Q & A with Child Actor Richard Davis!

Richard Davis
Actor Richard Davis shot by Denise Grant

At 11-years-old actor Richard Davis has already accomplished more in the entertainment industry than many actors ever will. In the past three years he’s received four Young Artist Award nominations for his work on the films The Comeback Kid, Brothers and To Look Away and the award-winning series Kid’s Town.

While it’s undeniable that the kid has a face that could melt the heart of the Grinch, Davis has a lot of other things going for him besides just being ridiculously cute. For starters, his emotional range is astonishing, and not just for someone of his age but for an actor of any age. He understands the process of character development and knows exactly when and how to deliver the necessary comic relief or high-intensity dramatic moments within a scene. What is even more impressive though, is his knowledge of the world around him and the manner in which he speaks.

A speed-reader who actually competes in book competitions like the Battle of the Books, a competition that he won with his team earlier this year, Davis loves a good story. And, one of the reasons he loves acting, and has become so good at it, is because it allows him to become part of the story bringing characters to life on the screen.

Audiences across Canada and the U.S. will recognize Richard Davis from his roles on the popular television shows Good Dog, The Ron James Show, Murdoch Mysteries and Copper, as well as the films A Family Way, Hazel & Elwood, Amalgamations, Full Out and many more. The young actor recently wrapped production on the film Shahzad, which will be released on BravoFact in August of 2016, as well as Psychic Playground which will be available very soon.

To find out more about Richard Davis make sure to check out our interview below. You can also find out more about his work through his IMDb page.

Where are you from and how old are you?

RD: I was born near Toronto, Ontario and I am currently 11 years old. Although at four years of age, I tested in the 99.9 percentile for oral I.Q. and could read encyclopedias, it wasn’t always easy for me. I was considered a ‘miracle’ when I was born and I had my challenges. My mom’s pregnancy was eventful and I was a premature baby that had to be intubated when I was born. I lived in three hospitals before coming home for the first time. I was followed by specialists for the first year until they discovered I was communicating in full sentences and starting to read using Baby Sign Language through American Sign Language. Eventually, my tongue caught up to my brain and there was no stopping me.

When and how did you get into acting?

RD: I was always curious. I wanted to learn about everything around me. I would ask questions and I would read everything I could get my hands on. When I had questions related to how something was made, my mom always said, ‘the best person to answer my questions were the people that worked in that area of expertise’…so we went on a lot of field trips. Even when we went shopping, I would ask about the products in the store and how everything, “operated”. After I learned about the products, I would proceed to play a ‘salesperson’ while my mom shopped. My mom would often apologize to the customers for me bothering them, but everyone seemed quite happy by it. Well, one day, I happened to try and sell lights in a lighting store to a gentleman, who turned out to be George Pastic, an Oscar nominated director for the film The Violin in 1975. Not only did George take me under his wing, but he became my mentor and friend, along with his wife Eleanor. Sadly, George and his wife tragically passed away in the fall of 2014 and I will always miss them.

What is it like having such a successful career at such a young age?

RD: It’s pretty cool to have people come up to me and say ‘Hey, are you that guy in the movies?’ It’s nice to be recognized for doing what you enjoy. I actually feel very fortunate that I have found something that I love to do at such a young age. Most people go through their lives trying to find out what it is that they want to do when they grow up. I love having the opportunity to be in front of the camera and bring a new character to life. One of the things I love to do most is to read a great book; the bigger, the better. When I get a new script, it’s like opening up a new book. The best part is that I get to be one of the characters in that book. When a script is based on a novel, I usually read the script and novel to get a full understanding of the character. Being a speed reader really comes in handy when you only have 24 – 48 hours to prepare for the audition.

 Can you tell me a little bit about the film and television projects you’ve done?

RD: I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play many exciting roles. When I was 5 years old, I landed a recurring role on Ken Finkleman’s comedy HBO series Good Dog. It was a wonderful opportunity to work with some very talented professionals over the course of the series. The series followed George, played by Ken Finkleman, a self-absorbed producer whose new reality show is in danger of being taken off the air. George is forced to liven the atmosphere of his life due to the network’s demands, so he asks his young model girlfriend, Claire, played by Lauren Lee Smith, to move into his house, but he doesn’t realize that means Claire’s son, my character, would also be moving in– along with my sister, nanny and our pet Rottweiler. George was often in the dog house.

