Whip­ping up a Storm in the lat­est X-Men movie.

The young Storm bring­ing a wind of change to X-Men: Apocalypse

SFX - - Contents - Words by Ian Ber­ri­man /// Photography by Luke Duval

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.

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