An Interview With Michael Cory Davis
Author's Note: Several extensive essays on the state of African Americans in Hollywood and on an actor's perspective on the current international situation written by Mr. Davis can be found at his site.
Alien Apocalypse will air on the Sci-Fi Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 28th 2006, at 9 PM EST
Michael Cory Davis
Michael Cory Davis is a busy man. After filming six movies overseas for the Sci-Fi Channel (including the recent Raptor Island and Alien Siege, Manticore, and the upcoming Stratosphere) over the last couple of years, he's back in the United States, setting up screenings of his short film Svetlana's Journey in Los Angeles and in Texas, and working on new projects. Last year he was seen alongside Renee O'Connor and Bruce Campbell in Alien Apocalypse. He took some time out to reflect on that film and on his experiences in the world of acting.
On the set of Alien Invasion
(l. to r., Jonas Talkington, Renee O'Connor, Michael Cory Davis, Bruce Campbell
KRICKEL: Thanks for the opportunity to talk to you about your career, and about Alien Apocalypse! First and foremost -- do you go by Michael, Cory, or something else?
DAVIS: I go by the name Michael Cory Davis.
KRICKEL: According to your extremely well-done website, you are a native New Yorker, of Jamaican heritage. I gather there's a fairly large Jamaican community in NYC. Were your parents born there?
DAVIS: Jamaicans are everywhere in the world, but there are some cities where we run things. (laughs) All jokes aside, yes -- my parents are native Jamaicans, and indeed New York has a major Jamaican and Caribbean population.
KRICKEL: You seem to have gravitated into performing early on. Tell us about your first experiences, as a child, in school plays. Did you always know you would be an actor?
DAVIS: I come from a very artistic family. My mother and father always promoted the arts in my household amongst myself and my older brother and younger sister. We would get dressed up as kids and put on shows for my family. I clearly remember my sister putting on a great Tina Turner performance from (when I was) young. When I was in third grade, I performed in my first theatrical play, The Pirates of Penzance, and that was the beginning of my love for stage; shortly after, the desire for film and TV grew.
KRICKEL: From there, you attended Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts. This is the Fame school, correct? Given that I guess you didn't break out into song in the lunchroom on a daily basis, that still must have been an incredibly enriching environment. Any classmates that we would know?
DAVIS: Oh yeah, there are many notable actors, from Pacino, to Marlon Wayans, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Kelis… tons of major celebrities are graduates from Performing Arts High. The environment was in fact very enriching, and I wish it was one that I could go back and do all over again. There are a couple of girls I wish I had the opportunity to make out with but hey, you can't get all of em! (laughs) No, in all honesty, I appreciate so much now the opportunity I had to act and learn everyday. Now, like every other, I fight and wait to get a part, just to get a chance to act.
KRICKEL: What were some early roles and formative experiences there?
DAVIS: I had many influential teachers in my day, but it was in my junior year when I began to take acting more seriously. I was given an August Wilson play called Fences. I portrayed Troy Maxon, and from that moment I knew what the magic of acting really was.
KRICKEL: After high school, you moved straight into acting. Did you have any day jobs along the way?
DAVIS: Come on -- I'm Jamaican, I never have only one job. I worked as a waiter, opened my own school, more like a haven for actors to go and learn and talk about issues or rehearse scenes.
Davis in Raptor Island
KRICKEL: How did you get your first television role, on "All My Children?"
DAVIS: I was scouted by a casting director for ABC-TV at the time while doing a talent showcase at Performing Arts, and that's how that happened. I was basically an extra for a year straight, working sometimes three times a week. Then I started getting small lines here and there.
KRICKEL: Was that a scary experience, working in the big leagues while still young?
DAVIS: I wasn't intimidated, actually I always felt like, damn -- just give me a chance and I will blow your minds! There is no time to be scared in this business because as soon as you are, that's when someone else takes your spot.
KRICKEL: Early on, you also began to branch out into related fields. Tell us about your short film, Love Lost. How did you get that financed, and what is it about?
DAVIS: Love Lost was about two half brothers who were like night and day and were vying for the admiration and love of their mother. The movie was financed out of my pocket, and it cost about ten thousand to make. It was what I always consider to be my college training for filmmaking. I wanted to go to school for filmmaking, but the tuition costs were so high, and also I knew that I wouldn't really hold a camera until my third year, so I decided to skip the process of school and just learn on my own, and in the process hire a whole lot of my friends and give myself and them opportunities to work.
KRICKEL: From there you moved to LA. How different did you find it from the NYC acting community?
