When we learned that Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past sequel X-Men: Apocalypse would be introducing younger versions of even more mutants from the original trilogy, most figured Storm would make the cut. She’s an incredibly cool character, a vital piece of the X-Men puzzle, and Halle Berry’s performance (and wigs) certainly made its mark in the first few movies. But the question then became, how do you replace Halle Berry? After an extensive casting search, director Bryan Singer landed on young actress Alexandra Shipp to bring the new Storm to life, and having spoken with Shipp on the set of X-Men: Apocalypse, I have a feeling she could be the breakout character of the new movie.
While on the Montreal set of Apocalypse last summer along with a small group of reporters, we got the chance to sit down and talk with Shipp about this new iteration of Storm and how she fits into the overall story. In contrast to Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, Shipp’s Storm finds herself on the side of the bad guys, recruited by Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse to be one of his Four Horsemen.
During the course of our conversation, an enthusiastic and very funny Shipp spoke to us about how this version of Storm differs from Halle Berry’s, why Apocalypse is so alluring to the character, getting to finally bring the Mohawk Storm to the big screen, and much more. Additionally, having read the comics, Shipp shared with us the backstory she came up with for the character, which involves a connection to the character of Black Panther, who’s coming to the screen in the entirely separate Marvel Cinematic Universe via Captain America: Civil War.
Check out the full interview below. X-Men: Apocalypse opens in theaters on May 27th.
Question: People have been dying for the Mohawk iteration of Storm for a long time.
ALEXANDRA SHIPP: You know, I was really excited too ’cause when I was thinking, “What are they going to do with my hair?” They weren’t too sure. They’re like, “Oh we’ll let you guys know.” Then I’m like, “Okay, well, I was thinking that they would do like the long white hair”, then I was like, “Are they going to use my hair?” Then they told me they were doing the mohawk. I was like, “Perfect”. I go and I do the wig fitting or whatever. I’m talking to Felix, the guy who does all of the hair and the wigs on the show. I’m like, “You know what, let’s do it now”. This was like 3 months beforehand. I was like shave it, let’s do it! He goes, “Okay, we’ll shave the whole thing”. I go, “Hold on now. The whole thing?” He’s s like, “Yeah, we’re going to glue the wig on”. He’s like, “Yeah, we’ll just like shave your head every morning with cream”. I’m thinking, “What do you mean cream? Like what? Some sort of leche on my head? I don’t know what that means. I don’t want it. I don’t want to know.” But it worked out. It’s pretty cool.
Can you tell us a little bit about Storm? Or, this Storm – your Storm.
SHIPP: My Storm in particular is kind of a, well yeah, she’s the past derivative of Halle’s Storm. This Storm is a little bit different because you’re meeting her in Cairo. You’re seeing kind of a little bit of where she comes from. You’re seeing all the pain that she’s gone through. It’s not like she’s in the mansion having a great time. She’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 hasn’t had that since her parents died in that plane crash into the house when she was like 5.
It’s like, she’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. It’s not like, “Oh, we’re going to save the planet”. It’s like, “Forget the planet, I need money so I’m going to distract you with some wind and then I’m going to pick pocket you.” She’s in survival mode so when she meets Apocalypse, she’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, “I’m what you’ve been waiting for, I will take care of you”. For her, that’s like, click. She doesn’t know anything about the X-Men. The only thing she knows is about Mystique when she saved the president, but that’s basically it. Other than Mystique, every other Mutant that she’s known has been bad so, that’s kind of where she’s coming from. I don’t necessarily see her as a bad person, or as a bad mutant. I don’t see her as a villain. She doesn’t know that she’s a villain. That’s just all she’s ever known, is just bad.
Have you spoken to Halle Berry at all about the character?
SHIPP: Not yet. I wanted to hold off. I’ve written like 30 draft emails. I’m like, “Alex, you can be cool about this. You can be cool, it’s cool, just be cool”. Then I was like hoping that I would see her at Comic-Con and I didn’t and I was like a little sad and disappointed. I’m holding off because when I meet her I want to meet here and be like, “Oh my God, I love you!” Not be like interrogating her, which I think I would have. Also, it’s like if my seventeen year old self interviewed my older self after I had figured it all out, I think it’d be just a little bit different. Also, they are so different. Storm is emotional and her powers aren’t yet, they haven’t all come into fruition and she’s coming from a really young turmoil, “I can’t figure it out, I don’t know what I’m necessarily doing but I’m just going to do it”. That’s where she’s coming from. It’s a little bit different than Halle so I wanted to keep that distance just a little bit.
Do you feel like one of the new kids on the block?
