Noah Centineo had not read comic books till he was cast as Atom Smasher in Black Adam, the superhero film featuring Dwayne Johnson as titular DC Comics character. “I wasn’t a fan before this film,” Centineo says over a video call from Los Angeles. “I loved the universe and watching the films. It wasn’t until I got this job that I went ‘okay, now it’s time to read some’ and so I went through different volumes.”
The 26-year-old actor says he gets the hype. “The world of graphic novels, comics, Watchmen and everything beyond is so detail-oriented,” he exclaims with a shy smile that broke him out as a teen idol. “The fact that they have been releasing comic books every week, for who knows how long is mind blowing.”
Working with Johnson, Centineo says was everything you could possibly imagine and more. “He is a dedicated professional. This is his passion project that he has been developing for over a decade. And you can feel that when you are working with him. You feel his care and his meticulous attention to detail. He is also flexible and malleable in how he works with other actors or the director. He knows what he wants, and he is going to get it. The way to that, however, is up for discussion and the best idea will always win. I feel like I got a master class on not just acting but having synergy with other people, building a team and then trusting that team, because he trusted all of us.”
Atom Smasher, the Justice Society of America member who can manipulate his molecular structure, is on the other side of the spectrum from Peter Kavinsky who won Lara Jean’s heart in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and its sequels, for Centineo.
“I was lucky enough to be considered for the role in the first place,” Centineo says. “I met generally with Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of the film, and we had a fairly brief but in-depth conversation about the movie and the role. He expressed what he was looking to accomplish with the role and with the film and then asked what I thought.” A few months later, Centineo got the call saying he was on board.
Listing the pros of being Atom Smasher, Centineo laughs softly, “The opportunity to work and play with some of the greatest actors and entertainers is a definite joy as also being able to watch them work and learn underneath them.”
Mindful of his blessings, Centineo says, “There is the inherent joy of being on set, working and having a job.” Everybody on set became so close with each other, Centineo says, that the friendship continued off set. “After the project wrapped, and to this day, we all remain in contact. If we are in the same state, we see each other (laughs). It feels like a family and that is definitely something rare. That is my favorite take away from being Atom Smasher.”
Nature of the beast
The challenges the role poses, Centineo says, are those that come with any role. “Having respect for the source material, the craft and the stories that you are telling and doing your very best comes with the territory. Outside of challenging, it is more the nature of working, which I love deeply. So it is also a joy for me.”
Not having done motion capture or performance capture before, Centineo says, “That was a new experience that I had to jump headfirst into.”
Albert, Atom Smasher’s alter ego, dresses comfortably in civilian clothes, Centineo says. “He likes baggy, oversized clothes. He dresses in a way he thinks is cool, even if maybe it isn’t totally cool. There is lackadaisicalness in the way he dresses. Atom Smasher’s suit is borrowed. It is not really his suit. So it fits him the way that it does not. It is more utilitarian than stylish, but it does look pretty damn cool.”
The first time the cast were in the cruiser together, was incredible, Centineo says. “Dwayne, Pierce (Brosnan) Aldis (Hodge), Sarah (Shahi) and I were together for the first time, as there was no table read. It was the first time we had got the scene up on its feet, out loud. Everybody was completely different, in their character, and just living it. You go, ‘man… (whispering) this is going to be fun’.”
Black Adam releases in theatres on October 20