Ray Fisher fought his way to the top of Hollywood, one hit at a time. The Baltimore native was introduced to theatre at Haddon Heights High School, later becoming active in his church choir and the school's theatre program. After graduation, Fisher made his way to New York City to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. He continued to pursue the stage, playing legendary characters including Tim Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird, the Duke of Burgundy in King Lear and Muhammad Ali in the Off-Broadway production of Fetch Clay, Make Man. At 26 years-old, Fisher debuted as the young Ali in a 1965 drama fictionalizing an unlikely bond between two black icons: heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali and vilified comic Stepin Fetchit. His portrayal of Ali brought in strong reviews, a charismatic performance with live-wire physicality that seamlessly showcased his panoramic gifts. Fisher transformed himself in every dimension (including putting on 20 pounds of muscle), exemplar of the actor's range and ambitious charge. Needless to say, his performance was a knockout. As fortune would have it, he didn't box himself into a corner after this role.
Fisher made his big-screen debut in the DC cinematic universe as Cyborg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The character was later reprised in Justice League where he was in company with a star-studded ensemble including Gal Gadot, Jason Mamoa, Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, and Willem Dafoe. Fisher impresses as Cyborg, a superhero with extensive artificial limbs and implants installed in his body. He presents an intensely complex man-machine that is fascinatingly relatable while provoking a surging indignation for his unique adversities. In 2020, Fisher will be revisiting the role again—Cyborg will be featured in a solo DC movie. As the leading man, we can anticipate more of Fisher’s dynamism and remarkable aptness. Yet, he continues to prove his career incarnates a deeply compelling paradox, underlining his sterling aspiration and fastidious approach to taking on new characters. In his latest project, Fisher rounds out the cast of True Detective as Henry Hays, staring alongside Mahershala Ali, Carmen Ejogo and Stephen Dorff. This third installment goes back to form, telling the story of an unsolved macabre crime in the middle of the Ozarks. As this piece is being written, only two episodes of the new season have aired. All we can say is, "so good".
With these brilliant performances locked into his dossier, from Muhammad Ali to DC comic book superhero, we can anticipate whatever Fisher does next will deliver a cinematic punch.
Most people don't know you grew up studying theatre. What drew you to the stage?
What drew me to the stage initially was simply a desire to perform. I had always enjoyed performance so when I got the opportunity to start performing in theatre in my high school I readily welcomed it. Ever since then it has been an inseparable part of my life.
What did you learn from theatre that you've been able to take with you transitioning into film and television?
I learned how to manage my energy. When rehearsing a play you usually are in the rehearsal process for eight hours a day, six days a week. It takes a certain kind of stamina and endurance to maintain focus for that duration of time and I think that’s what most prepared me for the inevitably long hours that you encounter on film and television shoots.
If you could go back to that time and give yourself one piece of advice knowing what you know now, what would it be?
Knowing what I know now, I would tell myself keep going, you’re on the right track.
You played Muhammad Ali in the off-Broadway production of Fetch Clay, Make Man. In playing such an iconic figure, how do you embody Muhammad Ali while making it your own?
You do your research, luckily Muhammad Ali was not a shy individual so I had a lot of material about him to work from. What’s important is that you don’t imitate but rather use your natural abilities to bring the essence of that person to the forefront. That’s what I tried to do.
Fetch Clay, Make Man takes place in a tense political and racial atmosphere. How do you think this is relevant in today's political climate and what can we learn from this story?
I think the apparent relevance and similarities are as disturbing as they are numerous. Our world has a social history of changing very slowly—I hope that the access to information we now have will give us all a better understanding and more acceptance of one another.
Most of us recognize you from your role as Cyborg in Justice League (also your torso in Batman Vs Superman). What was it like going into the world of DC Comics?
It was a childhood dream come true. I was welcomed with open arms by Zack Snyder, Chris Terrio and the entire cast and crew. It really made me feel like I was home. I’m hoping that at some point in the future we’ll able to jump back in.
For those who aren't familiar with the storyline, your character Victor Stone (Cyborg) was brutally attacked by a mutant creature and your father saved your life by installing artificial limbs and implants into your body. Because this wasn't his choice, how do you think Victor Stone/Cyborg conciliates being equal parts human and machine?
I don’t think he has. I think that’s what his journey is about—finding a new normal... and I think that makes for great storytelling.
On the topic of technology, we noticed you like to have fun with fans on your Instagram. What is it like to have such an amazing and dedicated following?
It’s humbling and I’m glad that I can provide some semblance of entertainment for the people who support what i do. It really does make a world of difference having passionate people who want you to succeed.
It must have been such a great time working with the cast and crew of Justice League. Can you share with us one of your favorite behind-the-scenes moments?
My favorite behind the scenes moments were actually all the great conversations, stories and jokes we got to share with one another. They may be too many to name.
We are so excited to hear Cyborg will have his own film in 2020. From Crazy, Rich Asians to Black Panther, we are finally starting to see people of color taking leading roles in Hollywood. What is this experience like for you?
We’ve had POC lead films in the past, but it’s great to witness the paradigm shifting more significantly. With that though, comes a longing for the day where having a person of color, or any underrepresented group, in a leading role isn’t seen as a commodity.
Your latest role is on the hit HBO crime anthology True Detective. Please, tell us all your secrets, we need to know everything about this.
Sorry, no can do. I can't say anything on that front but what I can tell you is that you’re going to love it.
We've a few episodes of the new True Detective and it's creepy. What do you do to detach from such a heavy project?
I’m pretty good at separating myself from the work once it’s finished. Usually the darker the material the faster I let it go. You don’t really want that kind of cloud hanging over you longer than you need it to.
As you can tell, we cannot wait to binge on the entire season of True Detective. What have you been binging on lately?
I don’t usually binge, but when I do it's more animation than anything else, like The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Futurama etc.
What's next for you? If you could have your pick of any kind of genre to work in next, what would it be?
I’m figuring out what my next move is. I follow my gut when it comes to the work, and luckily, it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.
Thanks so much, Ray Fisher. Last but not least, what do you think makes someone a superhero?
In a nutshell, I think what makes someone a superhero is their ability to sacrifice of themselves to better the lives of others, particularly if they don’t personally have anything to gain.