Photographer: Stephanie Diani Photo Assistant: Monica Volpacchio Stylist: Mecca Cox Styling Assistant: Silvia Lee Groomer: Todd Harris
In hardly a month, Black Adam has already certified its position as one of the top box office earners of the year and has raked in nearly $160 million dollars in the U.S. The DC juggernaut stars Dwayne Johnson as Black Adam, who is ready to take on the modern day Justice League after being imprisoned for 5,000 years. Alongside Johnson, the cast includes Aldis Hodge, Sarah Shai, Pierce Brosnan, Quintessa Swindell and Noah Centineo. But none are perhaps ultimately as important as Bodhi Sabongui, who plays Amon Tomaz, the boy who convinces Adam to use his powers for good. Here, Sabongui opened up to LA Confidential about working with Johnson, being part of a DC production and his excitement about seeing kids dressed up in Black Adam Halloween costumes.
Details for DC movies are kept pretty under wraps until the premiere. What was it like auditioning for this kind of film?
At the very beginning, I didn't know what it was. I actually didn't know what it was until, I think, my last Zoom callback. So the first one was just regular self tapes because it was during the pandemic and the whole second half of 2020 that I was auditioning. I was just in my house with the little makeshift audition studio.
There was only one scene that I remember in the audition that I remember. It was like the earlier draft version of when Amon meets Black Adam in his bedroom. And what they did was they changed it to some random name. So it was the same scene with a different name so I couldn't figure out what it was, but I could tell it was some sort of superhero thing. I think you would have to be very much a DC geek to get the reference, which I wasn't until after my last audition. And now I am one.
What did you learn from working alongside a megastar like Dwayne Johnson?
His onset dynamic of kindness. He got to know every single member of my family that showed up on set with me and had these full on, invested conversations with everyone and he just made everyone feel important and welcome. I feel like that just made production run more smoothly when everyone just felt valued there.
What was it like being part of a DC production?
The scale of this movie was so different than anything I've ever imagined and the technology that they used on it. Again, I've never seen anything like it before. I don't think it's a secret that I was growing during the filming of the whole movie. You can see in some parts, I looked a bit older and in some parts I looked a bit younger just because I was a whole year older in reshoots than I was in principle photography. But they somehow managed to use this crazy AI technology to try to make my voice match up. And it was really cool. I wasn't I wasn't expecting it. And when I went in and saw the movie, I was like, “Oh, I thought my voice sounded different there.”
A lot of the scenes where Black Adam is flying, they have DJ lying on his stomach and the big screen around him and everything like that. It's just you don't see that scale of production almost ever.
You’ve said before how you see Black Adam as an opportunity to paint Middle Eastern and North African people in a positive light, which isn’t something you didn’t see so much growing up. Now that the movie is out, have you talked to kids who felt seen by this movie?
I've gotten recognized maybe two times, while I was walking to football practice or something, but I don't really get recognized for this. But when I walked around on Halloween, I saw like 10 Black Adam and they were all younger Middle Eastern kids. And I thought that was so cool… They now have this superhero that looks like them and I think that's a gift.
Halloween costumes are when you know you've made an impact. Do you remember a costume you were super excited about when you were younger?
In fourth grade I was Black Panther. And that was a year after it came out. I loved Black Panther just in general, like Chadwick Boseman was always one of my favorite actors growing up.I've always been a huge Marvel fan too and Black Panther coming out was one of my favorite movies in the whole world. And I was like, “Oh yeah, this is the Black Panther costume at Spirit Halloween. I'm totally getting that.” And that was one that I was really excited about. I've never been like a huge like eight-months planner for Halloween, but I do a good costume I get excited about
You have a passion for sports too and have talked about how important it is to you to go to college. But for this moment in time, why is acting important to you?
I don't think there's any way to not say just the representation and trying to think about what I can do for other people with the things that I work on. I don't think that's really going to change. But just being able to try to express my own creativity in the art that I've flocked to or chosen feels like something I'm never going to want to stop doing. There's sports and there's school, but those are more academic. I just need to have that creative outlet in my life and I can't really get rid of that.
Alternatively, what do you love about sports ?
Football is my therapy. First off, the team aspect of it— the brotherhoods and the friendships and the bonds that I've formed during football are some of the strongest ones I’ve ever had. I'm a very competitive person too, so just being able to go into battle with these people that I have such strong bonds with, it just creates a dynamic that you don't really see anywhere else. And just being able to have this thing that you can work at and try so hard to perfect even though you'll never achieve absolute perfection, that’s something I find beautiful.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
See also: For Reneé Rapp, It's All About The Music
Photography by: Stephanie Diani