I have also enjoyed filming on shows such as Murdoch Mysteries, set in the early 1900’s, as Finn Hopkins on the episode “Midnight Train to Kingston.” I will be careful about saying too much about this episode as I know that this show is played in many different countries around the world. I need to be careful so I do not give away any spoilers. I also played the role of Buzz in a black and white webisode for the television series Lost Girl. I thought it was cool to have my hair shaved to reflect my character Buzz’s name, and it was awesome wearing clothes from around the 1950’s. I love the wardrobe departments on shows like Murdoch Mysteries and Lost Girl. I’ve also had fun voicing with Ron James; I voiced Petey on The Ron James Show. Ron is such a nice person who is very intelligent and has a big heart. It was a real pleasure to work with him at CBC in Toronto.

I have also enjoyed playing the role of Brian Jr. on the web-series Kid’s Town, which is available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Ameba TV, Hulu, and Vimeo on Demand. Kid’s Town is a family show, and I play the next-door neighbor to the new kid in town. He befriends me in part, because we have the same name, and because I have no friends until he moves in, due to my big list of allergies. I enjoyed playing the character of Brian Jr. because I was the comedic relief in the show. I loved the writing in the series, and I must admit that I seemed to luck out with getting some of the best lines. I’m looking forward to doing more comedy in the future and creating more characters…Perhaps one with a British accent next time, as I love playing with accents.

For four years in a row, I won the lead role from the most prestigious university film programs in Canada. For one role, it was a two-hander where I played the lead role of Oliver in To Look Away. For this role, it involved filming late into each night in ridiculously below freezing temperatures.   I also played the lead role of Max in the film Brothers, which landed me my fourth Young Artist Nomination. I also played the younger lead character of Damian in Amalgamations, which ended up screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival Courts Metrages in 2013.

Another memorable role that I was nominated for a Young Artist Award and loved playing was “The Comeback Kid”. I played the lead character of Boniface Domingo Brantley who is The Comeback Kid and goes by the nickname Bo. Bo is an 11-year-old boy whose only friend happens to be an imaginary luchador named M the Minotaur. Bo and M spend their days flying model airplanes. Well, one day an aspiring pilot named Susie shoots down their aircraft and she feels so bad that she invites them to her birthday party, the first birthday Bo or M have ever been invited to. Bo doesn’t like change and he’s never been good at making decisions, but he is forced to transform and come out of his shell when his parents announce that they are separating. Even though the story was written for an 11 year old, I was only 7 when I won the lead role of Bo.

My most challenging lead role to date would be Hazel & Elwood. I played the lead role of Elwood at 6 years of age in Hazel & Elwood, a film that revolves around a family stricken with tragedy.

I found myself in some precarious situations in Hazel & Elwood, like derailing an entire train by placing pennies on the tracks…from my little purse dressed as a girl. The challenging part was wearing those Mary Jane shoes – wow! They are not meant to fit boys feet! Plus, I learned what girls had to go through with a crinoline, nylons and dress if they had to go to the restroom! You girls do not have it easy! Truth be told…all great actors have put on a dress. Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler and Charlie Chaplin, just to name a few.

Richard Davis
Richard in a dress on set of the film “Hazel & Elwood”

They are all very different, what made you choose to participate in these projects?

RD: Quite honestly, my love of acting made me eager to participate in every project I completed. It has only been due to prior bookings that I have had to turn down an audition or role.

What has been your favorite role so far and why?

RD: Wow…this is a difficult question, because I have loved so many roles. I would have to say that I loved being on the set of Copper as a street kid that was up to mischief. There was talk of where my character could be possibly headed on this show, but unfortunately the series was cancelled at the end of Season 2. It was an amazing set though with incredibly talented individuals from the show runner Tom Kelly on down. After my first day of filming, I spent an hour or two touring the set and learning how it all came together. This was another set where people were so nice and willing to teach me. It is definitely an experience that I will always treasure.

Another favourite role of mine was one I just completed; a Bravo Fact funded film called Shahzad. Shahzad is about an 11 year old Pakistani boy who moves to Toronto, and has to deal with transitioning into a foreign world. I played the role of Richie, a classmate that becomes Shaz’s best friend over the course of his first school year in Canada. The role was a favourite of mine because of the storyline and people involved in the project. It is a short story that I am told has already garnered attention to turn into a full length featured film, which I hope it does so I can read and see more of the story.

You get approached all the time to work on projects with people, what makes you pick one role over another?

