Zachary Levi may be on all the posters as the super-powered Billy Batson in Shazam!, but the breakout star of the film might just be Jack Dylan Grazer. As Freddy Freeman, Grazer serves as the voice of the audience. He loves DC superheroes (Superman is his favorite) and knows exactly how to guide Billy through his new status as metahuman, for the most part.
Levi isn’t the real Billy Batson, at least not on the outside. Levi is who Billy becomes when he says the titular magic word. Without that magic, Billy is a 14-year-old kid (Asher Angel), who’s just met Freddy and other kids in a foster home where Billy’s been placed. Freddy is great company, with a collection of superhero toys, clothing, and very real-looking Batarang, but Billy can’t wait to leave.
“He’s had a hard life,” Angel told Batman News‘ Superhero News and other outlets on set last year. “He lost his mom when he was really, really young and he’s basically just been searching for her his entire life. He does not want to be with these people; he does not want to be here. He just wants his mom, that’s it.”
Freddy is far more optimistic than Billy. He gets picked on and knocked down, but he always gets back up. “Freddy has a disability with his foot and his spine,” said Grazer. “In my eyes, [he] is kind of a hero due to the fact that he doesn’t really let the hate get to him.” Billy, despite acting like he doesn’t care, actually does. It’s his defense of Freddy from a group of bullies that leads Billy to becoming Shazam.
Once Billy is granted to powers of Shazam by the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) at the Rock of Eternity, he has no idea what to do, but he knows an expert. Freddy immediately becomes Billy’s go-to-guy for all things superhero. The first thing they have to do is figure out what powers Billy has and, because Billy now looks like an adult, buy beer. A convenience store robbery offers an opportunity to multitask, as they discover Billy now has “bullet immunity.”
“That was the first scene I’d ever shot with Zach,” said Grazer. “He’s the best. It’s so much fun. We get to play off each other in the greatest ways. The chemistry is so good. It’s really good.” A sizzle real shown during the set visit confirmed Grazer’s assessment. Their comedic timing is remarkable. It’s not effortless when they generate laughs, but it looks like it is as Freddy encourages Billy to “embrace the shit out of this,” as Grazer put it.
As Billy moves from battling robbers to the much more powerful Doctor Sivana (Mark Strong), Freddy’s help is invaluable. “I feel like Alfred in Batman, like I know everything,” Grazer added. “It’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s gonna be hiding there and he’s gonna be over there.’ Because I know all about this and I plan everything out. It’s pretty cool.”
The back-and-forth banter between Billy and Freddy is going to have audiences rolling in the aisles. Beyond the laughter, this friendship will be the heart of the movie that helps moviegoers connect with Shazam!
For more coverage of our visit to the set of Shazam!, click here.