The role of Cyborg in “Justice League” is Ray Fisher’s first performance in a major motion picture, but he does have experience playing legendary characters.
Before filming his first movie, Fisher was a theater actor, performing as the Duke of Burgundy in an Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of “King Lear,” and as Muhammad Ali in New York Theater Workshop’s “Fetch Clay, Make Man.”
Soon after his performance as Ali, Fisher acquired an agent and a manager and took his first trip to Los Angeles. He met with Warner Bros. right around the time they were looking to cast the role of the living computer Cyborg/Victor Stone, whose attempts to reckon with his fading humanity help give “Justice League” some emotion.
He landed the role of a character he says he was only familiar with from the original “Teen Titans” cartoon of the early 2000s. But he became a quick study of all things Cyborg by diving into comic books.
“I didn’t know too much about his comic book history. I know that in ‘Teen Titans’ he’s much more the comedic relief,” Fisher told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “But after reading the comic book iteration of Cyborg in ‘The New Teen Titans’ from the 1980s that Marv Wolfman and George Perez had worked on, I saw that there was a lot of texture to the character. [Cyborg is] much, much deeper than I had anticipated.”
Fisher does know that the current animated version of his “Justice League” character is one of DC’s hottest properties, appearing on Cartoon Networks’ popular “Teen Titans Go!” animated series. Fisher did manage to utter that animated version’s trademark “booyah” in “Justice League,” pointing out that it was fun to add slivers of the lighter animated version to the depth he pulled from the 1980s comic.
“That’s the thing, you can pull bits and pieces of every version of each of these characters and bring them to life,” Fisher said. “I don’t watch [“Teen Titans Go!”]. It doesn’t mean primarily as much to me as it will to [kids now], but I hope it resonates in whatever way they need to receive that message.”
Unlike his “Justice League’ co-stars, Fisher spent most of his production time in a “onesie,” because of the high-tech, metal look of Cyborg that required lots of postproduction CGI, while the rest of the cast wore slickly-designed, comic book-inspired super-suits. But Fisher’s faith in the visual style of “Justice League” director Zack Snyder, which he came to admire in Snyder’s previous works such as “300,” “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” kept him confident.
“It was sort of like my birthday when I finally got to see the final product of what the suit would be. I feel like it actually helped me play the character a little bit more truer to life because he’s the only person in the JL who can’t take off his suit and it makes him feel like an outsider,” Fisher said. “So when I’m standing there and I see everyone else in their practical costumes and I feel like an outsider because I don’t have a practical costume, it actually helps play into that just a little bit more.”
Filming “Justice League” provided Fisher with lots of acting firsts, including not finishing with the director you started with, as Snyder had to leave “Justice League” due to the death of his daughter, and Joss Whedon came in to do reshoots and postproduction.
“Having things unfold the way that they did was a bit of a doosy for me. Obviously, the circumstances for Zack having to step away were horrific,” Fisher said. “You continue on for the people who can’t continue on for themselves. You sort of dedicate your [performance], saying, ‘Listen, I’m going to do the best job I can possibly do for Zach, for [producer] Debbie [Snyder], and making sure that the vision is realized.’ ”
Fisher was surprised by the calm and camaraderie of the “Justice League” set — the actors felt they were “working on something much larger than ourselves.” He says Jason Momoa, who stars as Aquaman in the film, came into his trailer while he was getting makeup applied and reached over with a huge bear-hug to say hello the first time they met.
“I felt this sense of calm because everybody was welcoming in a way that I didn’t expect,” Fisher said. “And that was something that trickled down with Zack and Debbie Snyder in the way that they run their sets. Zach gives the same level of respect to everyone he encounters on his set.”
Fisher hopes to be able to visit the role of Cyborg again, either in a guest appearance in another solo-DC hero movie or future “Justice League” films.
“I think we’ve only just scratched the surface. [Cyborg] definitely [has] miles to go with respect to repairing the relationship with his father (played by Joe Morton), discovering his powers and discovering who he is,” Fisher said. “And hopefully we get the opportunity to explore all of those avenues.”