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‘Dope’ Star Shameik Moore Talks Sundance Stardom, Working With Pharrell

Shameik Moore, now 20, has been making music since he was 13, and dancing since even before that. Growing up in Atlanta, he booked a few acting gigs, including a role on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” before scoring the lead in Rick Famuyiwa’s Sundance-born, Cannes-blessed caper “Dope,” being released June 19 by Open Road.

How has “Dope” changed your life?

They said I was a “Sundance sensation” before I even got there. When I got off the plane, there were people waiting with pictures of me. That’s the first time that’s ever happened. Before that, I stayed in Atlanta doing my music. On “Dope,” my manager sent me the audition (which I taped in Atlanta). Three weeks later, we were recording with Pharrell.

What was it like working with Pharrell?

Pharrell is a person who has influenced the world. I see myself in him, so I said, “You’re an alpha, and I’m an alpha, and I want to be able to express myself in every way, like you do.” He told me to read (Paulo Coelho’s) “The Alchemist,” and said, “We’ll talk after that.” I read it three times.

In the movie, you play Malcolm, a cool nerd in a tough neighborhood. Where does that character come from?

Rick (Famuyiwa) is from Inglewood. Since he creates things from what he knows, I’d look at him and pick up his mannerisms. He’s a cool brother, but he has these really geeky moments. The way he nods, or how Malcolm says “yeah” or “oh sh-t.” Those are Rick moments.

And what’s next for you?

Everything I do, I put my full heart into. I don’t want to be just another actor, another singer, another artist. I want to invent history. Musically, I have my project, “30058.” It’s seven songs, like an EP or mixtape, but I call it a soundtrack because I feel like my life is a movie, and all the songs are moments in my life.

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