KHRIS DAVIS DOMINATES + DELIVERS AS 'BIG GEORGE FOREMAN'!
EDITOR IN CHIEF + PHOTOGRAPHY: COREY GUEVARRA
WARDROBE: MICKEY FREEMAN @ THE ONLY AGENCY
GROOMING: CHERYL BERGAMY @ EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS
Roaring into theaters everywhere tomorrow, viewers around the world will get a double introduction to the legendary story of the great George Foreman while also exclusively experiencing the film’s lead, incredible actor Khris Davis! Seasoned on both stage & screen, Khris is already a familiar face, appearing in shows like the critically acclaimed ‘Atlanta’ series & alongside all star lineups in films like ‘Judas & The Black Messiah’! His first major role of THIS magnitude however, we find the Camden, NJ native subtly taking it all in, recalling the very long road it took for this film to finally arrive in all of it’s presently premiering glory! But even title changes, hurricanes & of course COVID, couldn’t stop this powerful protagonists tale from being told. Watching Khris transform into Foreman throughout the various eras of his life in itself is a magical marvel. Later discovering that he in fact did not have previous professional fighting experience, made the dedication to his craft & this role ever more meaningful, causing both pride & passion, cheering both the art & the artist on in their delivery of this most monumental moment. “Big George Foreman” is by far the most apropos title for this film, chronicling the expansive life of an Olympic gold medalist, world heavyweight champion, preacher, boss businessman & perhaps most ideal face of ‘it gets greater later’ global record breaker as the only 45+ year old heavyweight champion in boxing history to date!
There’s a palpable excitement about this film, as it seamlessly creates a bridge between generations to know & understand the uber important story & legacy of the dynamic Mr. George Foreman! Back in a time when celebrity was backed by credibility & skill, what Mr. Foreman was able to create out of inherited obscurity is nothing short of amazing. As you watch the film, you realize that NO ONE else could’ve played this role quite like this! This character, nuanced & skilled was destined to be played only by Khris Davis. But who is this newer thespian titan, where has he been, where is he going & how did he get so damn good that he was able to prove to studios that he was their sure bet, their sure star to tell THIS story? Luckily, we were able to converse our way into a couple of answers & additional understandings of the actor & the accession of his art form! This is Khris Davis for the brilliant ‘Big George Foreman’ film, in his own words:
KHRIS LET’S START FROM THE BEGINNING, WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST & ULTIMATE JOURNEY INTO ACTING?
I was a kid. I was very very young. I can't remember the exact age, but I think I was about 6 or 7 watching a film with my family. I remember that I was repeating all the words, I was mouthing all of the scenes to this movie & the next day, I remembered telling my mom “mom, I want to be an actor”. From that point on, the desire never really left my spirit. As time went on, I did other activities. I played sports my entire life! Everybody just knew I was going to go on to play college football. There was even a point in time where I actually wanted to become a Marine as a result of my ROTC days when I was in high school. Through all of those activities however, the one thing that never left my heart was acting! In fact I remember before some games, I'd be sitting there full pads, cowboy collars on, at my locker, holding an AMDA packet. I didn't truly know anything about AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) I just knew that it was a school that had acting & that because of that alone, I wanted to go there. Throughout my life I was always searching for some way to get to acting. On a soul level I felt it. This is my dharma, my purpose in life, this is what I came here to do.
WITHOUT CREATING ANY SPOILERS, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE MOVIE?
Well, I think I can say this because it’s in the previews & it’s literally the known primary premises of the movie [lol]. But my favorite part was undoubtedly the things that happened in the fights themselves because we made real contact! The impact was real. Obviously, there's some choreography that was at play, but all of the fighters, myself-included, we really wanted to truly authenticate some of the battles. So a lot of the impact you’ll see, for the record, isn’t fake! It’s very real & it was very hard! A lot of those punches weren’t pulled or staged in. We got hit for real [lol]. That's definitely one of the things I'm most proud of from this film, the authenticity!!
