It’s fitting that Zachary Levi still feels like he’s living out a childhood fantasy in DC’s Shazam! series. His character is the grown-up version of a child (Billy Batson) who’s magically turned into an adult superhero.
“Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamt about being an actor, and I get to do that. Also ever since I was a little kid, I dreamt of being a superhero, so it’s two birds in one stone,” Levi, 42, told us at the Los Angeles press day for Shazam! Fury of the Gods, his new follow-up to DC’s 2019 hit Shazam! (Watch below.)
“Not only that, but I was a massive fan of Tom Hanks in Big and Christopher Reeve in Superman. And this role really gets to kind of bring both of those things together. And it makes it a very unique superhero. More unique than most of the other ones I can think of, to be honest. And it’s so much fun. I get to tap into my man-child self and just go have fun every day at work with a lovely group of people.”
This time that group includes Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu and Rachel Zegler, who collectively play the Daughters of Atlas — mythical beings who turn up to avenge the deaths of their godly ancestors and retrieve weaponry that could destroy the earthly realm. (The Daughters are new characters created for the screen who never appeared in DC comic books.)
“I was so excited about the DC aspect of it,” says Liu, 54. “And being a part of it in a different way, coming in as a goddess and not being associated with any particular superheroes. Because it just kind of leaves the door open for us to be creative.”
It’s a return to the action realm for Liu, whose best-known roles have been of the butt-kicking variety in the Charlie’s Angels movies (2000-03), Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and The Man With the Iron Fists (2012).
“This is the first time I didn’t have to do any formal training,” says Liu, whose character Kalypso has the power to mind-control mortals by whispering into their ears. “I could come in and just sort of be improvisational and go with it in that sense.”
Zegler (West Side Story), 21, admits she’s inspired by her action-experienced costar, and often recreates her famous “no” scene from Charlie’s Angels. “I would love to be referenced in as many songs as Lucy Liu,” says Zegler, referencing the Liu name-drops in tracks like Destiny’s Child “Independent Women” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya.”
Returning for Fury of the Gods are Asher Angel (as teenage Billy) and Jack Dylan Grazer (as Billy’s best friend, Freddy Freeman, who also gained the power to turn into an adult superhero, played by Adam Brody at the end of the first movie), both now seasoned pros compared to when they first cast in late 2017.
Says Angel, 20: “I think I’m more aware now. Back then I was so young. I was 15 years old, it was all happening so fast, stepping onto this huge set with all these people and all these moving parts. … But during the second film I really got to be in the moment and recognize everything that’s happening and just take it all in. It was way different for me.”
“I’m still learning the ropes,” admits Grazer, 19, who has also been seen in the Stephen King-based It movies and the indie thriller Don’t Tell a Soul. “I’m having a lot of fun. I get to self-express. I get to live my dream — this is a dream come true, to be in a DC movie is awesome. It was refreshing. It was the perfect hybrid between refreshing and nostalgic. To hang out with my best friend Asher and the rest of the cast. And also introduced an incredible cast of empowering women.”
Also new for round two: costume upgrades for Levi and the Shazam family (like Freddy, his four other foster brothers and sisters have powers in the sequel).
At San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, Levi made headlines when he told us what a struggle it was to relieve himself in full costume, so much so that he needed an assistant to use the facilities. Naturally we had to ask if bathroom breaks got easier with a new and improved suit.
“Well, no, it’s the same kind of situation,” Levi said, before once again getting very explicit in detail. “There are zippers that are way down in your taint area, and then you have to unzip those to kind open up a cod piece. But I got really good at being able to do it myself, so I wasn’t always like in stirrups getting a Pap smear, which is what it was a lot of the time [on the first movie].
“I was a big boy! I was able to unzip myself all by myself. But when it came to dropping a deuce, you still need somebody to help you get outta the suit. Because you had to take the whole suit off. You cannot eat [whatever you want]. You gotta stay away from a lot of chili. It’s just not good.”
Liu and Zegler had much easier experiences with their Daughters of Atlas costumes, which they assured us are not as heavy as they look.
“It did the trick,” says Liu. “And it made us feel like goddesses. And also warriors.”
“And they are made with easy on-off [capabilities] in mind,” Zegler adds. “Though you can’t do it yourself.”
Shazam! Fury of the Gods opens March 17.
Watch the trailer: