We Are Who We Are's Spence Moore II Takes A Deep Dive Into His Role

We Are Who We Are's Spence Moore II Takes A Deep Dive Into His Role

We Are Who We Are's Spence Moore II Takes A Deep Dive Into His Role

The charismatic young actor gives us an exclusive glimpse into the making of WAWWA and how he excelled in his complex role as Danny Poythress.

The charismatic young actor gives us an exclusive glimpse into the making of WAWWA and how he excelled in his complex role as Danny Poythress.

Photography: Doug Inglish

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Juliana Bakumenko

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest on the most popular streaming platforms right now, from HBO Max to Peacock TV to trusty ol’ Netflix, then you won’t miss the one-of-a-kind star-on-the-rise, Spence Moore II. 

Whether you’ve known him as All American’s Chris, Dan Decker on A.P. Bio, or you just met him as Danny Poythress on Luca Guadagnino’s latest project We Are Who We Are, it’s no secret that “the kid” has talent. Though his mom, Tann Moore, a former actress herself, has shared some of her talent as his acting coach, Spence’s love for acting has been his own. 

“Growing up, I was often the goofy kid, the kid always trying to make people laugh…I had insecurities…but I wore a really big smile,” he explains. Drawn to the challenge of taking on complex characters, Spence has been able to step outside of himself to connect and learn more about himself. Most notably, the rising actor has taken on the challenge, and, in his own words, “the privilege,” of portraying Danny Poytress on HBO’s We Are Who We Are. The hit show depicts the in-depth world of emotions for the central characters, which can apply to anyone’s journey of self-discovery. Spence, too, opens up on the journey WAWWA took him on.

Spence wears Dior Men

The limited series follows the lives of adolescents who are discovering themselves, experiencing the wonders as well as hardships of becoming a person in this world. This accurate portrayal of what it means to be a teenager just happens to center on two American kids, Caitlin and Fraser, played by Jordan Kristine Seamón and Jack Dylan Grazer. While the characters, including Spence’s role, Danny, are all their own unique people, the struggles they each face are universal. We Are Who We Are takes the viewer on a tumultuous journey beyond the American base camp set in Italy.

We first meet Danny Poythress as Caitlin’s older brother and a fun-loving member of the friend group, but soon find there’s much more to him. Struggling to make sense of the world and his own origins, Danny, like many adolescents on the show and outside of it, is going through an emotional journey, which helped foster a deeper connection between the actor and his role. While he has his dark moments, like lashing out at his sister for “promiscuous” behavior and at his mom for not being upfront about his biological father, Spence easily recognizes the humanity in Danny, a kid who just wants to understand his background, yet feels like an outsider because of it.

“I want everybody to know that you are stronger than your situation right now and you can overcome it one thousand percent. Lean on your support system, lean on your family, people you feel comfortable with. Just like Danny leans on Craig,” he says, referencing the show in the hopes of starting a broader conversation on mental health.

Acknowledging the differences between him and his role, Spence finds a connection to Danny in his need to seek truth, which resonates with the twenty-two year old actor. “I look back when I was seventeen years old and just thinking about some of the trials and tribulations I had to face, which were quite similar in a way to the stuff that Danny is experiencing.”

Spence wears Versace

Spence and Danny are also alike in how they approach and internalize their experiences. Personally, I just see myself in Danny in the way that he’s introspective. I take time with myself…and make sure that the things that I’m pursuing and the things that I’m questioning are really things that I want to know the answer to,” he says. On set, Spence recalls feeling more closed off when stepping into Danny’s mindset, headphones in, (mostly likely listening to Billie Eilish), immersing himself into his troubled character’s world. Though he acknowledges how challenging it could be at times, he was determined to stay committed in order to remain truthful to his story.