DID PLAYING THIS ROLE, PREPARING FOR THIS ROLE & DISCOVERING MR. FOREMAN’S LIFE INSPIRE YOU & YOUR OWN LIFE IN ANY WAY?
It absolutely did! I thought that I was somebody who could overcome adversity before doing this film. Being an actor or an independent artist or independent contractor, you have your own set of challenges & battles you may have to fight you know? Doing this film, there were so many threshold guardians that presented themselves that would get in the way of us completing this job, but this job in & of itself, felt like it was CHOSEN! So every time I would have some struggles, I would look back at Mr. Foreman's life & I would say to myself, if he could do that, I can do THIS! -& because I'm doing this, I can honor that which he went through! After going through the process of completing this film, whenever obstacles would arise, I was able to see them as mere threshold guardians that were no longer impossible to beat. Prior to this I would’ve gotten a little worn, a little nervous. I’d sit back & think I can't do this, maybe I should take a different route. But because of this film, I feel like it's prepared me more than I have ever been before to walk head on, into the rest of my life!
THIS MOVIE, A BIOPIC OF SUCH AN ICONIC FIGURE IS WELL…HUGE! TELL US HOW YOU FELT THE DAY YOU FOUND OUT YOU’D LANDED THE ROLE?
The day I found out that I landed this role…. You know, it's hard for me to get excited about things because I immediately understand the responsibility of what’s to come. So I was excited but also very aware of like “okay, now I really gotta get to work”! It's no longer a question mark in my head of “will I get it, will I be able to do it?” Now it's TIME! So the day I found out I got the role I was with my family. Naturally, they were all so proud & of course I don't think they truly grasped how big this job would be. So a joyous occasion yes, but for me, I instantly dove into getting ready to lean into the work. I understood that doing a biopic about an incredibly well-known global figure that everyone knows, either from the commercials, or the fight history, or church history. -I knew that I absolutely could NOT mess this up! I immediately started reading everything available on Mr. Foreman, watching every video I could possibly find, getting into dialect work, getting into script analysis & scene work. In the beginning especially, the script was also a living document, so it was constantly changing, but even that, the continuous building upon topical skeletons, I was mentally preparing for! It's a different kind of storytelling when it's not someone who's well known. When It's not a biopic. When the character is fictional, you can co-create almost anything for them, time is less of an issue & there’s often more creative liberty. But when you land a job like this, you are just praying that you have enough time to get all of those specific, important nuances that make that individual who they are, right! That you’re able to emulate those unique principles with precision (& most importantly) with honor.
So this all happened in July 2020. Of course we got pushed back because of COVID. Then we were going to start at the beginning of ‘21 & you guessed it, more COVID pushbacks. We ultimately ended up starting in the fall of 2021. Finally getting down there, I’ve now had all of this time with the script, it was great & I felt so ready with the work. We start the boxing training, I was scheduled to have about 6 weeks to learn how to fight like a professional heavyweight champion & how to specifically fight like Mr. Foreman, not to mention also learn 17 fights with 17 other guys!
2 weeks in, I’ll never forget it. I'm in the gym & this thing is whopping my behind! My spirit hurt, my brain hurt, my body hurt, my eyeballs hurt. I remember looking around the gym & I thinking “man they might have the wrong guy for this, I don’t know if I can do this”. I'm like, “do people do this? Do they actually do this for a living?” A couple weeks later you know what happens? A Hurricane hits New Orleans, so we had to leave! The roof on the production building, right where we were set up came completely off, windows were broken, it rained on everything!!! So there we were yet again, having to restart, from scratch! It set us back 3 more months, but it simultaneously gave me 3 MORE months of boxing training!! Whatever that intervention was, it literally felt so divine, like everything in the universe conspired to make sure that I was completely trained , secure, felt comfortable & confident to play THIS role!
DID YOU HAVE PREVIOUS BOXING EXPERIENCE KHRIS OR WAS THIS ALL A BRAND NEW WORLD TO YOU? WHAT WAS TRAINING & PHYSICAL PREPARATION LIKE?
