Vernon Davis: From football to Hollywood

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Former NFL star Vernon Davis has been keeping busy in his crossover to Hollywood and he has two epic films coming out, Chariot and Muti.

In this dark and twisted thriller, Chariot, John Malkovich stars as Dr. Karn, an odd, eccentric specialist who guides unknowing patients through the reincarnation transition. When Harrison (Thomas Mann) experiences mysterious recurring dreams, he turns to Dr. Karn for help and reveals his encounter with a woman (Rosa Salazar) he loved in a previous life. Noticing a glitch in the system, the doctor must fix the issue before permanently derailing his patient’s future. Vernon plays David Reece.

Then Vernon stars as the lone antagonist opposite Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby) and Cole Houser (Yellowstone) in director George Gallo’s serial killer thriller, Muti. Muti follows Detective Boyd (Hauser) as he hunts down a serial killer named Randoku (Davis), who kills based on a brutal South African tribal ritual known as Muti, in which someone is killed so their body parts can be used in medicinal witchcraft. Boyd recruits the help of Professor Mackles (Freeman), an African anthropologist who hides an unspeakable secret. The line between sanity and madness thins as Boyd goes deeper into the Randoku’s world.

Over the past two years, Vernon has filmed 20+ projects and although acting is his main passion, he has also founded two production companies — Reel 85 and Between the Linez Productions. In fact, he recently produced his very first film, a supernatural horror thriller (A Message from Brianna) that debuted last November at the American Black Film Festival.

Check out my interview with Vernon!

What inspired you to turn to acting?

Vernon: Just for the simple fact that I’ve always been creative. When I was a kid, I used to create my own clothing. I went to school for art and had an art gallery when I was playing with the San Francisco 49’s. And from there, I took a few classes at the Shelton Theater of Art in downtown San Francisco. That really gave me the motivation to pursue a career in acting and I didn’t look back.

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How has the transition  from the NFL to Hollywood been for you?

Vernon: It’s been great. It’s been a great transition. I’ve been finding so much about myself. I’ve been exploring, tapping into other forms of art like creating music, I’m writing and I rap. It has been pretty amazing. Especially when it all has to do with your emotions. It all correlates in so many different ways. 

How has football helped you with your art?

Vernon: I think football has allowed me to be a perfectionist. It taught me to put in hard work as far as repetition and consistency. And with that, you can take that same formula and put it to anything and everything. And that’s what I try to do when it comes to my acting career and making music. It’s just putting in the time- it’s not about the money, it’s not about anything, it’s all about being able to set your mind to something and accomplish that specific task.

I’m always fascinated when athletes turn to art, especially acting because you’re all really great at it. Do you have any insight as to why sports and acting complement each other? 

Vernon: I can’t speak for everyone else, but for me, I think you paint a picture when you’re playing football, especially depending on the position that you’re playing, you’re painting a picture with the craft. The craft is a form of art, like you really have to become great at a specific skill. If you’re a wide receiver, you have to know how to run routes correctly and you visualize that route before you run it. It’s all visualization and visualization goes back into acting. It goes back to creating music. It’s a form of art. And like I said it all correlates in so many different ways, so when a football player or athlete turns to another sector of his life, like acting or the arts in general, he’s painting a picture. He’s visualizing. He’s using those specific skills that he developed when he’s playing ball.

You’ve gotten to work with some really, really big names like Bruce Willis and John Malkovich. What’s it like working alongside them?

Vernon: It’s awesome. It has been amazing. It’s been amazing working with Bruce and working with Malkovich and Frank Grillo, Kevin Dillon, Leon, who I grew up watching. I’m a big fan of his and it’s just like a dream come true. Especially when walking to hair and makeup and I see these guys, I’m like, ‘wow, this is incredible. This is incredible.’ I can’t believe I get the opportunity to work with guys who are legends who I’ve watched for many years. And not only that, the icing on the cake was being able to work with Morgan Freeman. I mean, we have scenes together. I mean, we’re communicating. I can’t fathom it, it just blows my mind. Even just waking up in the mornings, I’m like, ‘wow, this is crazy.’ I’ve work with Bruce, I’ve worked with Kevin, I’ve worked with Leon and all these amazing actors, Thomas Mann, who’s an amazing, incredible up and coming actor. But I’m in a movie with Morgan Freeman. And this movie is pretty much all about my character, I don’t think a lot of people know that. A lot of people don’t know that Muti is about a serial killer who’s harvesting body parts. It’s  based on a true story about the Goma tribe in South Africa who harvest body parts and they are selling this formula they make using clay, gold, and herbs to mix this formula and is said to make people feel powerful and powerful. And this movie is very powerful. And the characters I play, he’s on the run. He’s harvesting body parts and Morgan Freeman is the only guy who knows about this character. So when you see the movie, you’d be like, ‘wow, this is a big movie.’

They flew me to Rome to view the opening of the movie, like this movie is all about my character. His name is Randoku. And I can’t believe how big of a role I have with Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman, it’s crazy and we all have scenes together.

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I’m sure a lot of people know you from your football career, how do they react to your acting career?

Vernon: They just can’t believe it, like my family and my friends, they can’t believe it. When they watch the movie, they don’t see me, they see a character. I don’t know what they are looking for, if they look to see if they can identify me, but they don’t see that and they’re very impressed. 

The work is the biggest part. And as a football player, I’ve been taught to do the work. I’m a preparation guy. If you’re preparing and you have the formula, and you have the technique- You just have to apply the technique and do the work, you’ll be fine.

You’ve got two really big movies coming out soon, Chariot this weekend and Muti in a month or two, is there anything else you are working on? 

Vernon: There’s a film called Going Home on PureFlix. William Allen Young was my dad in this film. I play a character who’s dying from liver failure. Yeah, it’s gonna be a very emotional film. It was so emotional that when I was working with my acting coach, he started crying. He couldn’t get through the script.

You have also mentioned music. Do you have any music coming out soon?

Vernon: I’m working on my music. I’m putting it all together. I have a couple of music videos, I have created probably like 12 different songs and my goal is to get to about 30 to 40 songs and from that, pick the best to be my single. 

But it’s interesting because for me it’s like, it’s not enough. And it’s because I have so much fun. I’m a big kid and a lot of this stuff is like a playground to me. And when I do all this stuff, these classes and acting, and music, I feel like I’m a kid at the playground. I’ve always done things that I was really passionate about ever since I was a kid. I was on the cheerleading team when I was in fifth grade. I was a tumbler. I did soccer, football, basketball, and I tried swimming. I always tried these different things. Even if I didn’t like it, I felt that I had to at least try it.

Chariot is now available On Demand and Digital and Muti will be out soon!