You may not know Shamier Anderson’s name yet, but it’s safe to say his career is worth keeping track of.
Anderson stars as Tracker, also known as Nobody, in the just-released critically acclaimed franchise installment “John Wick: Chapter 4.” Tracker is at once an audience insert and a welcome foil to the sleek stylings of John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and High Table boss the Marquis (Bill Skarsgård), but it’s Anderson’s effortless humor, extensive martial arts background, and even collaborations with “John Wick: Parabellum” star Halle Berry that make him the perfect counterpart to Reeves’ emotionally distant lead.
Anderson starred in Berry’s 2020 directorial debut “Bruised,” which “John Wick” director Chad Stahelski executive-produced.
“Chad was instrumental in being a part of that film. We actually had crossed paths on that set, and I did work on that film, not too much of a significant part. It was an important part but not enough for Chad, in my opinion, to stand out enough for him to want me to star in his next franchise,” Anderson told IndieWire during a recent interview.
“So that was a big surprise. One day, I was just hanging out at the gym and got a call from my agent. Usually, in Hollywood, these things can either be like molasses and take a long time before you get a job, or something they can be like rapid fire and they’re like, ‘Get on the phone now, get on a plane tomorrow, and put a camera on Saturday.’ And that was the case. I got a call from my agent saying, ‘I got something that’s really important, are you really available? Chad Stahelski from “John Wick” wants to meet.’ And I said, ‘OK, cool but I’m at the gym right now, hitting pads in Toronto. Is he cool with that?’ So I jumped on a Zoom with him when I was at the gym, and he was like, ‘Did you plan this?!’ And I was like, ‘Nah, this is my morning routine.'”
Anderson continued, “And he said to me, ‘Hey, I got this movie called “John Wick 4.” If you’re interested, take a peek at the script and it’s yours.’ I was like, ‘That’s it?!’ And that was it. I read the script and I fell in love with the Tracker role. And he was like, ‘Great, if you love it, you’ve got to get on a plane in like 48 hours.'”
Anderson admitted that he felt a “responsibility” in the role when joining the “family affair” of the “John Wick” franchise.
“To be invited to the party for the fourth film, there is a sense of responsibility, there’s a weight, there’s anxiety because everyone is in their groove and in their flow, especially with Tracker already being a disruptor on his own,” Anderson said. “It was important to know that I had to bring my A-game. Luckily for me and for Chad — and I say this with pride and utmost humility but also with confidence — I do this. I really do this. I do martial arts. I’m a kung fu practitioner. I love the athleticism of martial artists and working out in the gym and getting my body thrown around. If anyone knows me personally, that’s what I do every day, all day. So to be given this opportunity to do that feels like iron sharpening iron.”
While it sounds like Anderson already was part of The Continental family offset, he deepened the Tracker character with ties to his own personal experiences.
“Like a student at university who’s anxious about failing on their exam, I’m anxious about not telling and living these people truthfully in life. So that’s where this comes from: anxiety. It’s not pretentious. It’s not anything in that sort of realm,” he said.
Anderson added, “I felt like [Tracker] was the most relatable person to that audience. He didn’t wear the crazy clothes and didn’t do the crazy things. He didn’t really believe in the themes of The Continental. And so what I wanted to do is root it in, ‘How do I make this guy lovable even though he has a vicious pup? How do I make this guy lovable even though he wants to go after John Wick’s head?’ I said, ‘What is his motivation?’ And I don’t talk about this too much. Hopefully, it can be earned in a derivative of this story, whether it’s a Tracker spinoff or a Tracker series or something. But I thought about his mother. Why would somebody want an inordinate amount of money? Why would somebody want $50 million for somebody outside of this fantastical world? I felt like it was about his mother. Why his mom? I think that’s the secret that I’ll definitely hold onto until we get to that next phase and hopefully I’ll be able to get back in Tracker’s shoes. For me, it was about this human being.”
Could Tracker’s story tie in with former co-star Berry’s “John Wick” role as Sofia, who, like Tracker, has a killer Belgian Malinois canine sidekick?
“I think it’s definitely worth the exploration [of their connection],” Anderson said. “I mean, we’re two characters in this franchise that have dogs. We happen to be Black. We could be related. She could be a sister, a grandmother in a distant future. Who knows? Mother, who knows. And I think there’s room for exploration there. And I think the audience wants it.”