Well, boxing training? None. I've had the experience in my life of getting into fights in my youth quite a bit, which is fine I guess [lol]. But I never actually put on gloves, wrapped up & got into a ring to learn this particular science! So getting into the gym for the first time with Dale Foster, who trained Will Smith for ‘Ali’ & Miles Teller for ‘Bleed for This’. Dale has a long list of people who he’s trained immaculately, he was like, “look, we're not going to treat this like we're training for a movie, we’re treating this like you're about to fight for a Heavyweight Championship belt”. -So for all intents & purposes, I was in a REAL fight camp. There were intense sparring workouts where sometimes, I’d have to go round for round with 5-6 guys, 1 after the other just like a heavyweight championship.
Initially, it was very difficult because you think you know how to punch until you have to hit that heavy bag & the heavy bag breaks your arm! Suddenly you're like, “oh my God, I didn't know I had to learn to even punch a certain way.” The speed bag was also a huge challenge for me, even setting into a really good one shot was very difficult for me. Not because I couldn't do it. But because it was important that I authenticated the power that Mr. Foreman had! I wanted to authenticate the skill & the intellectual boxing IQ that Mr. Foreman had in the ring, that was of the utmost importance for me! It was difficult to learn all of his mannerisms while also learning how to truly fight for the first time. A great big tipping point for me however was getting in the ring with a fighter named Cedric Boswell, a former WBA champion heavyweight. Cedric is about my height. He was enormous. The way that he was fighting, I've NEVER felt anything like that before in my life, the way he threw his shoulders around was insane! I would throw a punch & it would look like he barely moved his arm. But he would somehow sweep my arm up with his wrist, lock me into this weird hold & effortlessly just pull me down. Cedric was truly wild to be in the ring with but the great part about my time with him was that he gave me a real life reference point to know & to FEEL what Mr. Foreman was up against! He was fighting guys like Cedric, real boxers, & everybody who stepped into those rings wanted to WIN & fought like their lives depended on it. Cedric seemed to also have what felt like a “fight button” to the point that it sometimes appeared confusing for him to switch it off once the director yelled cut. With him, it was, we’re doing this [authentically] or we’re not doing it at all, there really wasn’t much of an in between. Even his few staged punches, his version of that was WAY harder than what anybody else ever threw at me with all their might! Interacting with Cedric was definitely like the ultimate training & preparation for me, it really drove the experience of what I was doing, right on home.
"THEY'RE GOING TO GET A WHOLE NEW, FULLY FLESHED OUT GEORGE FOREMAN, THEY'RE GOING TO GET PARTS OF HIM THAT WE'VE NEVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO SEE"
MANY MILLENNIALS & ABOVE ARE COMPLETELY FAMILIAR WITH GEORGE FOREMAN & HIS LEGACY, BUT THE NEW PEOPLE LOL, GEN-Z+ MAY NOT KNOW HIM BEYOND THE GRILL BRAND IF AT ALL. HOW DO YOU FEEL INTRODUCING THIS LEGENDARY STORY TO NEW GENERATIONS & WHAT DO YOU HOPE THEIR TAKE AWAY WILL BE?
I'm excited. I'm excited because even if they don't know Mr. Foreman the fighter & even if they don't know Mr. Foreman the spokesperson or ‘grill guy’, they do know that on some level, he was the guy that Muhammad Ali had to get through. That particular fight between him & Ali, that particular story, it’s factual & has never left mainstream conversation. You can be a Gen-Zer & be very familiar with Muhammad Ali. -And if you know about Muhammad Ali, you know that Ali VS Foreman was one of his greatest fights! -You have to know because that's where he developed the ‘rope-a-dope’, right? So you can't have that history without knowing about George Foreman, or at least you shouldn’t, because George Foreman makes that history full. & that knowledge then begets or lends way to all of his own personal & professional history & contributions to numerous sub-cultures as well. I think what's exciting for me is that with this film we get to introduce a whole new multi-layered Foreman. They're going to get a whole new fully fleshed out George Foreman, they're going to get parts of him that we've never had the privilege to see; those more human-nuanced parts to him. We didn't get a chance to see him smile during interviews, social media is new, no one knew his day to day like they could now. I think I think that they're going to take away a new & or additional respect for Mr. Foreman, one that even previous generations alike didn't get an opportunity to see or have access to.
