Joivan Wade began his career starring in English television shows such as EasterEnders and later, Doctor Who. After much success from starring in The First Purge, Wade was cast at the iconic DC superhero Cyborg in Doom Patrol. The show just kicked off its second season, where it has now grown beyond its original platform, DC Universe, to HBO Max.
Wade also just created and starred in his latest short film, Hear Me. A spoken word piece on two different viewpoints of a shared experience during the ongoing quarantine. Starring Wade and his fellow actor David Bianchi, the short highlights the two poets’ visions in these such uncertain and unstable times. Writing, directing, acting – there is almost nothing that Wade hasn’t tackled. He is a true talent and strong voice within a rising wave of influential Black artists.
We were happy to sit down with Joivan Wade for an exclusive interview. We follow Wade’s path into being cast as Cyborg, Doom Patrol Season 2’s offerings, and his latest spoken word pieces relating to quarantine and the Black Lives Matter movement. Wade reflects on the current representation of Black superheroes in media and tells all for Cyborg fans.
So how did you first land the role of Cyborg in Doom Patrol?
JW: My first encounter with Cyborg, I was actually asked to audition for it on three occasions. Once from my US agent, once by my US manager, once by my UK agent – all times, I wasn’t interested in the role initially because it was too long for me to be away. Because it was eight months filming away from my media company. I didn’t feel like it was viable, but when The First Purge came out on the 4th of July in 2018, Greg Berlanti saw me in it and went back to my agent. He said that they weren’t ready to give up on me. They wanted to do a Skype call with himself and the showrunner. When I did that Skype call with them, I just fell in love with the project and kind of just decided, whatever happens, happens.
In Season 1, Cyborg goes through a lot of similar issues to what he does in the comics. Did you draw any inspiration from that original source material when creating your character?
JW: Yeah, I drew inspiration from all aspects of Vic Stone, Cyborg from the comics. From Cyborg in comics like Rebirth, New 52, Teen Titans, to then looking at the actual TV shows. The early 2000’s Teen Titans on Cartoon Network also to Justice League, the most recent movie, and also Teen Titans Go!. So I kind of took all of the different variations and things in which I enjoyed about Cyborg, or that I wanted to bring to my Cyborg. Also, I left a bunch of things that didn’t really resonate with me or my portrayal of the character.
Did you have any prior relation to Cyborg? Did you know about him before you went into this project?
JW: Yeah, I knew about him. I’ve been a big Teen Titans fan since I was a kid, from watching Teen Titans to reading the comic books – to just being involved in that world in general as a kid growing up. I was very familiar with Cyborg from a very young age.
Cyborg is definitely one of the most notable Black superheroes, having appeared in many forms of media. What are your thoughts on the representation of Black superheroes in comic book films and television?
JW: I think there’s not enough. I think for us to be in a position where Cyborg is the biggest black superhero of the DC world, but even as you cross over into Marvel as well and superheroes period, he’s definitely top three. I mean, you think about what other superhero is there, that has more notoriety than Cyborg… maybe Miles Morales, the Black Spider-Man only of recent. Outside of that, there aren’t really huge, strong Black superheroes. You’ve got Falcon, but has he ever been regarded as a massive superhero, before the Avengers and seeing this representation of it? Probably not. So I don’t think there’s enough. I think that this is a step in the right direction and I also believe that I have a responsibility to push that narrative. I’m actually really pleased that we have Cyborg on television and that I’m able to portray him.
To switch gears to Season 2 of Doom Patrol, which just launched, what can you tell us about the arc Cyborg is going through this season?
JW: Well, it’s all about growing up this season. For all the characters and for Cyborg, growing up means to tackle his fears and essentially deal with his PTSD. Cyborg goes on a journey in order to do that. To try and understand what he’s going through, resolve for his PTSD. In so, we get to touch on a few of the things we highlighted in Season 1, in terms of him trying to find love. That is something that accentuates and builds throughout Season 2. Alongside that, he’s using his team-building and leadership skills in order to help out Rita [April Bowlby], who is trying to become a superhero and understand what it takes. Vic takes it upon himself to start training her and help her realize that dream.
The second season is also debuting on HBO Max, meaning that there will be even more eyeballs watching the show this time around. What can established fans expect from this season now that more people will be watching? Will there be further seasons?