RD: I am up for the challenge of any role that is presented to me by my agent. However, if I had the choice to pick one over another, I would say that I love a good story with great writing. Having said that, I also love a film where the director allows me to add improv to the story, like my last film Shahzad. It’s the best when you can just be free to express what is truly in your heart and mind and play within a scene. What I think I loved best about my last film was that the other actors in my scenes were able to follow along with me in the improv. That’s when the most natural moments are born on film.

Have you done any commercials?

RD: Yes, I have. In fact, I was recently nominated for a Joey Award for my favourite commercial, which was a PSA for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Canada. I am most proud of this spot as the focus of the campaign was to promote fun ways to find money to donate to a very worthy cause. I have also done many commercials for companies such as McDonald’s, Maytag, Sears, KFC, Spinmaster Toys, Sprout T.V. etc. One commercial I did for Hasbro involving Play-Doh when I was 4 years old, is still continuing to collect views on YouTube. I find it quite interesting to hear the theme song being played in the commercial in so many different languages around the world. I have also done some voice over radio and television commercials for car companies and Robin Hood Flour.

You’ve also performed in several theater productions—can you tell us about your work in the theatre?

RD: When I was younger, I used my theatre productions as a way of training for television and film. When I first began in the industry, I was only 4 years of age. With my exceptional reading and memorization skills, I needed an outlet. Being involved in the theatre gave me the opportunity to develop my confidence and acting skills through performing monologues on stage to an audience. I also had the opportunity to work together with a group of people to act in stage performances.

Do you have a preference for performing on stage or on camera?

RD: I love my improv class and the immediate response I receive from the audience. However, I do tend to enjoy television, film and voice over more than theatre for one reason; I love the newness of the scripts. With being an avid reader, I really do love being able to be a part of that new adventure. I find it exciting and I look forward to every new opportunity that comes along in the business.

Is it overwhelming at times to be receiving so much recognition for your work so early on? How do you balance being a kid with having a career?

RD: I had a great role model with George. When he discovered me in the lighting store when I was three years old, I had no idea he had been nominated for an Oscar. He had many other awards as well for his work that George never displayed. After I knew both he and his wife Eleanor for quite some time, he shared with me that he had the awards on display at first. However, over the years he realized that the awards were not important. I learned a great deal from George. He was always so humble, that it was not even himself that informed me of all his success. As my mom often says, the most important role I will play is myself, and George exemplified this well.

I balance being a kid with having a career with just that…making time to be a kid. The fact that I love what I am doing makes it rather easy. I am happiest when I am on set, therefore it doesn’t feel like work to begin with. However, my parents make sure that there is a healthy balance between acting, schoolwork, family, friends, activities and sleep. Two years ago, I tried the “gifted program.” Although I managed to get great marks, my parents decided it was not a healthy balance for me as the focus was ‘pace’ and I craved ‘depth.’ With having extra assignments added into my schedule, my parents felt that the ‘fun’ factor was missing from my life. Each person is different and so are their circumstances; and for me, the perfect solution was to switch back to my regular school and begin part-time homeschooling for the core subjects. This enables me to dig deep into the subjects that I crave and be with homeschoolers for events like the advanced Battle of the Books, while still having the social experience of both worlds.

Which actors do you look up to, and why?

RD: I admire many actors and their work. The actors that stand out for me though are ones like George Clooney who are philanthropists and are willing to go out on a limb for what they stand for. I have always been a believer of giving back from a very early age. I know that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do something that I love in life and get paid for doing it. My own brother was adopted from an orphanage, and it bothered me when I saw the pictures of the children not having a proper playground to play in. For two years, I saved up my money and built a nice playground for the children who were left behind. I also helped out some families financially in our community who were suffering due to cancer and sent a girl to camp who had just lost her father. I think it’s important to give back when you can, and my acting has allowed me to do some good things for others.

I also admire Tom Hanks. I loved some of his films such as Big, Forrest Gump and Cast Away. I hope to have the opportunity to work with Mr. Hanks one day as well as Adam Sandler and Kevin James, to name a few.

What is your favorite genre to work in as an actor?

RD: I love all genres of acting as each area brings out something new for me to learn. However, I must admit that I love comedy. I find that there is so much sadness and tragedy in the world. Unfortunately, with being such an early reader, I learned this at a younger age than I should have. Thankfully, I learned about most of it from reading and not personal experience. My one wish for this world would be to have all of the wars end and have everyone get along. The other wish would be to make everyone happy and laugh. I can’t make wars end, but I can make people laugh through acting in comedies. Therefore, Comedy would be my answer. I would also love to be a host on a game show or an educational show.

