ASHBURN, Virginia – When other actors are introduced to former NFL tight end Vernon Davis, the greeting ends with the same three words: “… the football player.” It’s peppered with questions about the NFL and then they move on. That’s understandable, considering he’s been in the league for over a decade and is relatively new to acting. Its past serves as a good icebreaker; it is also a subject that Davis hopes to one day retire.
Considering Davis’ productivity during his short stint out of the NFL, that day might come sooner rather than later.
“Over time, I will probably appear in so many projects that people will get used to seeing me as an actor and forgetting about me as a player,” he said in a recent podcast. “I’m thinking of watching Terry Crews and The Rock [Dwayne Johnson] and you see them and you don’t see them as athletes, because you see them in so many different projects. It will probably happen with me. “
There are good reasons for Davis to think so. He retired from the NFL after the 2019 season after 14 seasons and 583 catches with the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Washington football team. Since then, Davis has starred in films starring Bruce Willis, Luke Wilson, and John Malkovich.
Davis has appeared in five films, with three more set to start filming soon. He founded two production companies – Reel 85 and Between the Lines Productions – and invested in a third, The Melanie Group, which operates out of Fitzgerald, Georgia.
He was also recently a judge for Fox’s upcoming reality TV series “Domino Masters”.
“It’s just fun,” Davis said of this line of work.
Davis has two films with Willis slated for release in February 2022 – “A Day to Die” from Vertical Entertainment and “Gasoline Alley,” which also stars Wilson, from Saban Films. Another movie “The Chariot”, starring Malkovich, has no release date.
Three others are also in post-production: “Red Winter” with Rockmond Dunbar, “A Message From Brianna” and “Dear Best Friend”. Davis will also appear in six episodes of “The Rich & The Ruthless” on BET and host the season 36 reunion of MTV’s “The Challenge”.
“I get a project that I love, I read it and I read it and I read it and fall in love with it,” Davis said.
He is also making up for lost time. It’s not like Davis didn’t take action until he retired. He was in three films and appeared on four TV shows during his playing days (turning roles during the offseason; he would not discuss acting during the season). He started taking acting lessons early in his time with the 49ers. But compared to his fellow actors, he is inexperienced.
“At first when I first met Bruce and I’m on set just watching him, I’m like ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” Davis said. “You feel a little intimidated, but after a while you warm up and you’re like, ‘I’ve been here before. “It’s like getting into the NFL – you see all these guys you’ve seen on TV.… I feel like a rookie coming in watching these guys.
All of this work in a short period of time has helped Davis mature into his second career.
“He’s grown in leaps and bounds,” said Alex Kane, founder of TMG. “He was steep, very steep, he arrived two years ago. He became a real actor; his insecurity decreased. He learned to play with the camera. He came from the structure – how to run your route, how to lift, how to wear your uniform – to a free-form industry. It’s hard for an athlete to accept that there is no right or wrong, only what works or what doesn’t. “
Davis wants to continue to expand his reach as an actor. He plays a bouncer in “Gasoline Alley” and a character who takes care of the zoo’s turtles and has telekinetic powers in “The Chariot,” a comedic sci-fi movie. To prepare for that one, he watched “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Green Mile” to embody their spirit. He played a villain in “Dear Best Friend”.
Sometimes, Kane said, he’ll tell Davis to flaunt his 6-foot-4, 235-pound body if it’s a romantic role. Other times it is art.
“Look how [The] Rock balances muscle with quality, ”Kane said. “Vernon is trying to find that balance. “
Not to mention his footballing mindset in his films. Davis said he would break down the scripts and work on his behaviors – how to look more angry, happy or sad. Davis worked on not blinking, so his eyes weren’t a distraction.
Adam Sigal, who wrote and directed “The Chariot,” said he was skeptical about picking a football player in what he described as a quirky independent film. Then he met Davis.
“Vernon told me that even though he played soccer and liked it, he felt like an actor who just happened to be a great athlete,” Sigal said. “He was very passionate about the material and worked incredibly hard on the bizarre character he was playing. He was amazing on set, took the lead well and brought a lot of himself to the character.”
Davis has no intention of slowing down. Kane said they spoke about how far Davis was getting involved in production companies. Their company TMG has shot several films at Fitzgerald, including “Gasoline Alley”. Davis has starred in two of TMG’s films and will play a role in others, either as an actor or a producer.
“He takes the path of [Brad] Pitt and [Mark] Wahlberg, “Kane said.” He’s not some aloof actor waiting for Hollywood to owe him, but he’s his own man and partners with someone and has a plan to create the brand you want. . He understands the value of how Wahlberg and Pitt did it and what they are in control of, as they have to find a certain way for the fan bases. Vernon has this for him. He is already on a trajectory of [The] Rock or a Wahlberg because he can dictate what he’s going to do. “
That’s the plan, in a way.
“I would like to do the same things [The] Rock is doing it, “Davis said.” I love his work ethic… I know what I’m doing and where I want to be. I can see him.”