Ashton Sanders may only be 22 years old, but the rising star has already made his mark on the Hollywood landscape thanks to his instantly iconic performance in the Oscar-winning Moonlight. His latest project is The Equalizer 2, in which he stars opposite one of the most legendary leading men in cinema history, the great Denzel Washington.
Sanders plays a key supporting role in the film as Miles, a talented young artist who is caught between pursuing his talent and education or throwing it all away to join a gang. Naturally, Robert McCall (Washington) intervenes in an effort to guide Miles on the right path. After all, if Miles ends up falling in with the wrong crowd, he may, one day, find himself on the wrong end of McCall's signature brand of vigilante justice.
The relationship between Miles and McCall provides the true heart and soul of The Equalizer 2, as well as some of the film's most intimate and heart-wrenching moments. It's not an overstatement to say Ashton Sanders is the key to The Equalizer 2's emotional core.
Before you were cast in the sequel, were you a fan of the first movie?
Ashton Sanders: Yeah, I was. I remember the first Equalizer coming out and it being one of the most badass action films that I’d seen. The story and the way it was shot, it was really well done. I was excited to part of this one, for sure. It was pretty rad, man! Pretty rad.
What drew you to the role of Miles?
Ashton Sanders: I was definitely drawn to the relationship dynamic between McCall and Miles. And just, kinda, what and who Miles represents, I think there’s a lot of familiarity to him and to who he is that a lot of people can resonate with. I thought that was really important. And, obviously, working with Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua, them both being masters at their craft, ya know, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
In emotionally intense scenes, or even just in scenes where you're shooting the breeze and having a good time, how much room do you have to improvise?
Ashton Sanders: A lot of our work in the film was improvisation. Although we had a script to follow and guidelines to follow, Antoine gave us room to play and explore within the characters and their dialogue.
How does your character, and the movie as a whole, inspire you as a person?
Ashton Sanders: I think this character, Miles, made me more sympathetic to… From an outside perspective, I only would have read that person, if I saw them down the street, by their appearance. By their cover. There’s depth to people. Everybody’s kind of different, but one and the same. I think that’s the most important part of doing this job, is learning different personality types. I mean, it’s kind of like sociology or psychology in a sense. With that, and with every project I do, I think I’m able to pull something away that further makes me understand humanity in a way I didn’t before.
You were in other movies before you were cast in Moonlight, but when you have that moment where you were like, ‘Oh, my life is different now?’
Ashton Sanders: I had high hopes for Moonlight, just off the reaction I had while reading the script. I have never, to this day, had a reaction to a script like I had with that one. So I knew it was going to be something special. I just had an intuition, a feeling, ya know? So, I dunno, I mean… I think I’m still in that now. My whole life has changed so much, and it’s still constantly changing, but Moonlight brought about a bunch of opportunities that were really surreal. From the Oscars and Golden Globes, to the notoriety that it brought, to even doing things like working with Calvin Klein. Moonlight laid out the foundation for where I’m at right now. I can’t really say what that moment was. It’s a constant change.
More: The Equalizer 2 Review
ASHTON SANDERS (Miles) most recently starred in the Oscar winning film Moonlight, which also stars Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris and was directed by Barry Jenkins. Hilton Als of the New Yorker said of his performance, “There is no accounting for talent like this.” Among the accolades Sanders received for his work in Moonlight include an MTV Movie Award shared with his cast mate Jharrel Jerome, the Robert Altman Award at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Special Jury Award at the Gotham Awards, both shared with his cast. In 2017 Sanders was one of the faces of Calvin Klein for their collections designed by Raf Simons.
Sanders is currently filming the lead role in Native Son for A24.
Prior to Moonlight, Sanders made his professional acting debut with a lead role in The Retrieval. The film was nominated for the Special Jury Award at SXSQ in 2013 and won several awards at festivals including Deuville, Ashland, Phoenix and New Orleans. Soon after, he played a supporting role in the critically acclaimed NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray.
Sanders was born and raised just outside Los Angeles. He became interested in theatre at a young age and began taking acting classes at the Amazing Grace Conservatory, where he performed in several plays. He eventually moved on to the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts where he continued to hone his craft as an actor. All of his hard work eventually earned him a scholarship to DePaul University in Chicago.
When he is not on set or reading scripts for future projects, Sanders pursues some of his other passions, painting and fashion design.
- The Equalizer 2 (2018) release date: Jul 20, 2018