Berry previously told IGN in 2022 that she could “possibly” return for a spinoff. The “John Wick” franchise has since spurred two prequels, upcoming film “Ballerina” starring Ana de Armas and TV series “The Continental.”
Yet Anderson is waiting for Stahelski to call him once more before he can divulge too much “John Wick” lore.
“I’m just obviously in the throes of the press and everything I’ve got going on. Everyone is so excited about Tracker: ‘What’s his real name? What’s his government name?’ These are things that I would love [to know],” Anderson teased. “I said, ‘What if the Tracker is a bounty killer? What if he was a bounty hunter that hunted all the craziest people in the world? I’m talking like everybody in history. What if this is somebody that really was hunting all the bad guys, the bad gals, the bad villains of the world?’ I said to Chad when we were building this character, ‘What if Tracker used every “John Wick” movie as a documentary?’ He actually was watching the movie, watching the ‘John Wick’ franchise as a case study to follow John Wick. And he used the fourth movie as his introduction to go after John Wick.”
Collaborating with co-stars Keanu Reeves and Anderson’s fellow franchise newcomer Donnie Yen proved to be a “masterclass” featuring some of the best action stars and stunt people of this generation.
“I want to give Donnie Yen his flowers because he’s such a remarkable talent who’s such a nice, nice man, and really, really loves moviemaking and martial arts. I do Wing Chun kung fu, and if you know Donnie’s work, Donnie played Hitman, which was the Wing Chun practitioner. I watched all his movies and then I’m literally in the arena doing scenes with him,” Anderson said. “I will never go toe-to-toe with Donnie even in a sparring match because that guy, he definitely stings like a bee and floats like a butterfly. It was mad cool. Not to sit here and try to play coy but between acting and cut, I’m a pro. But offscreen and off-camera, I’m definitely fanboying every moment I get. Privately, of course, calling my boys like, ‘Holy shit, I’m on set with Ne-Yo right now.'”
To note, Ne-Yo penned original song “I Would Die for You” for the fourth film.
And Anderson’s musical background also fit into the choreography of the stylized fight sequences for “John Wick: Chapter 4.” As a DJ and dancer, Anderson’s inherent rhythm paired with his martial arts background made him basically a “John Wick” character IRL. And yes, Anderson’s roots go all the way back to the Disney Channel including roles in “Camp Rock 2” and “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure.”
“Wow, that way back playback,” Anderson joked. “So I did do ‘Camp Rock 2’ where I did play a dancer at Camp Star, and also in ‘Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure,’ I played a dancer. I guess it just goes to show that movement and physicality have been a part of my career from the very beginning. So I’m glad and happy to show another side of me outside of an ensemble dance troupe in those movies. And at the time, those movies served my career well and I’m glad that I’m at this point now.”
Anderson even has a surprising tie to 2023 Best Actor nominee Austin Butler, who very well could be the next “John Wick” villain in the inevitable Tracker spinoff.
“Holy smokes, we did work together! That’s actually crazy,” Anderson said. “I actually did work with Austin Butler on [‘Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure’]. I don’t know if he’ll remember that.”
Up next, Anderson stars opposite Jamie Foxx and Robert De Niro in action film “Tin Soldier” and produces a limited series about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat through his production banner Bay Mills Studio. A possible collaboration with fellow Toronto native Drake is also a dream of Anderson’s ever since starring in “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”
“I’m just so lucky. I’m a kid from Toronto who loves acting,” Anderson said. “Most actors, they start in acting school, acting class, drama school, and you look and read about these hulking titans, like the Jamie Foxxes, like the Robert De Niroes, the Keanu Reeveses. And I’m so blessed and lucky to be able to share this year with these folks. Ultimately I just bring the foundation of my work ethic: It’s never about you, it’s about the team. And just living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. It’s really simple.”
Anderson summed up, “A director told me once, ‘Listen, the budgets change, the scale and scope of the movies change. You’ve still got to hit that mark and tell the truth.’ And hopefully, I can keep that in every aspect of the work as I continue on this journey. ‘John Wick ‘is another moment of that. I’m still a human, I still have my moments, I still have a good time, and I still get insecure. But when it’s all said and done, I’ve got to hit the mark and tell the truth.”
“John Wick: Chapter 4” is now in theaters.