What separates you from other actors?

RD: Casting Directors have told me that the one thing that separates me from other actors is my ability to follow directions at such a young age. I was in a workshop for my union in Canada where I performed a mock audition for Los Angeles Casting Director Krisha Bullock (ICarly, Victorious, Sam & Cat, Henry Danger) and Larissa Mair Casting (Degrassi, Life with Boys, What`s Up Warthogs!). They gave me three re-directions and I nailed all three in the next take in front of everyone. They both told me that even adults have a hard time achieving this and I was only 8 years old at the time. They held up my headshot at the end of my audition and told the audience to watch out for me as I was going to be famous.

What projects do you have coming up, or have you recently finished filming?

RD: My next film where I play the lead role of Dez in Psychic Playground will be available on Vimeo before the end of the year. Psychic Playground is a dark comedy film about an inventive kid who turns show and tell into a disaster. I am excited to see this project when it’s finished, as the director was very artistic with my “Invention”.

You will also soon be able to find me playing the role of Richie in the film release of Shahzad on the Bravo Fact Channel. I had a great time on Shahzad with the lead character played by Yatharth Bhatt (Combat Hospital) and another supporting character, Filip Geljo (Odd Squad).

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to be part of such an inspirational feature film called, Full Out. It recently debuted in California on NBC and on the Family Channel in Canada. Full Out has become my top film to recommend to everyone, and is based on the true life story of California gymnast Ariana Berlin, who made an inspirational comeback after a devastating accident. I play a young boy who has also been in an accident and is going through his own recovery. The film stars Ana Golja, (Degrassi) and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance). I had a wonderful time filming with Ana Golja, Ariana Berlin, Ashanti Bromfield and Jacqueline Byers.

Why is acting your passion and chosen profession?

RD: The short answer is I got discovered and I love it and I don’t want to quit. The long answer is I love to be in front of the camera. It’s the best feeling in the world. I simply love to analyze and learn. In acting, you are constantly analyzing the other character’s behavior and responding to it. I remember in first grade, a child had cut her hair in my class. I came home and said, “I’m not sure if my teacher was upset with the whole class for the incident happening, with whoever did it, or herself as a teacher for not being able to stop it from happening.’ I was six years old at the time. My mom said if I ever stopped acting, I could become a psychologist. I have come to realize that the writing of scripts and acting incorporates psychology.

I also think that there is something to be learned from every role I perform. Sometimes it’s within the material that I am studying for the role. For example, with Hazel & Elwood, with the movie being about trains, I loved that I could look up the trains within the script and learn about them. The same is true about the biplanes in The Comeback Kid. I also meet a lot of interesting people on set with so much knowledge to offer. Acting is really the best job in the world. I don’t know any other job that allows you to do something different every day and to continually learn.

If you weren’t an actor, what other profession do you think you would like to have in the future?

RD: I would love to become a writer and director so I would never be out of work as an actor. I think it would also be wonderful to be a teacher to students who want to learn. I would love to teach drama, history and geography.

What are your hobbies outside of performing?

RD: I have a few close friends that I like to spend time with, and I love spending time with my family. I love horseback riding, downhill skiing, swimming and biking, just to name a few. I’m a real history and geography enthusiast as well. I recently participated in a Battle of the Books competition where I read 25 novels ranging up to Adult fiction and non-fiction a few times each. Our team held practices weekly as we really needed to know specific details in the books. Our team did extremely well and we won the competition. I give kudos to the second place team as well as they were a great challenger.

I love reading so much that I read books on the side leading up to the competition. Some were part of a series in the Battle, and I found myself getting hooked on them. Even though the Harry Potter Series was not part of the Battle, I’m also on my 6th time reading that series and still enjoy it. A highlight for me this year was to travel to Cleveland, Ohio to see Potted Potter. For any Harry Potter fans out there, I recommend the show.

I enjoy going to the movies and the theatre to watch other actors perform. Another favourite thing to do is to spend time building Lego with my brother, Alexander. We have a rule in our house. When we get a new Lego set, we have to put it together correctly the first time. After that, we get to be creative and change it up to whatever we want it to be. My little brother is so creative, so it’s a challenge to keep up to him. He’s also followed in my footsteps with acting, so we enjoy singing, or doing improv together with different accents that we pick up from YouTube videos that we watch. We have a really good time together.

 

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