Shamier Anderson, 30, doesn’t wait for good things to come to him. Eight years ago, he was living in his hometown of Toronto and felt the city didn’t “have the appropriate infrastructure to really house, breed, and build talent,” says Anderson. “So I made the leap, like every other aspiring actor, to go to Los Angeles.”
Anderson auditioned for everything he could find and worked odd jobs in between. But unlike the majority of people in search of their big break—a stark headline in The Guardian cautioned that “only 2% of actors make a living”—Anderson got noticed.
He landed a series of TV roles, including a small part in the cult Canadian program Trailer Park Boys. Then, in 2016, he was cast as Agent Dolls in the supernatural Western Wynonna Earp. Hailed as groundbreaking and especially important for the L.G.B.T.Q. community, owing to its searing depiction of a same-sex relationship, the show gained a considerable fan following over its four-season run.
The actor has also tried his hand at film, playing a corrupt L.A.P.D. officer alongside Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker in City of Lies, this spring’s sepia-toned thriller based on the book LAbyrinth, by Randall Sullivan, about the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G.
Anderson has not forgotten what it took to get where he is now. In 2016, he and his brother Stephan, also an actor, launched a nonprofit based out of Toronto called B.L.A.C.K. “It’s an acronym for building a legacy of acting, cinema, and knowledge,” says Anderson. The idea for B.L.A.C.K. came about when Anderson realized “there was no space for young Black talent to be celebrated, to be mentored.” In a recent initiative, Anderson worked with “10 high schools in the inner city and gave young people the opportunity to use slam poetry as an outlet to win scholarships and prizes.”
Most recently, Anderson starred alongside Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim, and Toni Collette in the psychological space saga Stowaway, streaming now on Netflix. In it, he plays a launch-support technician who inadvertently finds himself trapped inside a spacecraft en route to Mars. To prepare for the part and understand his character’s claustrophobia, Anderson slept in a tiny blacked-out compartment for a few hours before his call time each morning.
It’s a multifaceted role and one that gave him pause when he first read the script. “What’s the catch?” he thought. “Because we very rarely get to see people who look like me in those settings, in those narratives, and in those stories.”
There was no catch.
“What got me excited was that it wasn’t about him being an African-American man, going through an African-American experience,” Anderson says. “It was just a dude who was going through a series of unfortunate events. This is a human story. And that’s why I wanted to do it.”
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for Air Mail