March 14, 2023 Interview – Vernon Davis
Most NFL fans easily recognize the name Vernon Davis. A two-time Pro Bowler tight end, Super Bowl 50 champ, and 15-year NFL veteran, Davis had a very good career in football. A key member of the San Francisco 49ers for the bulk of his career, as well one who made a key play to help the Denver Broncos win a championship, everyone knows the athlete, but do they also realize he can act as well? A diverse individual, Davis has taken on acting full force since retiring from the NFL in 2019, and as a result, is making a respectable career for himself.
Putting his heart into it, and working hard in the process, he has found himself landing bigger roles all the time, and his most recent part is in the new Thriller The Ritual Killer. A film starring award-winning actors Morgan Freeman and Cole Hauser, Davis takes on the role of Randoku, a mysterious character performing the ancient art of black magic. A character with depth, Vernon Davis recently took some time to chat about his love for acting, the work he put into developing Randoku for The Ritual Killer, the work ethic he applies from his playing career into acting roles, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have had a very interesting career. You had a very successful NFL career; including making two pro bowls, and winning a super bowl. Now you are enthralled in an acting career. Is acting something you always aspired to do?
Vernon Davis – No, I never had aspirations to be an actor or a painter or anything. When I was in college, I was a criminal justice major, but then I changed my major to Art Studio. It was random and off just pure gut instincts and desires. I did that, and when I arrived in San Francisco I opened up an art gallery. Then during that time, a guy came in and said, “I would love to use your house to make a movie.” I said, “Ok, let me think about it.” When I decided to let him do it, he said he would give me a part. I did that, then I decided to enroll myself in a class at the Shelton Theater of Art. After that class, I fell in love with the arts and acting. I knew I wanted to pursue it. I knew I wanted to get into producing, directing, and I wanted to be an actor.
Since then, I’ve just been going, going, going, and getting these opportunities. A lot of people ask, “How do I get these opportunities.” It is just the world surrounding me. Whenever you are on the right track with your desires, attention, and the ambitious is there… the world just brings everything to you.
Cryptic Rock – And you have worked at it. Looking at your resume, projects have progressively become bigger. That is a testament to hard work.
Vernon Davis – Thank you, absolutely. I strongly believe in that.
Cryptic Rock – You started to dabble in acting while you were still actively playing football. Then when you retired from the league, you took it on full force. You have done Action, Drama, Thrillers… but what genres would you like to work in most?
Vernon Davis – I like interesting characters. I love Action, but I’d much rather do something where I can really become a character. I would like to put the work into a character; besides just running around and shooting people. I would like to have an interesting character, like a pianist or a guy struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. I like that kind of stuff.
Cryptic Rock – Interesting. Speaking of which, you do have an interesting role in the new film The Ritual Killer. How did this role come about for this?
Vernon Davis – My manager knew this guy, Joe Lemmon, who is a producer on the film. He submitted my acting reel, and Joe was already familiar with me. After he saw my reel, he said, “I think Vernon can pull this one off.” He gave me the opportunity and once I learned I was going to play Randoku in The Ritual Killer, I started to put the work in.
As a football player we are made to prepare ourselves, you have to be prepared. Before Sunday comes, game day, I’ve already caught 300-400 passes and I’m over-prepared. With this film, it is the same thing. Once I heard I had this role, I reached out to someone in South Africa to ask her to help with the translation in Zulu. Then I had a dialect coach. I just started working to break down this script and help myself find some identity in this character. The journey was truly amazing.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you really dove in deep for this. You also work with a really great cast led by Morgan Freeman; perhaps one of the best actors around. What was it like working with this cast?
Vernon Davis – It was very exciting. It’s all surreal, because you don’t just wake up every morning with an opportunity to walk downstairs, go on set, and be next to Morgan Freeman. Here I am in the trailer with him, here I am and I have scenes with this guy. We are interacting in the film… it’s amazing! You are just not rewarded opportunities like that. They are few and far between, and I’m very grateful.
Cryptic Rock – You have made the most of it as well. Without giving the film away, there are some interest twists at the end. Did those twists also attract you to the film?
Vernon Davis – I love the twists at the end, but what really attracted me to this film was that this character had some correlation with my personal life. I say that because of my backstory, as well as losing my mom, there was a lot of intention there with this character. After reading this script I said, “Wow, this is for me.” I put my heart and soul into that character, I gave him everything that I had.
Cryptic Rock – That is really inspiring to hear. You mentioned how you have always prepared intensely. One can imagine preparing for a big game is different from preparing for a role. Also, there is a certain amount of anticipation for a big game. Is that anticipation, or nervousness, different when preparing for an acting role?
Vernon Davis – It’s not a nervous feeling at all. When I am preparing for a role, I just can’t wait to get with my acting coach and I can’t wait to get in front of the script to break it down. Throughout the day, even when I am riding in the car, I will record my lines down on a voice memo and listen to words rather than music to get it in my system. Once I get all the dialogue, I will then go start to break the script down; find out my intentions and the overall scene objective. I give the character a backstory; I compare and contrast myself to the character to make it my own. Once you do all that, it lives in you. Then when it’s time to shoot the film, you are so full with the character. It’s a beautiful thing.
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like you are extremely passionate about it. Let’s reflect for a minute on your NFL career. You not only had a long career in football, but a successful one. Beyond winning a part of a Super Bowl team, what is your most memorable moment from your NFL career?
Vernon Davis – I would say my most memorable moment as an NFL player was being in the locker room with the team. Of course, there are plays that are memorable, and winning a championship, but the biggest and best part is being in the locker. You are sharing stories, interacting, becoming familiar with your co-workers, teammates, interacting with upper management, and cultivating a relationship with your coaches. That’s where it starts. The dinners that you have the night before the game… those are the things I remember most.