Numero sits down for an interview with ‘The Boys’ star Justiin Davis
Justiin Davis will be starring in the much anticipated Amazon series ‘The Boys’, which is premiering its 3rd season on 3 June 2022. Justiin will be playing the role of ‘Young Stan Edgar’, who is a Junior Vought Executive, but he is just as suave and calculated as he is in the current day they are in. He also worked in collaboration with photographer Marc Baptise and Selita Ebanks for the rebuilding of Haitian Schools and Orphanages, which were affected during the 2010 earthquake.
Justiin, we’ll be seeing you in the third season of Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ as the Young Stan Edgar. The show is based around a group of vigilantes who set out to take down the corrupt superheroes who abuse their superpowers. What’s it been like for you to star in a show with a story like this? How would you describe your experience of playing the Young Stan Edgar?
Starring on a show with a story like this is completely new for me. I’m used to dramas like ‘Boardwalk Empire’, procedurals like ‘FBI’ and ‘Chicago Med’ and comedies like ‘The Politician’ and ‘30 Rock’. Being able to work on a show with superheroes, sci-fi and pyrotechnics has literally been a blast. I’ve always wanted to play in the world of superheroes and to have this opportunity at this time in my life has been nothing but fantastic.
I’d describe my experience playing the young Stan Edgar as a blend of thrilling, super exciting and something I never expected. The audition process was long and went on for months, but when it comes to ‘The Boys’, you keep giving it your all. Giancarlo Esposito is an incredible actor, so to even be considered to play the young version of him in anything is beyond gratifying. I’ve studied his work in film and television ever since I was young and now being able to portray a character this stern, suave, calculating and direct is like coming full circle. I was fortunate enough to play the son of Chalky White who was a pretty notorious gangster on ‘Boardwalk Empire’, played by Michael K. Williams. To now be able to play a character just as powerful, in his younger years, is just as mind blowing. On ‘The Boys’ I’ve had the best experience, but honestly they make it easy. That team is a family and have the best cast, crew and group of artists one can ask to create with.
You showed appreciation for the arts, theater and performing at an early age. At the age of 3 you already started to book commercials and performed in small productions in the New York area. What are some of your fondest memories on the early beginnings of your career?
I remember going to a few auditions before the age of five and my aunt always tells me about this one time in particular, where I stood on my tiptoes and explained to the audition monitor that “I wanted to be on TV”. They must have thought that was the cutest thing or something because the very next day the producers called my grandmother and said I needed to get down to set immediately. My grandmother, not knowing anything about this industry, said I couldn’t make it and I missed out on that one. I miss her so much. After that I continued auditioning, got into theater companies and eventually went on to getting a Bachelors in acting from Brooklyn College.
I also remember back in the day there was a show on Nickelodeon called ‘Taina’ and she went to a performing arts high school. This is what really showed me being a performer was possible. It inspired me to go to Professional Performing Arts High School where I met kids who would become lifelong friends, best friends and family that I even turn to now. It’s been a while since high school and a while since my very first audition, but I’m just as hungry as I was back then. Now, even more so.
Your big-screen debut was in ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ alongside Denzel Washington. You made also numerous TV appearances. Does any role from your career stand out as your favorite to date? Do you have any special preferences when signing onto new roles?
My favorite role to date is actually Carter Singleton from ‘Chicago Med’. There I was able to play the godson of Sharon Goodwin, portrayed by the legend herself, S. Epatha Merkerson, which was another dream come true. It’s one of my favorites outside of ‘The Boys’ and ‘Boardwalk Empire’ because of the hours of make-up it took to make me look as though I had third-degree burns. The SFX team on that show is nothing short of amazing and deserve every award out there. The process of getting into a character like that was daunting. For weeks I studied burn charts, procedures, recovery and everything I could to understand the truth behind that reality. I interviewed and spoke with surgical staff, burn survivors and nursing professionals. I listened to their stories and walked away with such a deeper appreciation for everyone in the medical field, especially trauma and ER teams. ‘Chicago Med’ forced me to do a deep dive into medics and I will always be so grateful to have appeared on that show.
Preferences when it comes on deciding on for a new role… I’d say I look for something with true depth to it. A story or person that I can fully flesh out and show their life, their experiences, their happiness and sadness and their journey. I am an actor because I love to tell the story of someone’s life and all that it inhabits, whether it be good, bad or somewhere in-between.
People might recognize you from your role in HBO’s Emmy Winning drama ‘Boardwalk Empire’, which was set in the 1920s and 1930s. How was it filming such a successful show, that was also set in such a different era? What were the highlights from filming and what was maybe the hard part about filming it?
Filming a show like ‘Boardwalk Empire’ was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. I was still getting my undergrad degree, so to step onto a show as large as that before finishing college was completely life changing. I’ve always loved shows that dealt with different decades, big wardrobe, massive set design and really all of the above. And that’s exactly what ‘Boardwalk Empire’ was. Acting allows us to time travel and to work on a show that dealt with characters like Al Capone, Nucky Thompson, Lucky Luciano and Michael K. Williams’ character Chalky White all made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Working on a show that deals with the 20s and for my character specifically, who was supposed to be a genius on the piano, you’re forced to pay special attention to human behavior of that time. Like standing when ladies leave a room, pulling out chairs, the way you eat, the way you drink and walk and live. I paid close attention to stride piano and jazz. I listened to jazz for hours on end and learned more about music than I’d ever thought possible. On my first day of filming I played Clair De Lune in front of Steve Buscemi, Shea Whigham, Mike and Natalie Wachen. Those moments in time will always be irreplaceable for me, especially after loosing Mike. That was a tough one. After working on that show I was able to call many of them my acquaintances and in some cases my brothers.
