jefferson Davis (Courtesy of Colombia Pictures and Sony Animation)

“I was in the studio doing that and all I could do is just read what he was saying and feel what he was saying and interpret it that way. Shamiek and I had a different kind of experience because we were actually able to record with each other. So, that scene where I’m dropping him off at school, we came into the studio and they literally had two chairs in the front, two chairs in the back, and they had a rear view mirror set up to a stand. I’m sitting there trying to communicate with him. Try to make him laugh and try to figure out how to tell him that the neighborhood is different but the school is where you belong you’re doing great…blah blah blah…but you don’t get out of my car without telling me I love you. And, that was improv. He and I just riffed off that. So, it was really amazing that the studio allowed us to do that.”

The family dynamic in the Morales home:

“I wanted as soon as the movie started you don’t have any question about what their relationship and you don’t question the love that they have for each other. You don’t question where Jefferson stood, you knew that in the end he together loved him [Miles] more than anything in the world. He loved him. So, when you see those moments of him throwing his arms around his father that to me was the most special thing in the world. You know, that his mother can still tuck him in and speak Spanish to him. He can respond right back and you know me and her sitting together on the couch and I can call her baby and like all these things.”

“It was just really refreshing to know that that is captured up there and that somewhere somebody’s gonna be like, “Oh my God, these are my parents. Hey, so that means that I could be Miles…” I’m glad it’s has a place in the pantheon of the Marvel Universe and I hope that Miles Morales is around for a very long time!”

What it means for him to be in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

“I would not be able to sit here with you and spread my nerdom to you if it wasn’t for the people around me who fostered that and I will always continue to do that in my career and always try to be the representation of that…I know exactly the hands and shoulders that lifted me up to make sure I got where I needed to go.”

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now in theaters.

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