RANDOM: DO YOU KNOW WHY THE FILM’S NAME WAS CHANGED?
I'm not sure why they changed the film's name to be honest. I do think that what the name change did however, was make how the movie was introduced to the world very specific & unequivocal. I think possibly the name that we had before, though it was it was catchy or cool it didn’t lend to specificity the way this one does. I think that with the name that we have now you understand exactly what we're talking about, who we're talking about & what we're doing here! It’s direct & I think that's an unabridged part of honoring his legacy!
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT SCENE TO FILM FOR YOU?
Well there were numerous ‘difficult’ scenes I’d have to say…. As mentioned (as most memorable), I think the hardest work to do in the film were also the fights as well. You're quite literally throwing punches for 12-14 hours.
There’s numerous setups, hand eye coordination, choreography, physically being hit, remembering specific, existing moves & gestures & nuances, it was wild. It was incredibly hard. It was incredibly difficult to do. So, I would say, on those days, spiritually, mentally, I had to be the most locked in. As mentioned, some of the fighters were actors & when we’d get on set they’d ask “how are we gonna do this?” The first thing I’d always say was, “You can’t look at your phone, whatever you do, don't look at the time”. Because we're going to get in there, rolling around & punching (& honestly the time moved very slowly) -we’d do what felt like 6 hours of work & it was only 2 in reality. I would just tell them, “Don't look at the clock, because you're gonna see that it’s only 2 hours & from that moment on, it's going to be time dilation. It's going to be the longest day of your life if you look at the time. Do yourself the favor, let’s get in there & just stay on the green light & knock it out. Let's throw these punches & let's get home.” Doing the fight scenes were by far the most difficult parts of filming!
A HUGE COMPONENT OF THE FILM IS THE WELL KNOWN FACT OF GEORGE FOREMAN’S INCREDIBLE COMEBACK! WILDLY INSPIRING, WERE YOU YOURSELF SURPRISED TO PERSONALLY LEARN ANY NUMBER OF PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN LIFE DETAILS AS WELL? WERE THERE ANY PARTS/DETAILS OF HIS STORY THAT LEFT EVEN YOU IN AWE?
So his autobiography, ‘By George’ is miraculous! The things that he went through are miraculous. There's one segment of that book that really feels like a 2-hour action movie. It's barely scratching the surface of Mr. Foreman’s life. He's had such an incredible experience. If we were going to tell Mr. Foreman's whole story it would be a 15 episode, 2 hours per episode series, just to get through it because his life has been that wild!
I think the number 1 surprise for me was how gentle of a person he really was throughout his entire life. A lot of people think that his gentility came in his second half. That It was when he made his comeback, suddenly people saw that he was a gentle, kind person. Well what stuck out to me, what I found to be interesting was that if you paid close attention, he was always gentle! To be a bit forward & candid here, I’m a black man & I'm a big black man. I know what it's like to quite often be misinterpreted as someone who “seems” like he could be threat. It's like, if I say something directly, it could be misconstrued as being aggressive although I’m just being direct or providing clarity. Depending on the audience it can easily become “he’s an angry black man”.
So when I was looking at Mr. Foreman, I was looking at him with those eyes & that experiential awareness. The conception was that, he’s mean & has all this anger & he's brooding. But when I watched the videos & interviews, I saw sparkles in his eyes as he was looking at people to make a connection. I saw him smiling all the time. People thought he didn’t, but that’s because they didn’t want to see that. So as an artist entrusted with his story I felt an obligation to clear up that misinterpretation. What people didn't know about him was how big his heart was. How much he wanted to be loved. How much he cared for his people, his family, how much he wanted & needed acceptance. Above all, Those plain sight, hidden parts of him & his character are what stuck out for me the most as I prepared for this.