I know I sound like a broken record, but a highlight was being able to work with such an amazing and dynamic cast, and I mean while in college. It doesn’t get better than that. It was my first recurring role on a major network television show and I got to play the son of someone who I’ve looked up to for years.
The hard part about filming Boardwalk was still going back to class after living so fully in a completely different world. Sometimes we pulled 16 hour days, then the next day I’d be back in English class or in Geology. Honestly, it was all madness, but I guess you can say it’s the most hands on experience one can get while pursuing a degree in that same field.
After ‘Boardwalk Empire’ you started to expand your resume by taking another step onto the stage world. What excites you the most about theater? Do you see yourself more of an actor on stage or in front of the camera?
Well, I was originally trained in theater and I think that’s the most substantial training any actor can get. You learn so much, about yourself, about performing, about your endurance. It’s where I learned character analysis, how to breakdown a script, speech work and dialects, how to fully support your instrument as an actor and so much more. Those are necessary tools that you can use on a film set, but you will only learn them in the theater. What excites me most though is that feeling you get when you’re on stage with upward of 500 people and the audience watching your every word, where you can literally hear a pin drop and your voice, actions and choices take people on a journey and have them on the edge of their seat. That feeling you get when you control the mood and feeling of the entire room. That moment where you know you have everyone’s attention and you’re taking them on this fantastical journey through time and leading them to a place of ecstasy.
When it comes to stage versus the camera, it’s an ever changing feeling. Growing up I always said I wanted my own television show. As I’ve been able to play a bit more on the film and TV side, I do long for the stage once again. Every actor always wants to go back home in a way, but in this sense I mean back home to the stage where it all began. There’s nothing heavier and more exhausting than playing the same character 8 times a week for 6 to 9 months, but at the same time that is probably the most exciting and thrilling experience for an actor.
You’re building an arts program from NY’s 200 year old Mission Society, which works for inner schools and you are planning on bringing the arts to kids like yourself. Why do you believe the kids need to have art in their life?
I believe kids need the arts in their lives because at that age we all need some form of escape and something to hold on to, whether it be acting, dance, singing or picking up an instrument. We deserve to give them a space where their imaginations can roam freely without constraint, judgement, prejudice or criticism. Adults do enough criticizing of each other as it is. Why subject children and the next generation to those things so early on. They are literally graded on their performance in the classroom and their achievements. Why not let them live out their wildest dreams through the arts. I promise, it’ll inspire a whole new generation of creators and masterminds, if only we give them the opportunity to grow. Maybe there wouldn’t be so much hatred in the world if only we allowed them to use their frustrations and growing pains in an artistic way. Perhaps we’ll see less angst for one another or perhaps even less gun violence. The arts have been known to save lives, it saved mine. We all need a form of something that we’re passionate about and often times the arts allows you to dream and imagine and when you take that away from kids, you’re taking away a bit of their childhood. I don’t know where I would be had it not been for the arts. I’m so thankful I came up with music class and drama in elementary school. It literally made me the man I am today.
You’re also working in collaboration with Marc Baptise and Selita Ebanks for the rebuilding of Haitian Schools and Orphanages, which were affected during the 2010 earthquake. Why is this cause so important to you?
Philanthropy and humanitarianism are important to me because as actors we have a voice and it can change the world. So many areas of this planet are looked over. And for what reason?
Because of race, political or financial benefit? That’s silly to me. If an area of the world needs help, if the people of the world need help and you can help, you help. I grew up in old school Brooklyn, NYC. Many times the only way out was to dream and pursue your passion. I needed help and benefited from people around me lending their support, so why would I not do the same in return for the people of the world and the ones that I’m able to relate to the most.
I’ve heard you are very into archery. What drew you to it? What other hobbies do you enjoy?
I got into archery as a Boy Scout and I loved every bit of it. I was actually really good at it.
Outside of that, I love long boarding and gaming. I’m huge on GTA online, level 462 to be exact. And drawing and sketching have always been an escape and another passion of mine. I love NYC history and anything to do with New York. I love crime documentaries, so when a new Netflix special drops, you can believe I’ve seen it within the first day of its release. I also love to travel and see the world. This planet is so vast and to spend a lifetime here and miss all it has to offer is almost like robbing yourself of seeing real beauty and feeling the full warmth of the world.
Since the 3rd season of ‘The Boys’ is premiering on 3 June, what can you tell us about what to expect from the upcoming season?
I can tell you nothing. What you see in the trailer is exactly what you’re gonna get. If you were surprised by the first two seasons, then hold on tight for season three because it’s going to throw you further than Elon Musk went when he went into space. Plus, I want to stay in that world so all of Vought’s secrets are safe with me. I am the young Stan Edgar after all.
What other exciting projects are coming up for you this year?
If I told you what cool and exciting projects were coming up next, then I’d risk missing out on another really great announcement, so… I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.
Interview by Jana Letonja
Photography: Hosea Johnson
Casting: Timi Letonja