I recently got the chance to talk to Jon Michael Davis about his role as Ed in ‘Red, White & Blue’. Here, Jon talks about the film and it’s violent nature, what it was like working with Noah Taylor and Amanda Fuller and what a Jon Michael Davis day consists of….
Hey Jon, thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Your new film, ‘Red White & Blue’ – is out in UK cinemas this week – what’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
You’re very welcome and it’s my pleasure. ‘Red White & Blue’ is a hard film to summarize. It’s unlike anything I have ever worked on or even seen. To put it as simply as I can, the film tells the story of three people whose lives intersect in a seemingly normal fashion for the most part. But as the story unfolds, an underlying sense of danger becomes apparent, which eventually escalates into something I wouldn’t classify as normal at all, but is completely believable at the same time. How vague was that? I’m trying not to give anything away!
Tell us a bit about the character of Ed…
Ed is a friend of one of the main characters, Franki, played by Marc Senter. Out of all of Franki’s friends, Ed is the one that tries to keep it all together when all hell is breaking loose. He’s like a big brother figure to Franki.. Ed is definitely someone that the audience will identify with and care about, which makes a particular scene with Ed and his family one of the most gut-wrenching of the film.
When you first had the script in your hands, what was it that made you want to become part of the project?
It’s funny because I think the script actually scared my agents! They sent it to me and said something like, “You do not have to do this… read the whole script and it’s up to you”. So, that intrigued me. I mean, what could possibly be in that script that freaked them out so much, right? So, I read it. The first thing I thought to myself was, Where are they going to find the female lead? Who is going to be brave enough to play this role? The script was graphic. Scenarios that definitely had my jaw hanging open as I read it. I knew immediately that I had to be a part of this project. It was so different, so independent, and so completely raw. I knew it was going to be something that was going to move people in many different ways.
The film stars Noah Taylor, Marc Senter and Amanda Fuller – what was it like working on set with them?
They suck… kidding! Ok, here’s the part in these interviews where people blow smoke up each others butts and say things like, “She was amazing and generous and genius and bullet proof and turns water into wine, etc…”. But, I’m going to break it down for you and give it to you straight – Amanda Fuller is a powerhouse. I have nothing but respect for her. Simon did not have an easy time casting that part and she came in and created something that was exactly as I envisioned it when I read the script. It was an intense shoot, but we still managed to have many laughs and I think she’s an amazing person and I wouldn’t be surprised if she could actually turn water into wine. Marc Senter is an actor to keep an eye on. He’s old school, an actor’s actor. He’s like a young Pacino or Keitel. He’s so fun to watch. There’s a scene in RWB where Franki gets some life-altering news. Marc’s reaction to that news is one of my favorite scenes in the film. He doesn’t say a word, but you can see everything that he’s going through. He killed it. Simon didn’t cut away, he just held it on Marc. It was perfect. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Marc and we’ve become good friends. You see? Isn’t this sick? Wouldn’t you rather hear me say it was the worst experience ever and the actors were horrible people? I wish I could, but not on this film. I have to say, I was a bit nervous about working with Noah Taylor. I was familiar with his work and knew that we had a powerful scene together and I knew that I would have to be on top of my game with him. Casting Noah as Nate was risky because it’s so against type. Noah would not have been the first person to come to mind when I read the script. But, when he showed up in Austin with a beard, long hair, and smoking cigs… he was Nate! I can’t imagine anyone else in that role. The first thing he said to me when we met was, “I want to apologize ahead of time for all of the terrible things I’m going to have to do to you”. We laughed and he’s really one of the nicest people on the planet and it goes without saying that he’s one of the best actors around.
A IMDB review has said – “’Red White & Blue’ will more than likely make you go through a wide spectrum of reactions. It’ll start off with a “What the hell is this?” that’ll transition to, “Damn, and I thought I was a jerk,” before ending with, “So yeah, gangbangs probably aren’t a very good idea…” – would you agree with this statement?
Yes… especially the part about gangbangs. Simon Rumley is so unbelievably bad ass. He created something that is so different and has struck a chord with so many people. Each person that sees it will come out of it with a different take. Some will love it, some will absolutely hate it. It sticks with you. You’ll be thinking about it for days after.
Let’s talk a little about you Jon – what made you want to become an actor in the first place?
I grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and started acting at 11 years old. I was in a children’s improv group. We would tour the city and do shows for kids at schools and libraries – kids doing improv for kids. That’s where it began. It was something that I grew up doing and always knew that I wanted to do it for a living as an adult. I eventually moved to L.A in my twenties to give it a go.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in acting?
That’s such a difficult question because everyone is different and everyone’s path is different. I can only speak from my own experience and one word comes to mind: perseverance. I hung in there when a lot of people let it go. I’ve had good years and lean years, but I never quit. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.
We should probably mention that you are a 3rd degree black belt and that you trained under legendary martial arts master, Bong Soo Han for 13 years – what was that like? Do you still find time to train even now, given the workload?
I was extremely fortunate to be able to train for so many years with Grand Master Han. He was often called the “quintessential martial artist” and that’s exactly what he was. He taught me so much more than fighting. He was an example of integrity, grace, character, and perseverance. He really instilled an indomitable spirit in me. If it weren’t for him, I never would have survived in this business. I’m still training and teaching Hapkido in Santa Monica, California right now. I’ve been doing it for 18 years and I’ll continue to do it just as my late Master did up until his passing.
What does a Jon Michael Davis day usually consist of?
[I’m laughing] That’s funny! My friends are going to give me so much crap for this question, no matter how I answer it! So, I’m going to try not to bury myself. Let’s see… how can I do this and not sound like a total cheese ball? Ok… every day is a bit different. I also do voiceover work, so I may start my day recording a couple of voiceover auditions in a small recording booth that I have in my house. I may, on any particular day, have an audition for a commercial, a TV show, or film. Sometimes I have to put myself on tape if the project is casting in someplace like Texas or Louisiana. Other than career stuff, I hang with my wife and two dogs, I usually get a workout in, I eat out way too much, and I’m on Facebook and Twitter more than I should be. How’s that?
We should probably mention you have a role in ‘Blacktino’, coming out later on this year – what can you tell us about the project? I’ve heard my old pals Michelle Rodriguez and Danny Trejo are in it…
They are! Unfortunately, I didn’t work with either of them, which is a bummer. But, I have a great role in the film. ‘Blacktino’ is a story about a bi-racial high school nerd. It’s the first feature from writer/director Aaron Burns and it premiered at the South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas last March. I have high hopes for it.
What else is coming up for you in 2011?
The one project that I am really excited about is a feature called ‘Cooper’. It’s a family film about a stray dog that seems to help people get through tragic events in their lives. The movie came from a husband and wife team. Robin Nations is the writer/director and her husband Kevin Nations was the DP and editor. I have the lead in the film opposite Farah White. The film is making the festival rounds right now. It’s such a great story with a lot of heart. It was also really nice to work on a film where I don’t get killed as well.
Thanks for the interview!