Written by: Lana Jalabi
May 17, 2021
If you’ve been on Netflix lately, you may have watched MANK, a drama/comedy film based on the infamous feud between Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles over the writing credit of CITIZEN KANE.
Directed by David Fincher, the film stars Gary Oldman and won two Oscars for Cinematography and Production Design. Among the talented cast of MANK is Randy Davison, a well-known actor from San Diego, California, and a recent Best Supporting Actor Award winner at The San Diego Film Awards, for his role in the film FORGOTTEN HERO. We interviewed Randy last year and recently got in touch to see what he’s been up to since then!
“What have you been up to since our last interview?”
Randy: “Last year was pretty epic for me. I had roles in two films that both won Golden Globes and Oscars. I’m still pinching myself. I played the Maitre’ D of the famous Hollywood Trocadero in David Fincher’s MANK. I had two scenes with one of my all-time favorite actors, Gary Oldman. MANK won two Oscars for Cinematography and Production Design. I also played the role of Senator Joseph McCarthy in Lee Daniels’ THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY which won the Golden Globe for Best Actress and Andra Day was also nominated for an Oscar in the same category. It was really a dream come true to be a part of two films rooted in American history. And to be in two Oscar nominated films in the same year was the icing on the cake! MANK can be seen on Netflix and THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY is on Hulu. I have been getting very busy since those opportunities.
I followed THE US VS BILLIE HOLIDAY with a small role as Police Captain Grant in the TV movie BLOOD ON HER BADGE. I am currently working on a sequel to the cult horror classic, MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE, shooting near California’s Yosemite National Park next week.
I also have three more features and three short films coming up as well…HEMET, a horror comedy feature film playing a redneck sheriff, COLD LIGHT CITY, a feature film thriller, playing a hardened detective, IT’S ALRIGHT NOW, playing a stepfather struggling with mental illness shooting in Toronto later in the Fall. Then the three short films I am working on are BLOODY FAMOUS playing a newscaster, a comedy spoof called PULP FRICTION, playing a disgruntled roommate, and a sci-fi short set in the distant future called CARLY AND THE CUPCAKE FACTORY.
So, my plate is full for upcoming projects. Some completed projects that I have hitting the festival circuits right now are a sci-fi film I starred in as a CEO of a robotics company, set in The BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN universe, called IMMORTAL GAME as well as a dark comedy gangster film where I play a hot-headed hitman called LIMBO.
I was actually humbled and honored to be nominated for Best Actor at the San Diego Film Awards this year for the latter role. And finally, I have a sci-fi anthology feature hitting festivals soon, called MYSTERY HIGHWAY, in which I play multiple parts. I’m just so grateful to be working and doing what I love.”
Our Previous Interview with Randy Davison
What inspired you to be an actor? and when did you start acting?
Randy: “I guess the first thing that inspired me to be an actor was when I was in grade school and saw a youth production of THE JUNGLE BOOK. I was kind of jealous of one of my friends from my little league baseball team who played Baloo the Bear in the play. I thought he was so cool and ever since that moment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. So I guess you could say I was inspired by a boy playing a bear! I always loved movies and my parents took me and my sister to the Drive-in every weekend. It didn’t matter what was playing. That’s where I think I got my love of movies. So thanks Mom and Dad!”
What was your first film?
Randy: “My first film role was in 1994 on a film called NOT THIS PART OF THE WORLD. It also starred Adam West who played Batman, and Matt Letscher who recently played a major role in Netflix’s NARCOS: MEXICO. Those were the biggest name actors I had ever worked with up to that point; I had mostly done stage plays before my first film. But after that, I was hooked ever since.
What was the most fun role you’ve played and why?
Randy: “Hmm, every single one of them. (Laughter) Wow, there’s so many. I have been lucky enough to play Cowboys, Gangsters, Senators, Aliens, Detectives, Nerds, Killers, Astronauts…and I love all of them. One fun role I really got to chew on was a villain I played in a western called SOMETHIN” ABOUT DEATH. Villains don’t think they are bad. As an actor when you play a villain, you never play them as evil… you always try to find their humanity and try to embrace their desires. My character was a pretty vile dude, but yeah that was a fun one.”
Can you relate a funny moment or incident that happened during shooting?
Randy: I recently played a flamboyant hairdresser in a film. There was a scene where I threw a fit and rushed off with my face covered by a pillow. I couldn’t see where I was going and slammed into a chair. It nailed me right between the legs. The camera kept rolling, so I just played out the truth of the moment. I think my voice went up to octaves! (Laughter) Things like that happen all the time, directors love it…a funny, yet painful moment. The sacrifices we make for our art. (Laughter) There was another unexpected thing that happened in a western I worked on…a prop gun I was using in a shootout scene fired two rounds at once with double the gunpowder. These are prop guns that actually fire blanks, but smoke and sparks will fly out of the barrel depending on how much gunpowder is loaded. At the end of the scene…the other actor was supposed to aim to the side of my head from a few feet away for safety reasons, giving the illusion that he was aiming at my face. However, the other actor aimed directly at my face and a giant flame shot out. I felt one of the embers hit my eye lid. It was kind of scary, but it looked so good in the film…that they decided to keep it. I guess we actors sometimes put ourselves in danger for our art.
