DA MAN caught up with actor Camrus Johnson to talk about his role in “Batwoman” as well as his passion for acting, singing and animation.
Hollywood better be ready for this one. The amount of creativity and enthusiasm that Camrus Johnson has will take him a long way. Johnson is currently starring in the new CW series “Batwoman” as Luke Fox, playing opposite Ruby Rose who dons the mantle of the eponymous Batwoman.
Johnson’s repertoire might not yet be that long, but he’s taking notes and loving every minute of his time in the entertainment industry. From a tender age, Johnson had a solid interest in acting. But it’s not just acting: He also sings, has a thing for superheroes and is currently working on his own comic book. Not to sound too clichéd, but with the combination of talents and the stunning personality that he has, the sky is the limit.
DA MAN: Hi Camrus, awesome to have you with us. How are you?
Camrus Johnson: It’s just as awesome to talk with you. Thanks for having me. Honestly couldn’t be better … life is pretty fantastic right now.
DA: How is 2020 so far?
CJ: Well I’m not one to go on vacation often—the natural nature of a workaholic I guess—but I rang in the new year in Mexico with some pretty incredible friends and actually had one of the best meals of my life last night. So, the new year is off to an incredible start. Have you ever eaten the last bite of something and then got sad for a couple minutes because there wasn’t an endless amount? Yeah, that happened.
DA: You’re an actor, a writer and a singer. Where did all that creativity come from?
CJ: Definitely my mom’s side of the family. Seems like every single one of my cousins over there can sing or dance. Or maybe it just feels like they all can because my grandpa is one of 18 kids and I have a huge family. So, that’s where the singing juices come from. As far as writing, I just love the stories in animation and video games so much that I’m beginning to discover that deep down, they are two of the main reasons that I’m creative at all.
DA: If you had to choose between being an actor or a singer, what would you pick?
CJ: Actor … although a few of my friends think otherwise. Here’s the thing: I discovered my love for acting a year before my love for singing. So, not only have I literally loved to act longer, but acting also comes a lot more naturally to me and I enjoy overcoming challenges in acting every chance that I get. In singing, when I approach a challenge, because I have yet to have the proper training, I don’t have the tools in order to overcome that obstacle. So, I often work around it and there’s no growth in that. There’s nothing like the feeling that I get when I sing though. When I’m happy, I sing a happy song; when I’m anxious I scream a song and try to make it sound good. I love and need them both. But you’ll rarely ever hear me doubting myself in my acting. I’ve worked too hard for too long and love it too much.
DA: Moving on, tell us about your character in “Batwoman”…
CJ: Luke Fox is the man! Whaddya wanna know? [Laughs] He’s the quick witted, straight forward tech guy whose father’s death still weighs heavily on his shoulders. He works with Batwoman as the brains of their vigilante operation by creating her gadgets and weapons, communicating with her over comms and saving her butt when she gets trapped in a corner. And although Luke works with Kate Kane very closely, they’ve also accidentally become each other’s only friend and they confide in each other often in order to remain sane in this wild situation that they’re in, and this even wilder city.
DA: How’s life on the “Batwoman” set?
CJ: We may have one of the greatest TV crews on the planet. The amount of jokes and games that we have on set is pretty legendary. It’s a very fun, supportive environment—even on a day where we have a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it. We move as a team and as a family and we get it done and that’s really all you can ask for.
DA: How do you build your chemistry with Ruby Rose and the crew?
CJ: Well, the cast and I hang out pretty often. Our chemistry and dynamics grow stronger and clearer each and every time. It’s funny because I actually have been wanting us all to hang out even more; but when I talk to some of my friends on other shows, they say that they try to hang out as much as we do already! I’m a big believer that fun brings people together. So, an escape room, whale watching, game nights, boat tours and all of the other things that we’ve been able to do together has been very important to how close we are in real life and how we play off of one another on screen.
DA: What do you love the most about playing Luke Fox?
CJ: His most serious moments. I’m blessed to be able to play with Luke and be funny. I always love being able to do that and make my character more “approachable,” if you will. But in addition to that, his moments of keeping Kate grounded, explaining his thought process and speaking on death are the moments I live for. That’s why my part in “Crisis on Infinite Earths” was so fun for me because I got to play a more serious version of Luke where he just meant business and you could feel what he was capable of oozing off of him.
DA: We learned that you’re really into superheroes. How did that happen?
CJ: Animation and video games. [Laughs] My answer to everything today, apparently. I’ve played so many Marvel and DC games with my brothers growing up that it’s nearly impossible for me not to be into superheroes. Plus, when you grow up loving them, you see all of the other things inspired by Superheroes. WWE wrestlers feel like superheroes, “Mortal Kombat” characters may just be cool characters with powers, but they’re superheroes. I grew up wanting to be all of these people and still do! So, the love never left. I’m still giddy in the movie theater with my large popcorn and sugary candy when another awesome character that I used to play with has a new movie coming out. You should’ve seen me at “Into the Spiderverse,” sheesh…
DA: And you’re also working on a comic book, tell us more about it…
CJ: I am indeed! My co-writer Kelsey Barnhart and I have been working on the concept and story for years now. We don’t draw (although Kelsey does have some sketching talent), we write the scripts, our editor will give us feedback and notes, we rewrite, our fantastic artist draws it, our colorist colors, our letterer throws the words in, it goes on and on. Making my first comic has been an incredible experience so far and I’ve learned a lot more about the behind the scenes comic world because of it. We still have a lot more work to go but it’s looking pretty fantastic.