To put the experience into a single word, he didn’t hesitate to say: “unpredictable.” As the actor recalls, any slight disruption on filming day could lead to the whole shooting day to be rescheduled. Spence attributes this meticulousness to the cast and crew’s desire to make the show feel so incredibly authentic as the characters go on visceral journeys of excitement as well as agony. Moore notes to the viewers, “If you’re watching the show, I think you feel immersed in the show. Like you’re really walking with these characters and living the life with them.” 

Reflecting more on the political themes of We Are Who We Are, Moore hints that the show touches on the election even more later in the season. And while it’s been said that WAWWA is a story of friendship and coming-of-age, there’s an inherent political feel to it being set on an American military base. Spence highlights the semi-shocking moment when Scott Mescudi, his on-screen dad, “was wearing a hat,” he gently put it. “I’ll just leave it at ‘a hat’.” Yes, he means that hard-to-miss red hat that makes you do a double-take. It is especially difficult for Danny to understand what it means for him to be born Muslim, especially when the father he was raised by supports a political candidate who notoriously promotes hate speech against the Muslim community. Prejudice towards Muslims and immigrants of color often resurfaces around election time in real life, manifesting in hateful rhetoric and acts of violence, which we see hints of on the show in Danny and his father’s behavior. 

Spence reiterates how harmful it is to generalize an entire group of people, and exactly how important it is to vote. As it’s a pivotal time for the future of various communities under attack in this country, such as the Black and Muslim communities, he knows this election is coming at a crucial moment. “I will be voting. My friends will be voting. My family will be voting…I think it’s very, very important to vote this year, more so than every other year. This is a very, very big turning point in our country, for our society,” he emphasized. So be like Spence Moore II, be like his friends, be like his family, and please vote.   

Spence wears Moschino

The young actor also reveals what it’s been like to film under COVID-19 regulations, following the recent return to filming for All American Season 3. With limited cast and crew, regular testing for the virus, and protective shields, he assures us that they’re dedicated to everyone’s safety when they’re on set. Unfortunately, filming has been put back on pause due to a positive COVID result, but the show plans to resume shortly. And even though we can stream Spence in a couple new releases in quarantine, he hasn’t actually filmed since February. Though ready to get back to work (again!), he’s appreciative of the time he’s had in quarantine slow down, if only for a minute. As lockdown continues, Moore is keeping busy with the upcoming launch of a culturally significant visual collective spearheaded by his mother.

As racial injustices persist around the world, Tann Moore and Spence hope to show the beauty in the experience of being a Black boy, especially at a time when Black bodies are highly politicized and constantly stereotyped. He explains, “My mom wanted to encapsulate the experience of a Black boy and just show the beauty that he has to offer the world, whether that’s through the arts, whether that’s through sports, whether that’s through writing, cooking, it’s just showing that we are more than what we are perceived to be. It’s a project for the culture.” 

Another exciting highlight in WAWWA has to be the show’s score. Expertly crafted in collaboration with artist Blood Orange, Devonté Hynes, WAWWA’s sonic storytelling is distinctly its own. Spence believes it’s a match made in music heaven. “I just love the relationship between music and cinema…I feel like [Hynes] is one of those artists who are so uniquely him. You will not find anybody else that sounds like Dev Hynes. And I feel like that’s exactly what we needed for the show.”  

With his broad taste of music and affinity for writing, Spence is plotting to move behind the camera. “One day for sure, I do want to direct, produce, maybe even write a little bit,” he says. Right now? He’s focused on acting.

While reflecting on the highs and lows of his latest challenge portraying Danny Poythress, Spence has shared his own hopes for his future in film and for society as a whole. Whether by destigmatizing mental illness through his character portrayals to giving Black boys a multimedia platform to express themselves, Spence continues on his personal journey to be the change he wishes to see in the world. 

Credits: GROOMING: SAISHA BEECHAM; PHOTO ASSISTANT: MICHAEL CLIFFORD; STYLIST ASSISTANTS: HUNTER CLEM, GARRETT IVES; DIGITAL TECH: MAXFIELD HEGEDUS

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