SHIPP: Oh my God. Yeah, I walked on set and I was like, “Oh, oh, oh oh”. I did and I didn’t. With this cast, I walked into family. I felt like a foster kid that was being brought into this beautiful family of random people who all loved each other. I feel like I’ve gotten lucky on this cast because I’m working with some of the biggest actors right now. A lot of my scenes are mainly with Oscar Isaac and Michael Fasbender and James McAvoy and they’re all really freaking great. So it’s nice. They’re not egotistical, there is nothing diva-esque about them and so like if I have a question, or if we’re working on something and I’ve got an idea, they’re willing to hear me out. I think that that’s the best part about it, is like if I have an idea, I can walk up and ask somebody and not have them be like, “Wait ’til your second movie.”
You know. ‘Cause you think like, you’re like, “Man I got to get my sea legs,” you got to punch me in my face or something. You know, I got to pay my dues, but here it’s like no, you got this far, all right let’s just have fun. Let’s just create, let’s just be a bunch of kids dressed as superheroes having the most amazing time. Tomorrow is my birthday and so I was like, “Wait, will everyone please come to my birthday in costume?” Then I realized that the majority of us can’t breathe and/or walk in these costumes. So I was like, “Never mind”. It would be really epic. That would be like the kids superhero party. That would be just so great.
Can you talk about your research for taking on this role? I mean did you find any comic stories that really resonated with you or anything like that?
SHIPP: Oh yeah. I read a bunch of comics. The one comic that I didn’t get to read was Storm’s introduction to X-Men. That’s because it’s worth like $30,000 and I was like, “Okay, is there like some online pictures of it that I could see?” And they’re like, “No, that’s why it’s worth $30,000″. I’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 T’Challa, and I wanted to know who she was. In my mind because of the way that the script is, in comparison to her comic story line, it’s a little but different. So in my mind, like she and T’Challa were king and queen of Africa when they were like 13, and that’s the only way that I could make it work. They were young king and queens, it happens sometimes, whatever.
I read a lot of comics. I watched the cartoons just on repeat. I just kept it going ’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. You’re just like, “Wow, she’s gone from English to sister girl, all the way back.”
Are you going to do accents?
SHIPP: I am. I’m doing a Kenyan accent. I’m also speaking Arabic, which is cool.
Are you hoping to run into Chadwick Boseman and be like “we’re married!”
SHIPP: All day. All day. I mean, our suits were made by the same people so right after I found out that I got this, they started doing all the molding. It was like wardrobe fitting after wardrobe fitting ’cause they really wanted the cuffs and everything, plus I was training so they wanted everything to fit, but they kept having to take it in. Then again they kept having to build up the guns, you know what I mean. So I was like, “Whatever, it’s cool”. I saw the Black Panther outfit, by the way. It looks amazing!
Can you talk about how Storm interacts with some of the other younger mutants? Does she see them as kindred spirits or does she see them as enemies?
SHIPP: Yeah, I think she sees them as children. Storm is a different kind of smart. She’s had to survive, she’s a bit street smart so I feel like if and when she makes it to the mansion, it’s going to take a little time for her to warm up to these normal white people. You know what I mean. She’s been in Cairo, she’s been fighting, and her life is just so much different. She’s so much more street smart and there isn’t a, she didn’t go to school, really. She didn’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 haven’t explored that yet, but I’m hoping that we can in the next movie.
What’s Storm’s relationship like to the other Horsemen?
SHIPP: It’s just pure love. I feel like when someone joins a cult, they end up becoming kindred spirits. They’re following the same thing. They all have the same goal which is Apocalypse. When it comes to her, we just filmed a scene where we bring Angel, and Angel’s our final horsemen, and he’s getting his suit made, and he and I have this moment where we look at each other and I just smile at him. It’s not anything sexual and it’s not anything like, “Yeah babe”. It’s kind of just like a … You know, where you’re just like, “This is cool, this is awesome, we’re together on this. We are going to take on these people. I don’t know who these X-Men are, I don’t know who this Xavier dude is. We’re going to beat him up. We’re going to win. I shoot lightening.”
Do you have a moment with Apocalypse where he gives you your suit or gives you a special power of some sort?
SHIPP: Yes, yes I do. Which is the first, kind of my first opening scene, is you see me in Cairo, and he’s speaking whatever ancient language because he’s just woken up and I’m speaking Arabic. I’m trying to communicate with him, and then he has this moment where he figures out where he is, what’s happened, what date it is, and he … Apocalypse doesn’t need to say much. All he has to do is just be like, “I’m here, I’m what you’ve been looking for”. And you just feel it right in your gut, and you’re like, “Right, you are exactly what I’ve been looking for. You are exactly what I need right now.” I think that he can see that, and he could also see the power. I feel like when you’re the most powerful, you’re also the most self-conscious about it.