DA: Where do you get ideas for your comic?
CJ: Video games. [Laughs] But, this one specifically comes from virtual reality. I am in love with VR. The first thing I bought myself after I booked “Batwoman” was a VR headset. Ever since I played my first VR game at New York Comic Con back in like 2014, I’ve been intrigued. Ever since I shot a commercial campaign through VR no more than two years ago, I’ve been hooked. Everything about it I love. It really is the closest I’ve felt to being inside of a video game. So, I started playing with VR ideas and what I could do with that.
DA: Is the character from your comic book by any chance your alter-ego?
CJ: There may or may not be a lead character named Mac … which may or may not be Cam backwards. Possibly. Maybe.
DA: What’s your creative process like when you’re working on your comic?
CJ: It varies now. My process is drastically changing because I’m not used to being the lead of a show and writing at the same time. I’m so used to banging out my screenwriting and comic writing from about midnight until no later than 5AM. But now that I have some long days on set—and the days and times that I shoot varies—it’s impossible to stick to the exact same routine like I used to. And I can’t just write when inspiration hits anymore because I may no longer have the time. So, I’m working on getting better at small bursts of routine writing often, like an hour a day at least, as opposed to long sessions from time to time like I have been. But either way, the process is simple. Sit down and do it.
DA: Tell us about your short movie, “Grab My Hand: A Letter to My Dad”…
CJ: “Grab My Hand” is a five-minute animated short that I wrote, directed and narrated as a surprise for my dad. I met my friend and animator Pedro Piccinini a few years ago when I was a waiter—he was one of our regular customers. We were making a different short film together. Then, when one of my dad’s best friends passed, we put a hard stop on that film so that we could make this one. I wanted to do this retelling of their friendship to both keep their relationship alive forever but also to make my dad cry whenever he needs. He’s a tough man, but crying helps. And if he doesn’t want to cry, I wanted to make something that he can watch when he’s alone and either wants a reminder or needs a good cry.
DA: Will you be producing or directing anything else soon?
CJ: I’m actually in post-production for my next short film called “Blue Bison.” I originally wrote that script four or five years ago, and I’m so incredibly happy that it’s finally almost ready for people to see. It’s a proof of concept for a larger story that I hope will also have the legs to live as its own strong story. Now, that one is much darker and I like dark. So, I can’t wait to see the finished product.
DA: What do you hope to bring and change in the entertainment industry that no one had ever done before?
CJ: Find even more interesting ways to include people of color all over the place.
DA: What was the best advice anyone has ever given you?
CJ: My Granny’s new thing is that every time she calls me, right before she hangs up she says: “And remember … stay in your lane!” I’m not quite sure where she got it from, but it’s hilarious and I think about it all the time. Thanks to Granny, silly as those four words may be, I tend to keep my head down, not get into too much trouble, and, uh, stay in my lane.
DA: Which words or phrases do you most overuse and why?
CJ: “Dope” and “bet” because I lived in New York for too long. “Y’all” because I lived in the south for too long. “Amazing,” “sick,” “lit,” “lovely,” “fantastic” because I’m often happy about something or someone and I had to stop saying “awesome” so much. “Wow-ee” because I honestly don’t know why in the world I started that one or where it came from but it has to stop. The “Batwoman” makeup team is already making fun of me for it.
DA: What is your greatest regret?
CJ: Wow, deep question. Honestly, regrets don’t help you keep moving forward unless it’s something you’re actively reminding yourself to never do again. I don’t really have many things like that. I haven’t done anything that I haven’t immediately learned from or have fear of having a repeat situation because a regret is something you wish never happened or you did differently. But if I wished I did anything differently, who’s to say that I’d be playing such a fun role in “Batwoman” or talking to DAMAN right now? It all happens for a reason.
DA: Tell us about your plans for the rest of the year. Any exciting projects you can share with us?
CJ: My animated short “Grab My Hand: A Letter to my Dad” will continue to have a very exciting festival run this year; my first live action short “Blue Bison” will be doing the same; dropping another song soon and more to come this year; the comic is full steam ahead; more exciting episodes of “Batwoman,” and more announcements of projects I’m involved with that I can’t yet talk about, but can’t wait to!
DA: For our last question, what is your secret talent?
CJ: I can sing babies to sleep. It’s only happened once and it was past the baby’s bedtime, but it still counts.
Photography Jalen Turner
Styling Ari Michael
Grooming Grace Phillips at Tracey Mattingly
U.S.-based Creative Director Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
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