Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has struck quite an emotional chord with viewers, and it sounds like one of the film's stars had a surprising impact on that.
In the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - the Art of the Movie book, co-director Bob Persichetti spoke about the casting of Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) and Aaron Davis/Prowler (Mahershala Ali), two characters who have a profound impact on the superhero origin of Miles Morales (Shameik Moore).
"Miles Morales has a supporting cast of family members including his dad, Jefferson, and Uncle Aaron." Persichetti explained. "We had a list of actors that we were looking at using. Brian Tyree Henry was someone we were looking at for both characters because he is so talented. Then we had Mahershala Ali. We had just seen him in Moonlight and how he related to the young kid; we saw a lot of parallels. We approached Mahershala about playing the role of Aaron, never thinking he would actually be interested in doing it. We gave a whole presentation and pitch to him and he said "Yes" there and then. His agent was there and was shocked that he was saying yes on the spot. We decided that Brian Tyree Henry definitely needed to be Miles' dad."
"We talked to Mahershala and told him we wanted Brian to play his brother in the movie." Persichetti continued. "Mahershala told us he really loved the idea and that they had the same acting teacher. Mahershala said Brian was a "real actor". So then the first time we got to record him, it was in the middle of a season of Atlanta and Mahershala was right, Brian is a fantastic actor. Mahershala is magic and so talented, and then as we were recording Brian we were just floored at how right he was about Brian's acting talent."
As Perischetti went on to explain, Henry's performance helped elevate the character beyond some more stereotypical portrayal, and actually shifted who Miles primarily interacted with within the book.
"The character of Jefferson is a police officer and a father, and he could have easily been one-dimensional." Persichetti revealed. "He could very easily have been a humorless authoritarian with very little warmth. In our version of the script, we were always fighting against Jefferson being too harsh, and trying to figure out how to get the warmth and the empathy of being a father in there while at the same time showing his concern for his son going down the wrong path."
"Then we recorded Brian, and his voice quality and his ability to really lighten up the heavy lines made him the catalyst for the father and son relationship to become what it became." Persichetti added. "In Miles' origin story, that father and son relationship is a big part of that story. In our original script, it was there, but it was balanced with his relationship with Peter and with his roommate Ganke and the other psuedo-mentors he meets. As soon as we had recorded Brian we knew we could lean into that relationship more, and it would carry the whole movie."
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is in theaters now.