Cast Of ‘Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse’ Opens Up About Real-Life Superheroes

How do you follow up “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” an Oscar-winning best-animated feature that grossed over $380 million? Almost two weeks into its theatrical release, the highly-acclaimed sequel to the franchise, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, has instantly become a blockbuster hit, shattering box office records and skyrocketing to the top spot.

With an ensemble voice cast, including Issa Rae as Spider-woman Jessica Drew, Luna Lauren Velez as Rio Morales and Brian Tyree Henry as Jeff Morales, BLACK ENTERPRISE sat down with these spidey superheroes to talk about the preparation for bringing their animated characters to the big screen, real-life parallels and the strength and empowerment their on-screen characters exemplified which has resonated with audiences worldwide.


In tackling your role, what would you say your character taught you about yourself?

Luna Lauren Velez: I based Rio [Morales] on my mom, and I hoped to be the same parent my mom was. It taught me what it takes to raise a young man. You have to give up in some ways, a part of yourself and a part of your life, to help, specifically this young Afro-Latino man, to make sure he navigates his way in the world confidently. Also, ensuring that he knows he’s loved and has the power to be anything he wants because it lies within himself. That realization that you can, as a human being, help someone understand their own power is really what I’ve learned in this movie.



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In your eyes, who was your real-life superhero growing up?

Issa Rae: My mom, and as I’ve grown, she has been a constant staple. But then I think about so many of my teachers. I have several superhero teachers who have been absolutely amazing, especially when you think about how undervalued they are. I would not be here without so many of my incredible teachers.


The impact of teachers is so invaluable, and they don’t get the credit they deserve, but they have a tremendous effect on many people’s lives.

IR: They are taken for granted, and the good ones will literally make your life. I think about so many of the teachers from my past, and so much of the encouragement I’ve received with what I’m doing today has come from the foundation of the best teachers. 

What did you learn and love the most about voicing Jeff Morales’ character? 

Brian Tyree Henry: I learned from Jeff that he’s very kind, loving, funny, and loves his wife. Watching his son grow up, he’s also discovering many things about himself. There’s also that brotherhood connection between him and his late brother, a sense of responsibility. But I also tried to portray him as the father I wish I had seen while watching films like this. In hindsight, movies like this didn’t exist. When I get a chance to play a Black father, I want to make sure the portrayal is relatable and obtainable and what I wish I had seen because I didn’t receive a lot of those reflections. I didn’t have many Jeffs, so I wanted there to be kindness to him.

There are also these moments where you see him not knowing what to do. There’s a wonderful scene between him and Spider-Man talking on a pier where he asks, “My son, what would you do? I wish I could reach him, and I don’t know.” It’s so beautiful because he is talking to this person who is his son, and he doesn’t know that, but he’s still trying to figure out a way to reach him. I want there always to be that kind of wonder, and that’s what I loved the most about playing Jeff. 


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From your perspective, what makes a real-life superhero?

IR: A real-life superhero has selflessness and a genuine desire to make the world better. Through their acts of kindness and consideration, I know many real-life superheroes, and I admire that.


What steps did you take to fully understand the depth and importance of your character in this story?

IR: Thankfully, I didn’t have to do as much research because I am such a big fan, and so much of the Spider-Man universe is embedded in my core. But for my character in particular, I could ask the filmmakers directly because this was a hybrid creation of Jessica Drew and Spider-Women. Internalizing their intentions and thinking about the film’s mission really helped inform my performance.

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