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Spider-Verse’s Shameik Moore on the power of representation

Spider-Verse 2 challenges the notion that "anyone can wear the mask" so we spoke to Shameik Moore and Hailee Steinfeld about that shocking idea.

MIles Morales and Gwen Stacy loom large on the Across the Spider-Verse poster

“Anyone can wear the mask.” This was the message of 2018’s Into The Spider-Verse. On the surface, it’s a simple statement about the quirk of fate that gave Peter Parker his incredible superpowers, but it’s also so much more than that.

It’s a reminder that Spider-Man is much more than just his powers and that anyone, whether they can climb walls or leap over buildings in a single bound, is capable of doing great things if given a chance. More than that, it’s also a bold affirmation that Spider-Man isn’t just a white guy from Queens. He can be any race, gender, religion, or even (in the case of Spider-Ham) species.

Indeed the way Spider-Verse dealt with representation in pop culture in such a progressive and sensitive way won it many fans across the globe. Now, though, there’s a new Spider-Man movie in town, Across the Spider-Verse (check out our Across the Spider-Verse review here), and it takes those initial themes and ramps them up to 11 by introducing almost every type of Spidey you can imagine.

For Shameik Moore, who plays Earth-1610’s one and only Spider-Man, Miles Morales, the diversity on display is one of the best things about the animated movie. “I think [Spider-Verse 2] reflects the world that we live in,” he told The Digital Fix when we sat down to have a chat about the new movie. “I think that’s one of the coolest things about this film. I think it’s cool that there is [a Spider-Man] that looks like you… but there’s also [a Spider-Man] that looks like me, you know?”

Hailee Steinfeld, better known as Earth-65’s Gwen Stacy, aka Spider-Woman, agreed with her co-star, adding how lucky she feels to work on something that’s changed how people think about superheroes. “It feels so amazing. I feel very lucky to be a part of something that does reach so far and wide,” Steinfeld explained. “One of the coolest things is the way that this has connected me to the people, and young girls specifically. It’s so special to see that they feel like they see themselves in my character in this film.”

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For Moore, part of the secret of the film’s success is that it’s not about tearing each other down. It’s about building each other up. “We didn’t change Peter into me, you know? Miles was able to learn from Peter,” he continued. “I think I think that’s super. That is what makes it so special.” Unfortunately, for Miles and Gwen, there is someone trying to tear them down: Miguel O’Hara, or you probably know him as Spider-Man 2099.

In Spider-Verse 2, Miguel accuses Miles of not being worthy of the mantle and essentially stealing another worthier Spidey’s opportunity. It’s a big moment in the movie that galvanizes Miles into finally realizing that he needs to write his own story, not just repeat the “canon events” of his multiversal counterparts. Still, I was curious how Moore felt about it especially considering the vocal minority online who don’t believe that the character of Miles Morales is the real Spider-Man.

MIles Morales and Gwen Stacy loom large on the Across the Spider-Verse poster

Unsurprisingly, Moore, like the character he plays, seemed unfazed by it. “No one can tell you what you are,” he smiled. “You have to tell yourself, and you have to tell everybody else what you are and who you are.” So what does Moore want people to take away from Spider-Verse 2? “I hope people take away that you can wear the mask, and you are wearing the mask already.” That sounds like a good lesson to us.

If you want to read more about the new Spider-Verse film. We’ve got a how-to-watch Across the Spider-Verse guide, a breakdown of the Across the Spider-Verse ending, a rundown of the Spider-Verse 2 cast, and explained what exactly Earth-42 is.

If you want to know more about the upcoming films and TV shows featuring the Web-Head, we’ve also got guides breaking down everything you need to know about the Spider-Man 4 release date, the Venom 3 release date, and the Spider-Man Freshman Year release date. That’s a lot of info to swing through!