Alexandra Shipp is set to have her second film this month debut at the box office when “Shaft” arrives on June 14th. Shipp who currently stars as Storm in the recently released “Dark Phoenix” film, is playing the role of Sasha in the latest installment in the Shaft film series. Shipp chatted with The Knockturnal at New York City’s red Rooster about working with Samuel L. Jackson, and Jessie T. Usher as well as about her upcoming projects.
The Knockturnal: Can you describe your character Sasha and what attracted you to the character?
Alexandra Shipp: My character Sasha plays best friends with JJ played by Jessie T. Usher we grew up together in this little triad with our friend Karin. We grow up, we go our separate ways Kareem gets murdered, I’m a doctor, and after Karin passes away Jessie and I decide to team up (he’s FBI, I’m a doctor) and we team up to try and figure out what happened to our good friend.
The Knockturnal: Speaking of your role as a doctor often times when they portray black women in certain roles, being a doctor what do you think that says to the changing roles of black women in Hollywood?
Alexandra Shipp: Well you know what’s so nice, only in movies that are little bit more on the fubu side do you actually see a decent representation of diverse women in roles of authority. and so what I love about Tim Story and his vision about Sasha is that she could have been a nanny, she could have been working at someone’s house, she could have been, could have been, could have been. But what she was, was a queen, who she was was someone you would be lucky to bring home to your family. I wanted to hold on to that.
The Knockturnal: You’ve played strong characters such as Storm, would you say you brought that fire from the Storm character to your portrayal of Sasha?
Alexandra Shipp: Yes and no, yes because I think that fire is something that is in me that is hard for me to shake. I have yet to play a victim. But what I do love about Sasha is her confidence. I don’t think of Storm as necessarily as confident all the time just because she is a mutant but I do think Sasha is feeding herself. She’s feeding herself her own humble pie at times.
The Knockturnal: Can you talk about working with Samuel L Jackson and what that experience was like for you?
Alexandra Shipp: It was so much fun working with Sam because he is not only a really fantastic actor, but a really great person. It was nice to listen to him and see where his thoughts were and see where his head was at and what his mindset was. I really respect the shit out of him. So it was nice to be around him and see how he works. It’s not just rumors anymore, now I know the truth, now I know how he is on set.
The Knockturnal: Regina Hall was another co-star of yours on this film, can you describe the female connection of having another black actress in a leading role with you in the film.
Alexandra Shipp: I think it definitely did change the experience 100%. Me being the only black girl on set usually is a hard pill to swallow. But when I’m working opposite with someone like Regina or Luna Lauren Vélez, you work with these incredible women and you forget, you forget.
The Knockturnal: You have a few scenes where you really go in a get down with the action, how did you prepare for the action scenes?
Alexandra Shipp: It was a lot of me trying really hard to look like I’m actually getting hit, to look like I’m actually doing x, y and z. So it can be a little nerve wrecking but at the same time it was fun to be able to portray a character that is so strong and I would do some training with the stunt people and I made sure I knew exactly what I was doing physically so I could get there and really play emotionally.
The Knockurnal: What qualities about Jessie T. Usher symbolize Shaft?
Alexandra Shipp: He is so incredible, it makes total sense that he would be underneath this kind of Shaft umbrella. He is insanely physically fit. He did a lot of his stunts if not a majority of them and also a really really great guy. So it’s nice to work with someone who is not only great at their job but also a really great person.
The Knockturnal: Music plays a big part in the Shaft film series, can you talk about the music you listened to on set to put you in the Shaft mood.
Alexandra Shipp: It was a lot of Issac Hayes from the first movie I listened to but what was cool is we had his son Issac Jr. on set and so it was kind of cool to chat music with him, and hang out and vibe out, then we would chat politics and love and religion. The Hayes are a very educated people so it was nice to be around them.
The Knockturnal: Maxim named you Hollywood’s next best thing, can you speak about that?
Alexandra Shipp: It’s flattering, that someone would think I’m the next best thing. When you first come into acting you’re like she’s the next best thing and then ten, fifteen years later when you’re actually working and consistently booking people are like well she’s the next best thing. But you’re like but I’ve been here I’ve been around I didn’t think it was that serious but I’ll take it, give me the award I’ll be the next best thing every year every month. I’m fine with it.
The Knockturnal: What else do you have coming up next?
Alexandra Shipp: I have Shaft coming out June 14th, then at the top of next year I have a movie called Lexi coming out with CBS Films that is starring opposite Adam DeVine and it’s written and directed by the guys who wrote and directed The Hangover and Bad Moms. So it’s a funny comedy, it’s like a buddy comedy about this guy who is played by Adam DeVine , character’s name is Phil, his cell phone falls in love with him and decides she is gonna ruin his life.