Whipping up a Storm in the latest X-Men movie.
The young Storm bringing a wind of change to X-Men: Apocalypse
channel the buzz that Alexandra Shipp obviously feels about joining the X-Men cast into electricity and you wouldn’t need any visual effects boffins to add the lightning bolts – she’d be firing them out of her fingertips. Stepping into the shoes of Halle Berry’s weather goddess, in X-Men: Apocalypse she portrays a young Storm very different from the mature mutant previously seen in the movies: a homeless kid, living by her wits on the streets of 1983 Cairo. She looks different from her predecessor too – like her ’80s comics counterpart, rocking a fan-pleasing silver mohawk that required Shipp to get out the clippers (when we talk, she’s managed to grow back “a little bit of peach fuzz”). It’s a significant step up for Shipp, who confesses to having had a total “nerd brain freeze” her first day on set. “It was just surreal. I was so blown away by the whole situation.” Hang on, Alexandra – shouldn’t it be you doing the blowing away?
After you got the role of Storm, did you do much research into the character?
For me, it was imperative that I learned her past. I wanted to read all the comics. I grew up watching the cartoon, but I rewatched it – I was like, “I’ve got to get my facts right!” So I studied really hard, because I wanted to give the fans the young Storm that they’ve been waiting for. Shoot, I grew up watching these movies, and I’m like, “Hell yeah, we’re doing young Storm? We get to see where she came from?” She’s an iconic character. And for me, growing up as an African-American, the fact that a superhero looked like me was just everything. There are so few roles for women of colour in films, and when I was growing up, that meant so much. I loved Wonder Woman. I loved Catwoman – I liked how crazy and fly she was. But they didn’t necessarily look like me. Watching X-Men… it confirmed that I could be super, that I could have powers. Because there’s someone out there doing it and they look like me.
Did the fact that you were following in Halle Berry’s footsteps make it particularly daunting?
Oh yeah, of course. There were three months where I was like, “I don’t know if I can do it.” Then I had to take a step back and be like, “Hold on, this is just a different representation of her. It can’t be as daunting as I’m making it out to be.”
The Storm mohawk: it’s a wig, right?
Yeah, they would shave my head down to the skin, then they’d glue a mohawk on.
So what was it like the day you had all your hair cut off ?
I threw a head-shaving party! It was really fun. Two days before I was going to leave, I texted all of my friends and was like, “Be at my house, Saturday night, stroke of midnight.” I bought a whole bunch of vodka. I set up a camera in my living room. My friends all showed up and I was like, “Guys, everyone here knows that I’ve got X-Men, and we’re all really excited. Now I need you to shave my fucking head!” I had 30 people in my apartment, and everyone came up and shaved a little piece of my head. Then afterwards, my little brother shaved it all down so I didn’t look like a plucked chicken. It was the best way to do it, to be drunk with my friends and everyone just shaving a piece! And the mohawk was so awesome. If I could have a silver mohawk, I would still have the frickin’ mohawk on my head right now.
On set, did you have any moments that made you think, “I can’t believe I get to do this for a living”?
When I was flying! It was so much fun. I was 50 feet in the air, on the wires, bombs are supposed to be going off and I’m zig-zagging around. I was like, “This is the best job I could ask for”. Y’know, my entire life, I’ve had dreams about flying. So it was really fun to actually fly in real life. I was like, “Oh, this is awesome. This is cool. I get it now!”
Assuming you get to come back as young Storm in future films, is there anything you’d like to see them do with the character?
There’s a few comics I read where Mystique and Storm were friends. I would love to have that aspect, before Mystique goes off and becomes, quote unquote, “evil”. I think it would be really beautiful to touch on. Right now, Mystique is kind of the matriarch of the X-Men. When she goes off, Storm replaces her. But I want people to see a different aspect of that. If they do something like that, I have a few ideas!
X-Men: Apocalypse is in cinemas now.