Interviews

Shawn Carter Peterson Improvises His Role in Pitch Perfect 2

Shawn Carter, Image by Ben Miller

Shawn Carter Peterson portrays Dax in the upcoming musical dance flick Pitch Perfect 2. This movie is more than just a sweet tune with a toe tap and a shake of the hip. Viewers can learn a few things after they’ve watched this production.

Peterson says Pitch Perfect 2 teaches audience goers that, “even when all seems lost, [you can] find the silver lining and go with it — It will take you through to the winner’s circle!”

In this type of production there are a few opportunities to steer off track from the exact scripting. “Getting to improvise with one of the best in the business was a major highlight. Acting can be very collaborative, but not everyone sees it that way. When Keegan-Michael Key says ‘Hey, lets have some fun with this!’, you know you’re about to go on the ride of a lifetime,” says Shawn.

Peterson’s experience on set was sometimes awe-inspiring. “When you walk on set and you see someone whose work you’ve admired for years, you have to pull it together. I’m a professional, but you still have days that you’re nervous and walking onto the Pitch Perfect 2 set my first day was one of those days. You have to get a hold of yourself and say, ‘I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t handle this’ … then you gotta go handle it,” he laughs.

Speaking of inspiration, Shawn talks a bit about some things he is looking forward to seeing when the movie plays out on the big screen. “There are a couple surprise guests in the film and I can’t wait to see how those scenes turn out! Aside from those, I’m looking forward to the singing scenes. There are some GREAT musical numbers and vocal ‘battles’ in the film which are pretty spectacular. That was one of the best things about the first film and they upped the ante on this one. I think the A Cappella world has really expanded in the last few years and more and more people can honestly say that they enjoy A Cappella music. I also think that people enjoy seeing their favorite popular songs transformed into an all-vocal arena,” he says.

This is not his first go-round with A Cappella either. “I sang A Cappella in high school and college so I get a kick out of listening to the arrangements and vocal choices. My time in college was most inspiring for me. While at Vassar our student-run organizations gave us a lot of freedom, which translated into major opportunities to produce, direct and create our own material.”

Peterson continues, “I was a director and artistic director for our Ebony Theatre Ensemble, as well as the director of our A Cappella gospel choir (A Joyful Noise). Those experiences, along with the Drama department productions, let my mind and artistic spirit run free. They also gave me a real sense of creative ownership and have colored how I work to date.”

Having so much responsibility in college was a great foundation for life on set. While working on this production Shawn learned a few things as well. “I learned that I work pretty well under pressure. When you have a scripted scene and you’re given the chance to step off-book and just riff you can get a little nervous…it’s either sink or swim….. I felt like I swam…at least I hope I did,” he laughs.

Peterson reminisces about his time on set. “My shoot days were pretty relaxed compared to some of the big number days. I’d get to set, get into wardrobe, hair and makeup and go over my material. Then I’d get called to set to block it. That’s when Liz would tell us when and where she wanted us to “mix it up” or improvise some things…she’d have the writers come over to give me a few “alt” lines that might be possible…basically to give me a little direction in which way to go…and then we’d take a few minutes…then shoot…and shoot some more.”

Shawn has some upcoming projects you will be able to find him in once Pitch Perfect 2 has come and gone. “I have a role in the upcoming film STEVIE D that will be finishing post-production soon. It’s a little bit of the Mob, a little bit of comedy and was a whole lot of fun to shoot! I also have a couple of projects that I’m producing and directing: a trio of music videos, a web series which is currently being shot … and I’m developing two film projects, although I’m not sure if they’re both films or if one is a television series. So, I’m keeping my creative plate full.”

Wow – that is one full plate he’s got going on! Speaking of which, he is looking forward to a long, fulfilling career. “I’d like to have a few more leads in films and star in my own television show. That’s the goal, to have my flag solidly planted in the Hollywood canon.”

At this rate, with his talent, he is sure to succeed with those goals. And when Shawn isn’t working on set in a film you’ll find him … where else … at the movies. “This might seem cliché, but I love going to the movies. I’d have to say that’s one of my favorite past times. Aside from that, I love to travel! I recently spent a few days in Jamaica and I see heading back there and getting back to the South of France or Italy again in my near future!”

This is definitely one guy you want to keep your eye on. Asked to sum up himself in a one-word nutshell Shawn grinned and replied, “imaginative.”

Image of Shawn Carter courtesy of Ben Miller.

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Jenna Bensoussan is an entertainment, lifestyle and wellness writer and editor. She served as executive editor for Smart Talk Magazine, associate editor for Counselor Magazine, and continues to serve as contributing editor for ACED Magazine. She has also contributed to newspapers such as the Boynton Times. Bensoussan holds a B.A. in communication and public relations from Florida Atlantic University.