Hulu recently partnered with the legendary rap group The Wu-Tang Clan to release the upcoming scripted series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga.
The Quintessential Gentleman had the opportunity to speak with two of the show’s leading cast members Shameik Moore (who plays Raekwon the Chef) and Johnell Young (who plays GZA the Genius) about their experiences and why this is such an important story to be told.
How did you prepare for your role?
JY: GZA is a very spiritually intune guy who didn’t talk much, but when he did, it was very powerful. I studied him on YouTube. The way he spoke, the way he rapped and his mannerisms. I also got help while on set from Shawn C, who is their DJ. He helped me get into that GZA flow. I also met and spoke with GZA over the phone. I thank God for the opportunity to play this role.
SM: The process for me has been beautiful because I am playing a person who is still alive. It’s more accuracy than creativity. The other roles I played were more my adaptation of a character but with this role, Raekwon, I’m being him. It wasn’t necessarily more challenging; it was just a different task. I met him in person over dinner and attended a few of Wu-Tang’s concerts. I recorded audio messages so I could sound like him and would even send him videos of me with my grills in practicing his face and mannerisms. He would get on the phone to talk me through the different scenes, giving me more background just in case I may have missed anything.
What is something you’ve learned about yourself throughout this process?
SM: I am humbled by the experience. I’m not full yet. People sit down at the table and are happy to be at the table. Some people get the appetizer and are good with that, some may get the meal and are good with that. I am the type to get the appetizer, the meal, the wine and take a second to get more. I stay hungry.
JY: One thing I learned about myself is that I am powerful, very powerful. My words hold a lot of power and I have to learn to start using them to my advantage and be careful with it. I am just now tapping into my own power and I noticed that is a similarity with me and GZA.
What is one thing you learned about the man behind the character you portrayed?
SM: One of the major things I learned about him will be revealed in the show. I learned more about myself playing young Raekwon. It was soul searching. Learning to get into character and playing the role accurately was something that I learned.
JY: When he comes in a room, his energy, his aura can change a room. Being able to learn who I was while carrying out the role opened my eyes. I learned techniques that I will end up using in future work.
Why Should everyone check out this series?
JY: It tells the story of a group of African American brothers who started off as enemies but were able to get through the conflicts and struggles and push their egos aside to come together to get their families and friends out of the hood and the bad environment they were in.
SM: I think people should take away the fact that separately we are strong but together we are stronger and I think that’s exactly what they are going to take away from it.
After watching the WU-Tang: An American Saga make sure to support Johnell and Shameik’s upcoming projects which include more acting, more music, and more greatness. Follow them on Instagram Shameik and Johnell.
The series was created and written by: The RZA, Alex Tse (Superfly), Executive Produced by The RZA and Method Man. On the series, Ghostface Killa, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa, GZA and the Estate of Ol’ Dirty Bastard were consulting producers. The series stars Shameik Moore and Johnell Young with Dave East, Joey Badass, Erika Alexander, Ashton Sanders, and more rounding out the cast.
Wu-Tang: An American Saga premieres on Hulu September 4th.