KHRIS WERE YOU ABLE TO SPEAK WITH OR HAVE ANY REFERENCE OR GUIDANCE FROM MR. FOREMAN HIMSELF FOR THIS ROLE?
Before we started filming, I went & spent about 3 days with him in Houston & honestly it was incredible. I didn’t realize how blessed I was to be there initially, because you know, I went “for work”. Every time he spoke I either had my audio recording or video recording on. But I remember having this moment when I was just completely enamored by the fact that I was sitting there looking at, conversing with, THE George Foreman! It literally hit me like a ton of bricks. So yes, I spent a few days with him & got a chance to see him as he was in his day to day. I think one of the most important parts of doing this role was to see to it that I found that level of humanity in him. The film, at a lot of it’s core is about just that; his human nature!
HAS MR. FOREMAN SEEN THE FILM KHRIS?
DID HE GIVE YOU ANY FEEDBACK?
He said that he “would watch it 1000 times over”. Which in a million ways, is the compliment & feedback of all compliments & feedback.
KHRIS TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY LIFE?
I'm from Camden, New Jersey, just across the bridge from Philadelphia. Church was a big part of my upbringing (My parents are pastors now). I come from a big family; mom, dad, 4 brothers, 2 sisters, I'm the oldest. I grew up with a lot of responsibility because I had younger siblings. Actually, that's another thing that Mr. Foreman & I shared, the fact that we both have so many siblings. We both were the more physically dominant sibling as well. Even though he wasn't the big brother, as he had older siblings, he was still the “big” brother. So we both have shared that experience. -I played a lot of sports growing up like football, baseball, played basketball for one year (though I was too aggressive [lol] coming from that football background) & I even gave track a try. I take being a big brother very seriously. I think it's an honor to be an older sibling. I often referred to myself as the 3rd parent in the house because there was so much responsibility. I was picking my siblings up & making dinner by the time I was 8! I think it's a beautiful experience that I've had the privilege of having in my life.
AS A CHILD WHAT DID YOU MOST HOPE TO GROW UP TO BE?
This is it believe it or not. I’m actually living my dream.
WERE YOU ABLE TO SEE SOME OF YOURSELF IN MR. FOREMAN AS YOU FILMED?
Before we even filmed, I really understood his anger as a child, or his disappointment at life [if you will]. I really understood what it was like to be in a family that didn’t have a lot of money. It's a very specific experience. Luckily my mom & my dad worked really hard as a unit, which Mr. Foreman didn't have it. He didn't have that other sector of the parental unit to help (which would have made a difference I believe, financially especially).
I thought that his emotional journey was something that I really related to as well. Sometimes when you're born ‘big’ like us, in places like that, you're automatically put into the position to be a protector. Your body is essentially a shield & you don't get much of a choice in the matter. When I was growing up, they used to say, “don’t let nobody take your heart”. Meaning, like if somebody challenges you to a fight, win, lose or draw you take them up on their challenge. -Because if you don't, you automatically let them ‘take your heart’. Word would get around that you were weak, that you didn't have the heart to fight back & so to prevent that, no matter what you fought. I had to do this for myself & my siblings more times than I care to remember growing up.
The expectations that came along with our physicality alone, that’s something that I think Mr. Foreman & I related on, which is why I deeply understood more than anything, his heart. Even though he wasn’t able to show it, in those moments, what you’re really feeling is some fear, some confusion. As we see in the film, as I understand in life, you can't force somebody to see you, to love you, to accept you. So a lot of those aspects about Mr. Foreman I understood. I think that is what I believe made him a very complex & increasingly interesting man & I wanted to bring all of that to life in this film!
YOU KNOW, WE LIVE IN A STRANGE TIME WHERE CONFLICT AS A COMMODITY IS NOW ENTERTAINMENT. TO MANY, GEORGE’S STORY & HISTORY SEEM SQUEAKY CLEAN. ARE THERE ANY JAW DROPPING MOMENTS IN THE FILM THAT WOULD BE ATTRACTIVE TO THE DRAMA SEEKING VIEWER?
