NYCC: Zachary Levi Demystifies the Shazam! Costume Design

The electrifying energy of lightning wielding teenage superhero Shazam! seems to have overcome actor Zachary Levi. The newest DC superhero dropped by New York Comic Con to pump up the crowd of fans.

“Anybody excited for Shazam?” Levi asked to deafening screams. “That’s the appropriate response!”

Levi started with some background and explained what makes the character so unique. That includes differentiating from another upcoming superhero movie that shares a sometimes moniker with Shazam. The DC Comics character originated in 1939 and was initially named ‘Captain Marvel,’ but is of no relation to Carol Danvers of the MCU.

“I’m sure most of you are initiated because you’re proper nerds and you get it. My character is Captain Marvel, not to get confused with Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. So, Shazam is Billy Batson at 14. He’s got a heart of gold, then this wizard sees in him this potential to become Earth’s finest mortal. He gives him the power to say ‘Shazam’ and become, well, me! It’s basically the movie Big meets the movie, Superman. The role is easy for me because I’m a man-child,” Levi joked.

Levi shares the role with young actor Asher Angel who portrays Billy in his non-superhero form. Although they were essentially playing the same character, the two stars had very little time to acquaint themselves with their alter-ego. Levi praised the young actor for his talent.

“Asher Angel is everything I wish I was when I was 14,” Levi gushed. “He’s a super handsome preteen, basically next Justin Timberlake. He’s a Disney star (Andi Mack), he sings and dances and all that stuff. We’re both very musical. We had a lot in common in our spirit. You would hope you’d have months to study the other’s gait and moves. We had like a day. It was just a matter of trusting our director, David Sandberg. The proof in the pudding. You’ll see how we did that when we’re done.”

Levi himself hasn’t actually seen that final product yet.

“I have seen as much as you guys have seen,” he confessed. “I saw the trailer that I thought was pretty dope. It captured the tone of the movie that I believe we made. I thought it was wistful and had heart and levity. I hate watching myself on screen. I don’t like the sound of my voice or look of my face, but when I watch that trailer, it delighted me. I felt joy. Like watching The Goonies. Very ‘adventure-y.’”

The DCEU has incorporated some very dark tones with storylines featuring the death of Superman (Henry Cavill) and the dangerous villain led mission of Suicide Squad. Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder has even indicated he had once intended to kill Batman in future films. Shazam! takes a much lighter tone, but Levi said DCEU fans can be assured it makes sense for the character.

“You can’t make movie about 14-year-old and make it too dour. There’s going to be fun and levity. We didn’t really have to try. As far as the DC Universe, you have to do right by every character which I think the filmmakers have done. In Wonder Woman we saw a lot of heart. Gal Gadot is effervescent. Justice League had fun and funny moments. We just happen to be a movie that is younger in its nature. I guess that’s why I was able to get the job. They can’t take me seriously. I’ll never win an Oscar,” Levi joked.

Levi debuted the bright and bold Shazam! costume on Instagram back in May. The lightning bolt insignia is prominent and the collar has Greek influence referencing Shazam’s ‘immortal elders’: Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury. The design received mixed reactions, but Levi said he welcomes the discussion.

“We’re all here because we’re all really passionate about these character, worlds, comics, artists, writers, movies, TV shows and toys. I grew up reading and enjoying so many of these properties. I understand when Shazam! fans who have been waiting for a long time have an idea of what that movie should look and feel like. When it’s not what they were hoping in their mind’s eye, it can lead to passion in negative way. We can’t please everybody, but I will at least try. We want to give care to what those things are. Everyone involved in Shazam! is doing the same.”

Levi addressed the actual costume, delving deeper into the intention behind the design. The actor even acknowledged they expected some amount of criticism.

“As far as the suit and strange hubbub around that, it’s difficult when you have an image on a page. It’s two dimensional and very little information. We anticipated people would be split on that. The trailer answered a lot of questions and gave a rounder idea of what the movie and tone was. My character is a manifestation of 14-year old’s idea of what a superhero is. That’s why I look so dumb,” he laughed.

Whether or not the movie wins over Shazam! fans, Levi said he was open to continuing the conversation.

“I think you have to do right by what the character is the storyline. The fans can have valid concerns. I don’t think as an artist you are somehow immune to answering questions. That’s why I love fan Q&A. I like to be able to cross that boundary. Say you wonder why I did it this way, let me tell you. Sometimes that’s what someone needs to quell their concerns. We might disagree, but I’m willing to hear what you say and have conversation to try to bridge the gap in this crazy political world or literally in Hollywood where they make these people come to life. You’re all worth it. It’s important to have these conversations.”

In preparation for becoming the magical superhero, Levi said he hit the gym 6 days a week and he embarked on ‘really intensive therapy’ and self-work. He recommended the regimen to fans and said of therapy, “Treat yoself. It’s the best self love.” Levi said he has continued the workouts after the film wrapped but is not immune to self-doubt. He left the panel on an uplifting note to be happy with the way you are.

“I woke up today and I’d been on this real kick. I’ve been working through a lot of stuff and going to the gym. Girls, you’ve had this comparison game walking by a news stand and all the magazines and photoshop. I get it. It’s so not ok. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t think guys don’t have it too. As much as I feel good in my life, I follow [Chris] Hemsworth and he posted a video today. Literally, he has this cool jazz music getting shredded in a gym and I’ve been working out for a year and I went ‘Ugh!’ I was one of his Asgardian buddies and I’ll never get there. We’ve gotta be patient with ourselves. Go love yourselves! If I leave you with anything today, go see Shazam! But if I leave you with two things, go love yourself and see Shazam! You are worthy of love.”

Featured Image: (L-r) JACK DYLAN GRAZER as Freddy Freeman and ZACHARY LEVI as Shazam in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “SHAZAM!,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Steve Wilkie/ & (c) DC Comics


Kelle Long

Kelle has written about film and TV for The Credits since 2016. Follow her on Twitter @molaitdc for interviews with really cool film and TV artists and only occasional outbursts about Broadway, tennis, and country music. Please no talking or texting during the movie. Unless it is a musical, then sing along loudly.