Shameik Moore on the Uniquely 'American Story' of Hulu's 'Wu-Tang'

CUL PS Shameik Moore
Shameik Moore. Benjo Arwas/Getty

For Shameik Moore, the story of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan is the essence of the "American story." Now that portrayal is coming to an end with the third and final season of Wu-Tang: An American Saga (Hulu, February 15). Moore plays Raekwon (aka Corey Woods), one of the group's founding members. "I think I took the character on because of RZA (aka Bobby Diggs, group founding member and series co-creator). I think I'd do anything he asked me, we just got that uncle/nephew bond." Moore says that the group's members began rapping because it was a matter of a life of crime or rap. "It wasn't given to them, they went and took it...they started rapping about that, making beats and through careful curation, the Wu-Tang Clan." Moore also enjoys how playing Raekwon shows his range. "Different projects show a drastically different side of me that makes you wonder who I really am and also follow the work to come." And with both acting and music projects in the pipeline, there's plenty more to come this year. "I'm popping out like I've never popped out before."


What's it like for the series to come to an end this year?

We can expect to see a little bit of the alpha energy in a different way as a unit, different kinds of disagreements, different kinds of battles, and unifying in a brotherly way. Like when you're already unified, you strengthen your bonds.

What did you respond to most about playing Raekwon, and how has he changed over the series?

I think I took the character on because of RZA. I think I'd do anything he asked me to do, we just got that uncle/nephew bond. The game for me is to be relatable through my art. Different projects show a drastically different side of me that makes you wonder who I really am and also follow the work to come. I think I was able to continue that playing Raekwon. I think I was able to show variations of the Raekwon color in my universe.

What sort of impact do you think playing this character has had on you as a performer?

I had to find where [Raekwon and I] were similar. I had to find the authenticity in me being Raekwon on the Hulu show and my take on who Raekwon is. With every character, I think I find that authenticity. The impact is that I have evolved. I've spent three or four years on this. I was 24, I think, or 23. I'm turning 28. So those are growing years right there. I feel like I've evolved. I'd love to do a mystery thriller, like psychological thriller next. Something really impactful and unique for the times. I'd love to do a love story. For me, the impact is I've evolved.

Shameik Moore on the Uniquely ‘American Story’
Shameik Moore as Raekwon in Hulu's 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga.' Jeong Park/Hulu

Since you are a musician, how does that impact your work as an actor? Do you approach them similarly?

I think there is. I've always had a struggle auditioning, or learning lines, anything like that felt like school-related or studious, it seemed a little more challenging. And then when I had fun, and I was freestyling, it was way more impactful, natural, and I was able to learn that about my own craft. I learned that first as a dancer. In class, I'm the weakest link. It took forever to learn choreography. But you throw me in a dance battle, that's how I got my respect. That's how I got to these music videos. That's how casting directors started calling me for commercials. Same thing in acting classes, or even in the first auditions I did. There was some improvisation, I learned the lines, but that's a different game. I'm not an actor, actor. I got kicked out of acting school. I'm just not that kind of actor. I'm not that kind of dancer, either. I'm not that kind of singer or rapper, either. My soul has to be in it. I have to embody it. So I think the difference is, dancing-wise, I might not be learning choreography as well, but by the end of the day, I could do a crazy freestyle. Same thing with acting. I was able to learn how to learn my lines very quickly, because I usually don't study my lines until right before the scene so that it's coming out naturally. It took years to get to that place, because that's also why I was doing terrible in auditions. I wasn't studying for two weeks and then going to the audition like the rest of them, but as I practice my own method, I got good at it. I was able to get to where I was going, but I lost a lot of auditions en route to that.

For people brand-new to Wu-Tang, what about their story is so uniquely American? Why should they watch?

I mean, it's one of the most iconic groups of all time. RZA was a genius. He made deals that really revolutionized hip hop deals. He didn't approach it the way everybody else did. And I think that's why he and I connect so strongly, because I can never compare myself to another man, especially someone of his success and experience. I think it's an American story, because these guys got it out the mud. It wasn't given to them, they went and took it. And that's essentially how that time period was for Black Americans out there. If you didn't come up in a solid home, you had to go get your food, you have to get your money, your dad's not in the house, your mom's struggling to keep the lights on, you got homies on the corner, you gotta get some money in your pocket. You might take somebody's chain because if you don't do it, somebody might think you would and they might take your chain or whatever, that is the way it was. And they took that. They started rapping about that, making beats and through careful curation, the Wu-Tang Clan. I'm saying you had to be strong to be and you can't be soft, and they got to where they are because of that strength. And all the challenges within that strength and where they are I think is where this season comes in. It's like, you know, we love each other's family.

Shameik Moore on the Uniquely ‘American Story’
Shameik Moore as Raekwon in Hulu's 'Wu-Tang: An American Saga.' Vanessa Clifton/Hulu

What was it like for you to be the voice of Spider-Man, and can you give us any spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse?

Spoilers? I don't know, because I want my next job with him, you know? Playing Miles Morales has been like a pat on the back. I'm very spiritual. I'm a God-fearing man. So, let me go ahead and say that I feel like I spoke this into existence. I wrote it in my journal and it happened, and I feel like it's a pat on the back from God. The movie, being as successful as it was the first time around, was can never really know, it was an animated film, I didn't know how they were animating it, I did the very best I could in the booth because I wanted to be a live-action Miles Morales. I got the opportunity to be the voice, so I'm gonna give the best the best voice performance I could ever possibly give for Miles Morales. And that's what I did. And then the movie was successful. So it's the same thing this time around, they stuck by me, which I appreciate.

Do you have any music in the works?

I've been working on music since before Dope. I've made countless mixtapes, EPs, albums that just never came out. All that to say 2023 is the year my clip is loaded. I took my time putting each bullet in the clip and now taking aim. I'm just being real strategic, making sure I see it's my target. I'm breathing, taking my time. In 2023, to answer your question, I'm definitely, I'm popping out like I've never popped out before.

Listen to H. Alan Scott on Newsweek's Parting Shot. Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Twitter: @HAlanScott