From left: Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, and Tony Revolori. Photography by Nicholas Maggio.
Styling by Alison Brooks. Hair: Steven Mason at Exclusive Artists. Makeup: Agostina at Exclusive Artists. Shameik: Jacket by Topman. Kiersey: Dress by Alice & Olivia. Jewelry by Les Pommettes. Tony: T-shirt by Gents. Jacket by Tommy Hilfiger.
Shameik Moore thinks in big, cinematic terms. The triple threat, who started dancing and singing at 12 before pursuing an acting career, is busy creating music videos and an album, 30058 (named for the ZIP code of his hometown of Lithonia, Ga.), but he has other names for both. "I don't want to call them music videos anymore," says Moore, 20. "I want to call them movies -- music movies. And I'm calling 30058 a soundtrack instead of an EP or an album -- it's my soundtrack."
Brimming with confidence, Moore registers as the next phase of Malcolm, his character in Rick Famuyiwa's shrewd new satire, Dope. In the Sundance hit, Malcolm starts off as a prudish geek, but after guiding his two best friends (played by Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori) on an unlikely quest to sell scads of Molly to pay off a shady debt, he emerges a self-made rebel and a learned figure of assertive cool. "I think playing Malcolm helped me find myself," Moore says. "I've always been good with knowing who I am, but it went even further when I was seeing my dreams manifested."
Before Dope, Moore was making a name for himself on YouTube, posting song and dance videos, often with his pal and fellow performer Jacob Latimore. His music got more serious ("Back It Up" is the best hip-hop banger you've never heard), and you might say he willed his audience to him, per his own philosophy. "I believe we attract whatever we want to attract," Moore says. "I used to say things like, 'I wanna be on TV.' Then I ended up getting a few TV show opportunities. It was cool, but it was still preparation -- it was my beginning."
Clemons comes from an institution that has churned out talent ranging from Ryan Gosling to Selena Gomez: Disney. The 21-year-old, who speaks with the frankness and wisdom of someone a decade her senior, appeared on the Disney Channel series Austin and Ally (from 2013 to 2014) and starred in last year's Disney Channel original movie Cloud 9. If Dope and Amazon Prime's Transparent, on which Clemons has a supporting role, mark a step toward meatier, more provocative material, Clemons simply considers herself lucky.
"To be honest, these are things I was blessed with," Clemons says. "I didn't really make a choice of 'I'm leaving Disney now.' It kind of just happened gradually. And I don't think my 10-year-old sister can watch Transparent, but I am part of these projects that are spreading great messages and awareness. I was showing children positivity with each episode of Austin and Ally. I've just moved on to teaching lessons to young adults and older adults."
In Dope, Clemons's character, Diggy, is queer, and shown cozying up with girls, but her orientation is never really acknowledged beyond that. In fact, you might just watch the film and miss who Diggy digs. "I didn't want you to look at her and think, Oh, she looks like a lesbian," Clemons says. "That doesn't make sense to me. I don't think you can look like a lesbian. That's like taking a character and thinking, How am I going to make her come off straight?"
The topic of race is addressed more explicitly in Dope, particularly with regard to when it's OK to use the N-word -- and who can use it. White stoner hacker Will (Blake Anderson), for instance, doesn't have Diggy's blessing in dropping the N-bomb, but it's acceptable for Jib (Revolori) to do it, perhaps because he's simply not white (Revolori has Guatemalan roots; Jib doesn't specify).
"I absolutely loved [that element]," says Revolori, 19. "And I enjoyed how this movie addressed the 'white Hollywood' issue without shoving it down your throat."
Revolori's big break came playing lobby boy Zero Moustafa in last year's The Grand Budapest Hotel, and his involvement with Dope suggests he's carving out a path for himself in more auteur fare. It also marks the second time he's won a role over his brother, actor Mario Revolori, who read for both Grand Budapestand Dope. "He's fine and working steadily," Revolori insists. As is Tony, having recently attended Sundance for Dope and Umrika, an India-set adventure that snatched the world cinema dramatic audience award and was nominated for a grand jury prize. Dope was up for one, too, and won the editing award. Revolori, like Clemons, thinks the way subjects such as sexual orientation are tackled is one reason the film is impressing audiences. "It's all just more of a normality for us now," he says. "It's part of our lives."
Dope opens in theaters June 19. Watch the trailer below: