In 2017, Warner Bros. Pictures released the highly anticipated superhero film, Justice League. A commercial success, the film also featured the big screen debut of New Jersey native Ray Fisher. The young actor portrays Victor Stone, also known as Cyborg, a member of the Justice League. Despite mixed reviews of the film itself, critics and fans alike praised Fisher for his performance in the film.
Fisher spent the early part of his career acting in professional theater performances across the state and in Manhattan. In 2013, he portrayed Muhammad Ali in the Off-Broadway production of Fetch Clay, Make Man. It was this production that helped Fisher progress to the big screen.
Following his performance in Justice League, Fisher played the role of Henry Hays in the third season of True Detective. (An anthology crime drama series on HBO.) Looking ahead, he has some exciting projects currently in the works.
Best of NJ spoke with Ray Fisher at the 2018 Heroes & Villains Fan Fest. Despite his hectic schedule, he was kind enough to sit down and discuss his career thus far. In particular, Fisher opened up about his role as Cyborg; as well as growing up in New Jersey, his favorite things to do around the state, and much more.
Best of NJ: So you were born in Baltimore.
Ray Fisher: I was, yes.
BONJ: How old were you when you moved to New Jersey?
Fisher: It was before I could remember. I was maybe two years old when we moved to New Jersey.
I’ve been all over South Jersey—Lawnside, Camden, back to Lawnside, Voorhees, back to Lawnside. Just all over the place. Then I moved to New York to study theater, and then I moved back to New Jersey for a bit; the starving artist thing. I had to move back to my mom’s house multiple times; sleep in her basement while trying to get myself back on my feet to get back to go another round doing the acting thing.
BONJ: Growing up, what were some of your favorite things to do, places to visit?
Fisher: I loved the movies growing up. I don’t go to the movies as much these days. But I’d go to the movies, hang out with friends; way back when the Echelon Mall was still up and running down in South Jersey. Exhilarama—that kind of stuff growing up as a kid. None of those things are there anymore, but they were all fun and really pivotal points for me growing up.
And as far as hobbies went, I really loved, loved, loved trading cards. Yu-Gi-Oh! was really big for my friends and me growing up.
BONJ: Along those lines—were you a fan of comics as a kid?
Fisher: I actually didn’t have comics until I was an adult. I watched a lot of the TV shows and a lot of the animated series and also the films; but my mom really didn’t get us comics as kids. Once I booked the role of Cyborg though, they sent me every comic that ever existed about Cyborg; so I became an instant comic fan from that.
BONJ: What kind of kid were you?
Fisher: I was probably the black sheep of my immediate family. I was the only one who was left-handed. I was the only one who was into different things, like rock and roll. And my siblings are just like, “Aw, you’re weird.” [Laughs]
BONJ: Do you still reside in New Jersey?
Fisher: Yes, I do. I bounce around for work, but New Jersey is my home base.
BONJ: So let’s talk about Cyborg. You play the character in Justice League. In the movie, you really made Cyborg your own while staying true to what comic fans recognize about him. Can you speak a little to that?
Fisher: First, thank you. I really appreciate it. A lot of hard work went into it, especially with Chris Terrio, our writer, and Zack Snyder, our director. Knowing Zack’s style, I knew I’d be in good hands, because Cyborg is a character who starts off in a very dark place. And his trajectory is one where it’s a process of healing and finding that place of normalcy. He has had a lot taken from him in a short amount of time.
He lost his mother, which is one of the scenes that we didn’t get to see in the film; but we did film it. You actually get to see the accident that took his mom and also took his body; which is really a pivotal point for his mental state. It is very telling as to who he is. To go through something that traumatic and still be able to wake up and say, “You know what? I want to go save the world,” and to try to be as positive a force as possible; that’s what’s really heroic about the character, more so than, I think, the super powers.
These characters can really be an allegory for what we go through in our everyday lives. There are people who have gone through tremendous loss, people who have tremendous power; and can use both of those situations for their own gain. But instead, they use them to help the world around them.
So with Cyborg came some responsibility but also some freedom. I was kind of able to make him my own; because no one had ever seen a live action, cinematic version of Cyborg. And with the comics, I knew I’d be right grounding the character in a more serious fashion; because if you read the original Teen Titans version of Cyborg, he’s not a hamburger-eating, catchphrase-spitting character. He’s not that Cyborg that you know from the Teen Titans cartoon show. So that’s what I was leaning toward, and ultimately, I think that’s what ends up serving the audience better.
BONJ: How did your education prepare you for this journey?
Fisher: When I was a sophomore at Haddon Heights High School, my English teacher was directing one of the musicals. It was Into the Woods. He told me, “Hey, you should try out” for it. So I got there and I thought, you know, this is my kind of aesthetic. Everyone seemed to be having fun; there were a lot of girls in the musical theater program [laughs]. Then during my senior year, I got my first lead role in Guys and Dolls, playing Sky Masterson.
So that all led me to go to New York. After I got out of high school, I took a year off. Then I told my mom, “I think I want to go to school for acting.” And she’s like, “Okay, but what are you going to do for money?” And I said, “I’m gonna act, duh.” [Laughs] I didn’t know the economic situation behind any of that. So I ended up convincing her and moving to the city.
I went to [The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts]. It was a year and a half program. I got out of there and just started grinding. I performed at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey with people who became really good friends; that I’m still friends with today and are influential in the trajectory that I’ve had.
Getting out of school, I did the theater circuit. I worked in the McCarter Theatre, and we had done a play called Fetch Clay, Make Man about Muhammad Ali. At the time, I was playing a smaller role in that; and I ultimately ended up getting to play Muhammad Ali in the New York production of that.
I’ve gone through all the typical actor struggles. I had, like, seven different jobs; moved back into my mom’s house, sleeping in her basement three or four different times, trying to make ends meet. But anytime I had to go back (home), it just fueled me more to get back out there; and luckily I had people who were willing to help me in any way that I needed.
BONJ: Did growing up in New Jersey offer any advantages to pursuing your performing career?
Fisher: Absolutely. Besides being in the suburbs, which gives you more “breathing room” to bring kids up in a sane environment; our proximity to Philadelphia and New York, you can’t beat that. From where we lived in Lawnside, it was about 15 minutes to get to Philly. When I finally buy a house and settle down, I definitely want to live somewhere in the mid-Jersey area. That way I can still be between both those cities.
Also, I think Haddon Heights High School offered me the best all-around education; not just academically but also on how to treat other people. We didn’t have those harsh, stereotypical lines between different groups, like theater people, jocks, and all that. And that’s something that I think taught me how to get along with all different kinds of people. It was a diverse school, and if there was any negativity, it wasn’t at the forefront; so that’s something that I take away from it the most.
We have a lot of pride here in New Jersey. We get a bad rap a lot of the time, but I think it’s like the Iceland-Greenland effect. I think we put that out there sometimes so that people don’t come here; because it’s such a beautiful state and we want to keep it to ourselves [laughs].
BONJ: Tell us about some of your favorite parts of New Jersey.
Fisher: Aw man, the beaches. They’re hard to beat.
I know a lot of people love to travel and move here or there; but when all is said and done, I think I would like to stay in New Jersey.
BONJ: What are some of your favorite places to go and favorite things to do now?
Fisher: I’ve always been a homebody, but I do like Forgotten Boardwalk, a brewery down in Southern New Jersey. I’ll do tastings with friends occasionally.
As for food and drink, there is this place called Heartbeet Kitchen in Haddon Township. It’s actually a vegan restaurant, and it’s really, really good. And the diners, of course. Can’t beat the diners.