How do you prepare for a specific role?
Randy: “I combine bits of different acting techniques that I have picked up over the years. I generally follow the “Meisner Technique”, which is acting, grounded in the moment of the given circumstances. But sometimes I will use parts of “The Stanislavski Method”, if I just can’t get where I need to be emotionally, using past memories similar to the given circumstances to put myself in that moment as an actor. One of the techniques I have been using is a tool that I came up with in an acting class I was teaching. In every scene, there is one specific goal or throughline the actor wants to accomplish. I will come up with one sentence that sums up what I want for each section of dialogue and I will say that sentence at the end of the dialogue as I am rehearsing the scene. It helps me to really grasp what the character’s goals are as I am exploring a character. Also, for every character, I pick a song that really embodies that character’s mood and feelings. I’ll listen on my headphones before filming a scene to get into the mood of the character. In a recent role, I played a man who lost his wife in a car accident. Before a heavy emotional scene, I listened to “Tears in Heaven”, by Eric Clapton, a song that played at my sister’s funeral. It was that song that helped me tap into that place of grief and loss. Some would say that tool is in the “Method Acting” category, using emotional recall. So, I guess you could say I pick and choose from different methods…but mostly it’s “The Meisner Technique”.”
Is there a specific Director that you would like to work with?
Randy: “Wow, that is a tough one. I guess I would say one of the coolest directors I’ve met recently was Peter Farelly, he would be awesome to work with. He’s the director of the Oscar winning film GREEN BOOK and the classic comedy DUMB AND DUMBER. Talk about range! I think he would be amazing to work with and he is just the one of most down to earth people I’ve ever met in Hollywood. And of course there’s dream directors like Spielberg and Fincher!
Uncharted Regions is a radio drama, can you tell me how you got into Uncharted Regions?
Randy:” Neal Halford, the writer and director approached me with the idea. I do quite a bit of voice-over work and love things like the TWILIGHT ZONE, so I was immediately interested. When doing radio drama or voice-overs, my “type” or what I look like doesn’t matter. I can play a 90-year-old, a 15-year-old, a space-alien…you name it! So Neal saw something in me and brought me on board for several of the episodes playing different characters. He once made me blush when he told me that I was the man of 1000 voices. I think I leaned over to him and said, “ it’s more like 20…I just mix them up. (Laughter)
You won the best supporting actor award at The San Diego Film Awards for the film Forgotten Hero in September 2018; can you tell us about that?
Randy: “Oh yes, Forgotten Hero, that was an amazing story. It was about a true American hero, Captain Royce Williams. During the Korean War, he was engaged by 7 Russian planes. Williams shot down 4 of them with a plane that was outmatched by the technology of the Russian planes. The event had been classified for 60 years and both sides agreed to say that it didn’t happen. The character I played was the role of an NSA codebreaker. The Americans were using a new device that was able to decode Russian radio signals and my character was in charge of that. It was an awesome experience to be a part of telling this story that had been kept a secret for 60 years. This event could have caused World War III because the Russians were not involved in the Korean War. That is mind blowing. The night of the San Diego Film Awards, I had found out my mom had just begun a battle with cancer. Unfortunately she passed away in the following months, but I was able to thank her for giving me my love of film and to dedicate the award to her that night in my speech. So that really meant a lot to me to share that with her.
What kind of advice would you give aspiring actors?
Randy: “You have to really love it, I would say, because this job can be a blessing and a curse. It will be a struggle a lot of the time, but never give up. Despite the struggles, I will never give it up. I love it too much. I would say learn your craft, if you want to be an actor. Many young actors say they want to be “famous” and just they’re not willing to put in the work. So immerse yourself in acting classes, do live Theatre, learn improvisation, and work on as many films as you can. There are many opportunities for actors learning the ropes, like student films and local plays. Latch on to as many opportunities as you can. And put together clips of your work you are proud of to share with people that can help you.
“Last question, any upcoming projects?”
Randy: “The next project I’ve got coming up is a role in Sam Shepard’s play TRUE WEST, acting alongside Tom Michael Mulligan, who plays my brother. Thom is a great actor based here in San Diego who also works in LA regularly. Terry Ross, a great actor, acting coach, and director will be directing the play. I’m always excited for whatever the next project may be.
This demo is clips from MANK, BLOOD ON HER BADGE, and IMMORTAL GAME.
A clip of LIMBO is also on that reel.
Trailer of US VS BILLIE HOLIDAY from 1:01 – 1:07.