Shazam! Fury Of The Gods Star Zachary Levi Talks On-Set Mario Kart And Billy's Imposter Syndrome [Exclusive Interview]

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" marks the return of Zachary Levi as the titular superhero, who is a kid in a man's body. It's been a while since we last saw our Shazamily, and the kids are growing up. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer, and Adam Brody as his super counterpart) is doing a little solo work, while Billy (Asher Angel and Levi) is working to grow as a leader. The family superhero shenanigans aren't going over well in the press, and a few goddesses just showed up, bringing with them the possible destruction of the entire world. That's a lot for a kid dealing with imposter syndrome and PTSD.

I recently spoke to Levi about where Billy/Shazam is now, hanging out on set with his Nintendo Switch, and trying to be a hero while still in high school. 

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. 

'I've gone through a tremendous mental health journey of my own'

You've got this superhero lair. Did you get to hang out in it a lot?

Oh yeah. Oh, I would go and hang out in it even if we weren't shooting in that set. I would just go bring my Nintendo Switch in there and we'd hook it up to the TV and we'd play Mario Kart for hours.

Who do you play as in Mario Kart?


As you should!

I'm a Mario purist. I don't like straying from the formula. It's his name on the game. That's the guy driving the cart.

I like this theory. And I love the pediatrician's office scene. People know this from the trailer, but he really addresses his PTSD, and I'd love to hear what you think about that. Did you do research on that topic?

Well, I have done some research on PTSD and things of that nature just because I've gone through a tremendous mental health journey of my own. But I would say, though, in that scene, it's far less about the PTSD, although there is some of that, given him losing his family and all that stuff. I think a lot of it's about imposter syndrome in there. He feels like a failure compared to all these other people and all the things that they're doing. What is he doing? He's just a joke. 

I think I didn't have to do a lot of research for that because I think we all struggle with that on some level. We all have these moments, sometimes a few, sometimes a lot, where we're questioning who we are and what value we bring to the world. And is this all a lie? Are people going to think I am an imposter? Oh, man. As an actor, you get that stuff all the time.

Hey, you get it as a writer, too. I totally get it. I want to go back to the lair because Jack and Asher said they got a sleepover in there.

They did?

Apparently, they got one right at the beginning.

Jelly! I did not get that!

I'm just curious, are there any little things that you put in the lair? Any little Easter eggs we should be looking for?

No. I mean, I'm trying to think if there's any ... No. Did they put things in the lair?

They came up with some things that I don't think are true. They said [director] David [F. Sandberg]'s umbilical cord was in there, so I feel like...

No, that's probably not ... no, there might have been some scenes when you might have seen my Nintendo Switch randomly hooked up, but we already had another one that was the prop Switch that was in there as well. So I don't know. But no, listen, our art department crushed that set. It was so cool. It was so cool to come back to it and see because it's the same Rock of Eternity Hall that we were in the first time. Then for them to come in and really make it cozy and homey, and we had all been living in it for years and doing our little things and having our clubhouse, the way they decorated all the sins, I mean, it was so good. I was so impressed by it.

'I think family is the original community'

There's so much CGI, but it never feels like a lot of CGI. It feels really grounded. Do you prefer that?

Yeah, I think, listen, I think A.I. and CGI and all the stuff where we're at right now is incredible/terrifying. And I think the more we can — it's not going to stop, but we can throttle it, we can guide it, we can hold onto a slightly more analog existence that's actually tangible and visceral. 

I think anytime you can do that — I mean, as an actor, if I'm doing something like "Avatar" and all I'm doing is wearing motion capture suits with dots, it's not that I can't play the character — those guys do a great job — but they're not assisted in the same way that if you actually have a costume. If you have a costume, you get to see yourself in this costume. It helps you to get into your role just a little bit more, even. 

The same is true with environments and effects and all of that stuff. The more digital it becomes, the less tangible it becomes and the less you get to feed off of it as its own source.

There's such a beautiful message here, and I love the ideas of family and that anyone can be a hero. So I'd just love to hear your thoughts on that.

Oh, well, listen, I mean, I think family is the original community, and I think community is the most important thing, or certainly one of the most important things, in this world. I think, evolutionarily, we only survived because we had each other. So this is a great example of that with your chosen family — not even your born family, but your chosen family. And even if you had great parents growing up, you still have a chosen family as you get older, as you move into adulthood. So that's something that I think applies to everyone.

And being a hero, everyone can be a hero. It's just are you utilizing whatever platform and whatever privileges you have, and some of us have a little bit of that, and some of us have a lot of that, but all of us have the ability to then use that to help make at least one other person's life a little easier and a little better. Every single person you can do that with, you get to be a little bit of a hero for.

You've got to be careful to make sure that's not somehow becoming your identity, because your worth is only found internally, not externally. You going and helping the world doesn't necessarily make you a good person or a better person than anyone else, but it can, I think, energetically, create ripple effects that will make the world overall just a way groovier place for us all to live in.

'Working with Helen was a dream come true'

You got to work with Helen Mirren. She broke her finger on set, and no one knew, apparently.

No. She's a baller. She's a baller. She waits for "Graham Norton" to be like, "Oh yeah, that's it. My finger. And I didn't tell anyone." Come on.

And it's bent to the side.

Little bent, little bent! Working with Helen was a dream come true. She's exactly who you want her to be, who you expect her or think she could be. She is that and then some. She's a Dame, for crying in the night. But she doesn't throw it in your face.

I mean, she's playing a goddess.

She's a goddess, but she's so humble and chill and human, as is Lucy [Liu], as is Rachel [Zegler]. And they all just wanted to come and have fun and jump in the sandbox and roll their sleeves up and put on a play. And that's what you're doing, ultimately.

I have to ask you about some of the mythology of this. I'm a huge mythology geek, and that was really fun. Did you know what monsters you were going to see? I mean, I know you had people in suits, but...

I had seen artwork. Yeah, yeah. In the production office that showed all the different [creatures], the Minotaur and all those various things, the unicorn, obviously, which is such a fun twist to put on that. So yeah, I had seen the kind of previews for all of it, but I saw the finished product when I got to see the movie, and I was stoked on it. It looks so good.

"Shazam! Fury of the Gods" will hit theaters on March 17, 2023.