Nobody told Ray Fisher the plan. The 27-year-old had no idea he was set to explode into Hollywood movie stardom, top-lining as the title character in a Cyborg movie set for release in 2020. In fact, producers called the New Jersey-born theater actor on Oct. 15 with the heads-up only hours before Warner Bros. publicly revealed its slate of mega-budget superhero movies tied to the DC Cinematic Universe—Wonder Woman, The Justice League, Suicide Squad, and Shazam among them.
“I didn’t know the extent to which DC and WB had planned on taking my character,” says Fisher, who was hired in March to cameo as Cyborg in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. “When I signed on, I just wanted to be part of this world. But that specific information, I found out then and there. I didn’t think I’d be getting my own stand-alone film.”
Now, Fisher ranks as the first African-American to score a non-ensemble superhero flick since Will Smith’s booze-swilling screw-up vigilante Hancock in 2008. Not bad for a classically trained actor and veteran of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey with precisely zero feature film roles to his credit.
After packing on nearly 20 pounds of muscle—swelling from a relatively svelte 193 pounds to a ripped 212—to portray Muhammad Ali in the off-Broadway play Fetch Clay, Make Man last year, the 6-foot-4 Fisher began generating industry interest.
“Once we were in previews, Ang Lee came to see the show,” he says. “One of his next projects is a 3-D boxing movie about Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. So he’s scouting for people to play Ali in this film. Ang and I meet to talk about his ideas for the project and it’s all very interesting. Waiting to see where everything goes with that.”
Soon, a fleet of managers, agents and Hollywood casting executives were making the trip to downtown Manhattan’s New York Theatre Workshop to catch Fisher’s performances. And prior to landing the part of an existentially conflicted half-man/half-machine bristling with high-tech weaponry (Cyborg will also turn up in two Justice League movies), Fisher gained traction as a serious contender to star in Star Wars Episode VII.
“I’m a long-game player and didn’t see any of this happening until at least my 40s,” Fisher says. “It’s a huge honor, but a bit of pressure comes along with it. My mind is just boggled right now.”
In July, the actor wrapped shooting his part for Batman v Superman, scheduled for release in March 25, 2016. He remains tight-lipped about plot-points and potential spoilers but confirmed meeting certain super-friends on set: Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), Jason Momoa (Aquaman) and Ben Affleck (Batman). Fisher also bonded with fellow New Jersey-ite Jesse Eisenberg, who portrays super villain Lex Luthor in the movie.
“I met everyone in the Justice League except Henry Cavill and Ezra Miller,” Fisher says of the actors who respectively portray Superman and the Flash within the DC Cinematic Universe. “It was surreal. You get this idea of going to work on a Hollywood set as being really stressful and nerve-wracking. But it blew that stereotype away. If they did have stressful times, it wasn’t while I was there.”
So what can fans expect from Zack Snyder? He’s the director, after all, who famously proclaimed in 2009: “We’re killing the comic-book movie, we’re ending it.”
“Let me tell you, man,” Fisher says with a laugh, “people are in for a hell of a treat.”