Yes, there is plenty of it! There’s a ton of what we would now call behind the scene activity that the more salaciously palleted viewer will absolutely enjoy! There really is so much of his story to sink your teeth into!
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE COLOR KHRIS?
I don't know if I have a favorite color, but when it comes to clothing, I tend to be drawn to earth tones a lot. For example I'm not into yellow. But I really like mustard. But not like bright mustard, more like a honey dijon. Ha!
WE KNOW OF YOUR ON SCREEN CHARACTERS BUT IF SOMEONE WHO KNEW YOU IRL WERE TO DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONALITY, WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY’D SAY?
You know, I used to think I was a very silly person. I thought I always made people laugh but apparently, I’m a serious man. I didn't know this [lol]. People are now increasingly telling me this. I thought for many years that I was the comic relief in my people's lives, but apparently not the case [ha]! In hindsight, this could be true. I think that they would say that I have an enormous heart though for sure, that I'm very giving. I think no one could argue that. If anyone said otherwise, they would be willfully lying about who I am. I think that they would say that I am a protector. That I like to take care of my people. People feel safe around me. Again that I take life seriously but not in the sense that I can’t make fun of myself. I'm not that serious. I think that some things are nonnegotiable when it comes to your purpose & your journey here. It’s a responsibility that you either step up into & accept or you spend your life complaining about what’s not there. Finally I think they’d say that I’m the friend you don't call when you want to hear what you ‘want’ to hear. -I’m the person you call when you want to know the truth!
WHAT’S SELF CARE SOUND LIKE TO YOU KHRIS?
Self-care is much meditation & prayer to me. It's talking to someone -& I mean, like a professional. It's unpacking those hard parts of yourself that you don't want to face, to really free yourself from the self-inflicted bondage you may’ve put yourself in. Sure, going on vacation is fun. Going to get a haircut, all of that is necessary. It's self-care as well. You can go get your pedicure or take the trip to escape. But when you come back, you're back in the same cycles that you left if you’re not doing the healing work behind it as well. I want to continue to break the cycles that hold me back in whatever way. Self care to me is doing the inner work!
WHERE DO YOU HOPE TO BE IN LIFE SAY 26 YEARS FROM NOW KHRIS?
26 years from now, I hope in life that I have created a legacy. 26 years from now, I pray that I have some children & a beautiful family of my own. 26 years from now, I hope that I can continue to inspire through my own personal experiences. 26 years from now, I hope that I'm living in ALL of my purpose & that I don’t or haven’t deviated from that. 26 years from now, I hope everything that I'm doing now leads up to whatever my larger purpose in life is!
IN YOUR OWN WORDS, WHY SHOULD EVERYONE GO SEE THIS EPIC FILM?
Everybody should go see this epic film because everybody deserves to crack open the legacy & the history of Mr. George Foreman. Much of pop culture likes to only recognize or make space for one person, but in reality there’s room for ALL of the greats. Out of billions of people a handful seem to rise to often interconnected moments of greatness in history. Mr. Foreman’s contributions & history are so important, he’s global sports history, he’s groundbreaking black history, he’s business history, he’s a great big part of a great big puzzle & it’s just time people truly knew & had the knowledge of him so that he can be celebrated even louder for all of his contributions, especially while he’s still here!!
FINALLY OUR STAPLE QUESTION, OUR FAVORITE AS OVER THE YEARS THE ANSWERS HAVE RANGED FROM THOUGHTS TO THINGS & EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. WHAT’S YOUR DEFINITION OF LUXURY KHRIS?
I really don't think a lot of people understand what peace truly feels like. I don’t think they understand what serenity feels like. Again using the vacation analogy, going to drink or party stress away somewhere albeit luxurious in class ratings, isn’t luxury to me.
My idea of luxury is when people go to that mountain that's 2000 feet above sea level in the middle of nowhere & it’s completely silent. Intentionally experiencing that sort of silence in this constantly physically & mentally noisy world, that actual peace & actual quiet, THAT is luxury to me!