DAVIS: The acting community in LA is very different than in NY. In NY when you say you are an actor, people listen, they are intrigued, at least back then. It meant something, here in L.A, everyone is an actor; the bus driver, the teacher, the cop, everybody has their SAG card, so it's taken with a grain of salt, unless you have a resume that shows that people actually pay you well for your talent. Here in LA the artistic ability is taken out of acting, and the financial value is placed more on the craft. People don't care much about being a learning actor here as much as they do being a sex symbol, or someone that can just be cool on tv. But hey, this is what LA is here for... it caters to everyone's dreams. And why not? It's in America, land of opportunity.
KRICKEL: Then you were cast in "The Bold and the Beautiful." How long were you on that show, and what sort of character did you play?
DAVIS: I played a fashion stylist for Forrester Creations. I got the job and worked on the show for two years sporadically. The character was not ever anything more than recurring. I mean, it was a paycheck that I could rely on monthly. The casting department there, actually at all of CBS Daytime, are great people for all their soaps, so I love when they book me on their tv shows.
KRICKEL: Around this time, you made three short films - Manmade, The Call, and 3 Tables -- clips from these can be seen in your reel at your site, and seem to really give you a chance to showcase your talent in three very different roles. What's the history behind these films?
DAVIS: Yeah, these are all films that I did while working at getting real paying gigs. These are the art jobs, the jobs that get you going and acting and honing in on your craft. These are the films that no one will ever see worldwide but are the films that add to the puzzle of what makes an artist a star. These are the experience givers.
KRICKEL: One, The Call, seems pretty intense, and I gather it was a play originally?
DAVIS: The Call is a powerful film which has won numerous film festivals, and it dealt with AIDS. A dramatic short film, that deals with AIDS in a very real way. Yes, it was initially a play that a friend of mine Sharon Brathwaite wrote and Princess Monique directed. These are two beautiful women, so just to work with them was a pleasure for me, because their spirits are pure, and their intentions with the film were to help all the people who are in position to help themselves not contract AIDS.
Davis in Cerebus
KRICKEL: Any advice to fledgling actors on how to get a foot in the door?
DAVIS: Yes, to work you need an agent; to get an agent you gotta work. So my advice: work, shoot your own sh*t, get into classes that do showcases and can actually get real agents and casting directors to come and see you perform, do monologues in front of Paramount Studios if you have to, but never stop practicing, and always be pro-active.
KRICKEL: Your first feature film was a direct-to-video piece called The Vault. How were you cast, and what sort of part did you play?
DAVIS: I played a teenager who was somewhat of a bad kid, but really it was because of abusive parents. I wasn't a thug, more a misunderstood kid. It was Full Moon Universe, and if you're familiar with them they do low budget horror movies. The movie was about some evil spirit released in a school looking to kill me and some classmates doing some extracurricular activity at an abandoned school. It was my first film that took me out of LA to work, and I did it when I first arrived to Los Angeles. I was cast like any other project: audition, wait for the call to be hired, and then I was off.
KRICKEL: Since then, you've appeared in a number of made-for-sci-fi films, shot in Bulgaria. Do you enjoy it there?
DAVIS: I enjoy Bulgaria and Eastern Europe. I welcome any opportunity to travel and learn about other people and cultures
KRICKEL: Did you experience any culture shock or differences from living in the US? Renee mentioned in an interview that the Bulgarian communication style can be very vocal and volatile, and that she had thought someone was angry with her, when in actuality he was simply being expressive. Did you encounter any of that?
DAVIS: Indeed, the Bulgarians are vocal, but it is the language. It can be intimidating to some because not everyone understands the way the people express themselves. The words are hard to deliver and they must be said with high tones. But it's all a learning experience and I have many friends there.
KRICKEL: Both Josh Becker and your castmate Jonas Talkington have commented on the beauty of Bulgarian women. Do you agree?
DAVIS: Yes, the women are beautiful, but more importantly the country has a rich soul and a heart.
KRICKEL: What was the atmosphere like on the set, working with Josh, Renee and Bruce?
DAVIS: Working with Josh was a pleasure. He and Bruce recollected a lot on set about their past work experiences, and I had a great time listening and learning from their stories. Josh is pretty easygoing, and I enjoyed his humor and his ability to be a big kid on set and just have fun. That kind of attitude permeates on set, and it causes for everyone else to become the same way. Which I think to be helpful when shooting a film about giant termites.
KRICKEL: That brings up a good point. You have serious stage and film credentials, Bruce is now a cult icon and best-selling author, and Renee has a huge fan following, and from all accounts wowed 'em as Lady Macbeth a couple of years ago. When working on a made-for-cable project such as this -- is there ever any sense of "We should be doing Ibsen?" or "Why aren't we starring in Spielberg's next blockbuster?" Or do you enjoy each role as it comes along?
DAVIS: As actors, we're always searching for the project that will do more than pay the bills, but also intrigue and challenge us as artists. Usually if I involve myself in a project, I go at it ready to take from it all the positive experiences that I can, so no, I rarely think to myself I should be doing Spielberg, or what have you, because if that's supposed to happen, it will happen in its own time.