JW: Well, we never know if there’s going to be another season until that season airs and they see how it does. So no idea, that’s beyond my pay packet. But yes, I think we’re really excited about the premise of HBO Max, what it’s doing, and the exposure it’s going to give us and is giving us currently with Season 1. There’s definitely been a new-found audience and more people have found the show now for sure. What’s imperative is that the show just delivers in Season 2. It’s going to be even more fun, even more wacky and wild than Season 1.
The fans can look forward to that. We’re going to be getting more of the same, but now that we’ve got all the kind of character development and setting up out, it’s going to be really exciting for us to be able to embark on this Season 2, to journey with the addition of Dorothy Spinner played by Abigail Shapiro. She is phenomenal in the series and there’s a new-found energy that gets brought to the series. I’m really looking forward to everyone seeing it.
Well, it sounds really great. We can’t wait to see more of Season 2.
JW: Wicked. Thank you man.
Recently you released this new short film titled Hear Me. It’s a very powerful film. Can you tell us a bit about your writing and creation process on this?
JW: I have a huge passion for spoken word and it’s something that I dabbled in. I did a short film about a year and a bit ago now. I’ve always loved spoken word and it’s an opportunity for me to express in a different creative process to what I do with filmmaking and acting. I just wanted to touch on that. Spoken word is very much about a message and I felt compelled to share a message about the coronavirus, quarantine, and the pandemic that we’re in. That process is actually something I shot in my back garden and in my house alongside my friend, David Bianchi.
My process is essentially, I go away, write, and just think about what I want to say. It usually takes me for like what a minute of spoken word would take about 15, 20 minutes to write and it usually flows pretty well. I actually have another piece that’s coming out. I did a raw piece, a raw version of it on Instagram recently, which was about Black Lives Matter. But I’ve got a whole short film that’s coming, a spoken word short film about that very subject – staged from the piece that I released just recently about Black Lives Matter. Spoken word, I love it and it’s something that I’m going to be doing a lot more of. I’m looking forward to everyone seeing it.
In relation to that, you have your YouTube channel that you’ve launched. Can you tell us a bit about the content you plan to post there?
JW: What that’s about is, I’ve constantly had DMs from actors asking me for advice, asking me for their opinion on something. It gets to the point where there’s just so many that I can’t get back to everyone individually, and I really wanted to help people. So I started this channel to be able to essentially share a perspective that I didn’t feel was given to young and working actors, something they can relate to. You know, I’m a young boy from South London, I didn’t grow up with much money. I now own property in LA and am working in Hollywood. This can hopefully be inspiration for any filmmakers, whether it be actors, directors, or whatever is. Creating these videos is me trying to essentially put all of my knowledge in one space, so that these young filmmakers can have access to that. And then I can help them build towards their career and hopefully see them in similar positions to myself, if not surpass me.
This would be a great help for a lot of them. Some really great content. I watched a few of the videos and they are really entertaining and very informative.
JW: Thank you!
Circling back to Doom Patrol, we talked about the fact that Cyborg is in multiple mediums now, we have TV, film, comic books, and obviously you’re on TV. But on film there is Ray Fisher, did you ever get a chance to speak to Ray about his experience playing cyborg?
JW: I haven’t actually. Literally just watching the film. I also don’t like to take too much influence from other actors or people who have portrayed another role. As an actor, it’s very sacred – your version or your interpretation of the character. I didn’t want to be too influenced. There was so much material out there for the character that it was more than enough. I haven’t had any conversation with Ray specifically about it, but I did watch his interpretation and kind of took the things that resonated with me. I also left out things that didn’t resonate for my version of the character. There were things I had to stay away from and to kind of use that alongside all of the other materials to compose my character.
To cap it off, are there any upcoming projects that you would like to make our audience aware of?
JW: Not specifically. There’s a lot in the pipeline at the moment, but nothing I can speak about specifically. I’m developing a bunch of TV projects. I’m working on a movie that I’m writing alongside my business partner and co-star Percelle Ascott. It’s a movie that will star the two of us. Other than that, I can’t really give too many more details, but I’m constantly developing, constantly creating, and I can’t wait for the world to see the next piece.