Vernon Davis has joined Dwayne Johnson, Terry Crews, Michael Jordan, Dave Bautista, and John Cena in an elite club: athletes who have become actors. The former American football tight end played for the San Francisco 49ers and earned two career Pro Bowl selections before pivoting to Hollywood. Over the years, Davis has appeared in films, including Gasoline Alley, A Message from Brianna, Hell on the Border, and Baywatch. His upcoming movie Muti may prove to be his most high-profile and rewarding project to date.
In the action-thriller Muti, Davis portrays Randoku, a serial killer with a disturbing mo, murdering according to a brutal tribal ritual. Hot on Randoku’s trail are Detective Lucas Boyd (Cole Hauser) and Dr. Mackles (Morgan Freeman), who must hunt him down before he can claim another victim. Vernon Davis recently spoke to CBR about switching professions, portraying a serial killer, delving into a dark headspace, and why this might be his best role so far.
CBR: Quite a few athletes become actors. What makes going from sports to Hollywood such a natural transition?
Vernon Davis: I think because the mindset of an athlete is very competitive and very goal-oriented. They know the importance of repetition and consistency. With repetition and consistency, I am finding now that I am two years into fully being an actor, and I am so much better than when I first started. I am seeing the continuous growth. As long as you continue to pursue it and you take advantage of the opportunities that you have with your acting coach — I have been working with the same acting coach for the last two years, twice a week, every week — and that has allowed me to really tap into some different places.
What piqued your interest in acting? What made you want this profession to be the next chapter in your career?
Once I started acting in a class when I was in San Francisco, after that class was over, I became intrigued and passionate about pursuing the arts. I started looking for different opportunities and just doing my research, finding different managers and agents, and just following my heart.
According to IMDB, you have played in action, comedy, western, and drama projects. Which genre do you prefer playing in more?
I like sci-fi and dramas. I like sci-fi because you get some really unique characters. Then there’s superhuman powers that some of them have. It’s pretty cool. I love when I get a good script and the character is really good.
In your upcoming movie, Muti, you portray serial killer Randoku. What made that a meaty role to sink your teeth into?
I was asking the producer, “Why did you choose me for this role? This is a hard role. This is not an easy role.” My character is the one Cole Hauser and Morgan Freeman [are] trying to stop. Cole Hauser’s Detective Lucas Boyd goes to Morgan Freeman’s Dr. Mackles to try to figure out what’s going on. “Who is this guy? How can we stop him? Lead us to him.” Muti is this concoction that I’m making from harvesting all these different body parts of these kids and adults. Pretty sick.
When you land a job like this, what was the secret of getting into your character’s mindset? He’s not a very nice guy.
No, he’s not. I had to give this guy a unique backstory, something that was really close to my life and something I had to go through… Pain. I had to find something that was really painful for me as a kid, and I found it. That thing that I found allowed me to tap into this character and become him truthfully.
Serial killers get a thrill out of taunting and teasing the police. What kind of cat and mouse game is he playing with Boyd and Mackles?
oh randoku [is] always on the go. You can’t find him. He’s really strategic about his moves on him. He’s making sure no one sees him. He’s very quiet about what he’s doing, and he strikes at the right time. It depends on what he’s going after. If he’s looking to harvest eyes or brains, he’s really strategic about who he is going after. Maybe there’s a female who has very nice eyes and is really smart. That will probably be his target for what he wants.
How much have you enjoyed exploring that dark side in a character?
I think we all have a dark side. We do because from the moment we wake up, we can experience these bad thoughts. The mind can go anywhere. If you’re not strong and optimistic enough to be able to handle the trials and tribulations of life, your mind is going to go really dark. That’s why we have all these positive affirmations, and we continue to surround ourselves with positive people. If you surround yourself with negative or bad influences, you are going to have a tough time being that great person you are meant to be.
What was it like sharing screen time with [Cole] Hauser and [Morgan] Freeman?
It was unbelievable working with those guys. I have scenes with Cole Hauser. I have scenes with Morgan Freeman, and both of them together. I was like, “It’s not going to get any better than that.” Sometimes I was thinking, “This might be the best movie that I ever do.”
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