KRICKEL: What significance do you feel the increasing exodus from Hollywood will have on the film industry, and for your career?
DAVIS: Personally I like shooting on location. I really enjoy when the craft affords the artist the opportunity to travel to a distant location that is more in line with the story than something built on a set. So if I have the chance to shoot overseas instead of a Hollywood set I would always take it. It's like shooting a movie about NY in NY on the streets or on a studio in LA. Hollywood isn't hurting by the departure of so many films even though they say they are. I mean if they really were, then they would lower the costs of shooting here, and make it a little bit easier to get insurance, licensing, locations, so forth and so on. I am concerned about the crews, because every job that leaves is a job that goes away from them.
KRICKEL: As you know, this will be running in an online fanzine. Renee, Bruce, and the entire Renaissance Pictures family have a pretty intense fan following. As an actor, how do you view the notion of fans?
DAVIS: I love fans; they are who keep this business exciting.
KRICKEL: Do you think an actor has any obligation to his/her fans? (For example - Bruce's hard-core fans might be eager to see him in horror/fantasy, but perhaps not so much so on "Dawson's Creek," while Renee's fans might be eager for soulful dramas.) Do you feel an actor should be sensitive to this?
DAVIS: It is an actor's right to choose the roles he/she likes for whatever reasons they do. No fan, agent, manager, or anyone should ever tell an actor what to do, regardless of status or recognition.
KRICKEL: What about negative feedback? How does a working actor deal with/feel about that?
DAVIS: Hey everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one realizes that as an actor we get doors closed on our face from the point we start auditioning; so people's comments and negative criticism is no different than my agent calling me and saying you didn't get the part. You get used to it, and wait for the positive result to occur. It always does.
KRICKEL: While in Bulgaria, you became very involved in human rights issues. Tell us about how this happened, and about your new film Svetlana's Journey.
DAVIS: I got involved in human rights while in Sofia, after becoming popular within the community as an artist. I ended up touring the country with a non-government organization, Face To Face Bulgaria," and talked with young kids about their futures and goals. The organization focuses on preventing future victims of child prostitution, as there are large numbers of young girls forced into prostitution in Eastern Europe. I received a very disturbing interview of a 13 year-old Bulgarian girl sold into prostitution and tortured and abused for eight months. I ended up writing it as a film and directing it in 2004/5. The film is doing really well for getting out awareness, and I am doing major screenings all over the United States with it.
KRICKEL: What sort of projects do you have lined up after this? What long-range career goals do you have, either in acting, or in general? Do you envision a transition into directing?
DAVIS: All the artistic talents that I have been blessed with feed each other, so yes I will direct more projects that I write, and I will star in them as well. As for now, I am gearing up to go into production of a feature length version of Svetlana's Journey.
KRICKEL: Thanks again for your willingness to be interviewed, and best of luck on all your future projects!
Michael Cory Davis
Path of Destruction (2005) (TV) .... Eric
Alien Apocalypse (2005) (TV) .... Capt. Chuck Burkes [Alien Apocalypse will air on the Sci-Fi Channel on Tuesday, Feb. 28th 2006, at 9 PM EST]
Alien Blood (2005) (TV) .... Alex
Cerberus (2005) (TV) .... Burke
Raptor Island (2004) .... Marcus
"The Bold and the Beautiful"
- Episode #1.4275 (2004) TV Episode .... Josh
- Episode #1.4055 (2003) TV Episode .... Josh
- Episode #1.4027 (2003) TV Episode .... Josh
3 Tables (2003) .... Phillip
The Call (2002) .... Quincy Michaels
Man Made (2002) .... Sean
The Vault (2000/I) (V) .... Kyle
Svetlana's Journey (2004) [Director and writer]
August Krickel is his real name; it's German, and refers to Caesar, Augustus Caesar, not to the month. August is a native South Carolinian, and a fan of mythology since reading a comic book version of The Iliad as a little boy. This led him to study Classics at Vanderbilt University, the University of Georgia, and the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome. He currently works in university administration. Over the past 20 years, however, he has had a sideline career as free-lance actor, director, and drama critic. This double interest in myth and drama has made XWP his favorite show.
Favorite episode: THE PRICE (44/220), A GOOD DAY (73/405)
Favorite line: Joxer: "Ok, then its settled. We're a team. Joxer the Mighty, and his mighty band of mighty men. Girls. Joxer the Mighty and his fighting mighty women fighters. Fighting." IN SICKNESS AND IN HELL (72/404)
First episode seen: THE TITANS (07/107)
Least favorite episode: LITTLE PROBLEMS (98/508), KING CON (61/315)