Do you find Apocalypse?
SHIPP: 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.
What is this Storm’s relationship like with Apocalypse and how does she feel about him?
SHIPP: I think it’s … 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 I’m just kidding.
It’s a little bit of everything man. It’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”. She’s like, “Let’s get back to there, let’s get back to that”. She’s a weather goddess, you know. She’s a level, what is she, level 4, level 5 almost? She’s almost on Magneto’s level when it comes to her power.
She’s a Mega Level mutant.
SHIPP: Yeah, she’s mega level and yet she’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 they’re families killed, to have their lives destroyed. All because of what? What their born with? That’s a huge reason why the horsemen go with him, is because they’re like, “Well you’re right, I am awesome and everyone should know that I’m awesome and everyone should treat me like I’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 you’re like, “Yeah dude, you’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.
All the horsemen have very different abilities in this movie. Can you say anything to what Apocalypse has planned for you specifically?
SHIPP: For me specifically, well like, what he does is he has the power to enhance your power. So while you’re around him, he’s got all these mega level mutants. He’s able to turn them into crazy-baboom level mutants. For me, he is like, what you can control everything, almost, kind of, sort of. I’m not the Phoenix, but you know what I mean. She’s got so many powers, and he’s like, but he doesn’t even know what her powers are when he meets her. He can just sense the level and that’s what attracts him to them.
So what he is attracted to is their level and their magnitude of power. I think that his plan for her in the movie is to protect him. Protect him with fog. Protect him with lightening. Blow away a missile. Blow away a plane. There is so much that she can do, and what he’s looking for is protection because he just woke up after a couple thousands and thousand years. He’s weak and he’s alone, and he’s been betrayed, you know. He’s kind of like a girlfriend who just got cheated on, who wants to date the nerdy guy who can take care of her.
Does she know how powerful she is?
SHIPP: She doesn’t and yet she does. I feel like everybody knows their potential. “Like yeah, if I tried really hard, I’d be really good at that.” This is her moment to try really hard and be really good at it. She doesn’t know that she’s really good at being evil because she can be really good at anything with those powers. I think initially, that’s her whole thing is like, “I guess I’m great”, and he’s like, “No, you’re wonderful!” She’s like, “Oh my god, right, yeah, yeah, yeah, wonderful, wonderful”. It’s cool.
Do you ever stand around with Tye and Sophie and say “we could be doing this for the next twenty years?’”
SHIPP: Yeah, we’ve had those conversations, especially at dinner. Where I’m like, “You guys are great”, and then I’m like, “We really are”. The last cast of the X-Men, the original cast for X-Men, they were together for so long and they had such a really great bond and I’m just excited to have that. I’ve been on shows before, and shows, you kind of on it for a year or a couple years and you’re back and forth with all the same people, and you have this friendship. We all genuinely like each other on this movie, and that’s a huge rarity.
The fact that we all like each other and we all get to play epic people. I kind of already am epic, but I get to play an epic person, which is awesome. I get to work with amazing people and amazing actors. They just have so many beautiful moments and beautiful things coming through. I’m excited to actually work with Ty and Sophie. Rather than just fighting them and like throwing stuff. It’d be really cool to have a conversation, kind of have those moments. I’m excited to see where it goes because it does have the potential to be for however long because we’re starting young so I guess I could do it for a couple, right?
I had a really scary dream last night that, I don’t know, something happened and I wasn’t able to do the next one after and they had to hire another girl. I literally was like, “Ah!” I screamed myself out of sleep. Then I was like, “No!” My dogs were looking at my face, I’m like, “I’m good, I’m good, I’m good”. The idea of not being able to do it, you know? I’m so happy to be doing it now, and I’m so grateful that I get to do it now but the idea of not being able to in the future just kind of sucks.
For more on X-Men: Apocalypse, peruse my other set visit articles below. The film opens in theaters on May 27th.
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Over 75 Things to Know about the Epic Superhero Sequel
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Evan Peters on Topping the Quicksilver Sequence, Magneto and More
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Simon Kinberg on Shared Universes, Telling Scott and Jean’s Origins, and More
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Olivia Munn on Psylocke’s Powers, Provocative Costume, and a Potential Spinoff
- Bryan Singer Reflects on ‘X-Men 1′, Talks the Evolution of the Superhero Genre
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Evan Peters Describes New Quicksilver Sequence as a “Sequel” to the First
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': New Timeline Explained by Bryan Singer and Simon Kinberg
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Bryan Singer on the Villain’s Powers, Costume, and Casting Oscar Isaac
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': How Did They Decide Which Mutants to Include?
- ‘X-Men: Apocalypse': Michael Fassbender on Working with Oscar Isaac, Becoming a Horseman