EXCLUSIVE | Apple TV's 'Swagger' star James Bingham talks NBA and keeping it real
In an exclusive with MEAWW, the actor spoke about landing the key role, NBA, and his experiences while on set and shooting during Covid-19
James Bingham's Drew Murphy has fast become one of the fan-favorite characters in Apple TV+'s 'Swagger'. The sports drama, inspired by NBA superstar Kevin Durant’s experiences is a breezy watch. The sequences are choreographed to perfection, and the storyline, although predictable, is absolutely relatable if you're an athlete.
The Australian actor finds himself part of an ensemble cast that includes O’Shea Jackson, Isiah Hill, Shinelle Azoroh, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Caleel Harris. For Bingham, being part of the sports drama was quite the experience. In an exclusive with MEAWW, the actor spoke about landing the key role, NBA, and his experiences while on set and shooting during the COVID-19 pandemic that made 'Swagger' all the more challenging and special.
Talking about the role, Bingham sent a monologue to the folks down at Los Angeles, only to not hear about them for about a month. "I also had to film myself playing basketball as well and send that through and I played the worst game," he chuckled. "So I had to edit it to make it look like I played really well. But I sent that over and they liked it and asked for another one." A trip to LA soon followed and Bingham found himself in process for a chemistry rate with Solomon Irama, who played Phil Marksby, on the show.
One of the more astounding factors is that Bingham doesn't give away the fact that he is Australian. The accent is masked to perfection and the young actor credits the accent training he's taken. "To be an actor [in Hollywood], you have to have an American accent," he remarked. He also shed light on NBA. "Pretty big fan of the NBA and obviously Kevin Durant," Bingham explained. "I played domestic league and school league, but I never took it seriously."
That does come as a surprise considering his character Drew drained the shots at utmost ease and all the while flaunting a headband to make the fashion statement. However, he admits that he's not a "standout guy" and had to train enough for 'Swagger' to look all the more authentic as a player. "I had to train for about five weeks, two hours a day before we started filming," he added. The training even stretched to weekends as well. "I had some incredible trainers is Laughlin Cummings and Reggie Wallace. They really helped me perfect my skills. I'm not saying I'm amazing, but definitely improved."
Talking about Drew, Bingham said there were a lot of reasons as to why he resonated with his character. "He lives away from his basketball team and he takes two buses and a train to get to his team. And that used to be me as well. I used to catch a train and a bus to get to school to play basketball." It was also the little things that he could relate to. "I have a great, family over here. I have great friends and I get along with them really well. So having that brotherhood and that family is really important, and even Drew had that."
One of the highlights of 'Swagger' was about how the series took place in real-time and that meant COVID-19 became an integral part of the show's storyline. "We never meant to film during COVID, but it obviously came along and we had to adjust a few different things. But it was obviously challenging, but we filmed through that and I think it's really cool," Bingham said.
That the show was an instant hit doesn't come as a surprise. "With the likes of Durant and Brian Grazer as the executive producers, I knew that it had some sort of palpable impact," Bingham opined. "But reading some great reviews and seeing it actually come to life, it was really quite amazing and I'm really excited to see how the future episodes go. I can't wait to see what the audience likes and I think we cover some powerful stories and it's quite in the times right now, so I'm sure people really enjoy it."
O'Shea Jackson garnered immense praise on social media for his performance as Ike, and Bingham spoke about his relationship with the actor who plays his on-screen basketball coach. "He's the coolest guy... like he's the funniest bloke you could have met. He was obviously a really great mentor for me as well. You know, he'd have that time for me. He would talk to me about his experiences and say, stay true to yourself"
One of the major challenges of starring in an ensemble cast show would be in making a mark in the limited screen time, and that was a toughie for Bingham as well. "Trying to find your own style and your own voice as an actor is obviously a challenging part. But as I said with O'Shea, he said, "stay true to yourself" and that was really important for me. Being real and not trying to be someone else."
Bingham is open to experimenting. "I'm open to everything," he said when asked if he was keen on looking at playing different roles than just sticking to sports. "I'm really looking forward to exploring different, challenging roles. And obviously, I'm lucky to be a part of the sports drama. Hopefully, further down the line, I really get to challenge myself in different roles."
'Swagger' drops weekly on Apple TV+.