Actor Brionne Davis, who received raves and critical acclaim for his lead role in the Indy film “Narcissist” confirmed to Highlight Hollywood exclusively that next week he’ll be heading to Cannes Film Festival with “El Abrazo De LA Serpiente,” directed by acclaimed and celebrated young Latin filmmaker Ciro Guerra and Brionne could not be more excited. “I’m really moved by this opportunity, having one’s work accepted and praised gives you an extra boost to keep going, and a little external validation never hurts as long as we don’t become dependent on it.” Other recent films include “Avenged” and “Fire City,” which are both completed and now Brionne embarks on the high-stakes race to promote his work, and the handsome actor is dedicated to his craft, as well as making sure that his work is always outstanding. Davis also we’ve learned will appear this summer on Showtime’s Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning drama “Ray Donovan” and he has a lot of other projects in the works. He is becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought after actors, and for good reason.
Heading to Cannes with the filmmakers of “Embrace The Serpent,” also titled “El Abrazo De LA Serpiente,” Brionne admits is really something the star is looking forward to. “Everyone involved feels so honored, this is a dream come true. Playing this role was one that I really worked hard to achieve. Getting in this man’s skin, making sure he was depicted honestly was important to me. He was a fascinating scientist and a complicated human being, and I really wanted to do him justice.” Though a fiction feature, “Embrace of the Serpent” draws inspiration from the travel journals of German ethnologist Theodor Koch-Grunberg and American Richard Evans Schultes, a celebrated pioneer researcher into indigenous peoples’ use of plants. Davis portrays Schultes.
Richard Evans Schultes, known as a renowned scientist who was a biologist (January 12, 1915 – April 10, 2001) and may be considered the father of modern ethnobotany, for his studies of indigenous peoples’ (especially the indigenous peoples of the Americas) uses of plants, including especially entheogenic or hallucinogenic plants (particularly in Mexico and the Amazon). He is respected for his lifelong collaborations with chemists around the world, and for his charismatic influence as an educator at Harvard University on a number of students and colleagues who went on to write popular books and assume influential positions in museums, botanical gardens, and popular culture.
Davis did a great deal of research on the man before headed to the Colombia to film. Someone so talented had to be very complicated. “When I got the call to fly to South America, I was so excited. Though, while flying there, I realized that this is either going to be the best experience of my life or the worst decision I ever made,” the handsome star said with a smile. Joking about flying into “no man’s land,” so to speak.
Before being [cast.] “I hadn’t heard from the filmmaker in a while, so when I got the call it was a surprise. One of the producers, Jason Gurvitz, I’d worked with in ‘Savaged,’ so, he knew of my work, and they needed an American to play the scientist Richard Evans Schultes, so they sent me the script in English, they ended up flying me down for the role, but it was almost magical making this film, Tommy. There were so many terrific moments, and luckily many of them were caught on camera.”
But, some unearthly experiences were not, including an almost ghostly appearance by a spirit that left Davis rethinking all he truly believes about life, but it made way for a brilliant scene later the very next day. More on that later.
“This was a very physical role for me. I found myself doing things that I didn’t know I could even be capable of doing. But everything seemed to just click, it was a life changing experience, and mosquitos and insects aside, I’d do it all over again,” he said.
And playing such a very intriguing and yet so complicated character came with a daunting task. “I do a lot of character research for a role like this. In process, I start from the beginning, almost like a book report. So, I basically go through that character’s life from beginning to end, to get to know who the person really is. However, I only had two week to get acclimated to the character in this film. I eventually learned to speak four languages, including the native indigenous language of the region. I had to memorize it by going over and over it in my head. But, don’t get me wrong. The locales where we filmed were serene and beautiful. So, it wasn’t as if I was in a bad place. The first week of shooting we stayed at this electric power plant, it is owned by a Russian company. It was guarded by guys in camouflage. It felt and looked almost like a concentration camp in some ways, but everything outside of it was truly beautiful. And my Spanish got really good by the end of filming,” Brionne adds. “By the time we got to a local hotel, with my own A/C unit in my window, I felt like I was living in a Five-Star hotel.”
He also admitted to me that he had his shots for malaria, yellow fever and other well-known diseases to travelers to the Amazon-region. But he laughs it off and says, it was well worth it to be there and to make this film, which is on its way to Cannes. “Not only did we spend weeks filming, but whenever we’d go from one location to another, we’d sometimes use this 70-year-old airplane, it was one of those cargo planes. Life and death were parallel all the time for the star and cast and crew, but he felt like it made the experience authentic. Telling me in graphic detail about a moment he had in his motel room, when a spirit visited him and the next day he told his director, who not only believed him, but further explained who and what the spirit was. “It was an experience I’ll never forget, Tommy. I didn’t always believe in ghosts, but this was truly a genuine presence. The next day I had this very important scene to film, where I am kidnapped by religious zealots, and my director told me that it was important that I was visited the night before. By the end of the scene, I got it. I understood why I had this real experience.”
Delving into this story, I learned that on the second night of filming at this wondrous location, Davis was in his hotel room alone in bed, “in the middle of the night I felt a presence. I didn’t believe in ghosts, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I hear this monotone singing chant. I feel the presence now over me. I can tell it is a man, about his mid thirties, he continues to chant. Then he recognizes that I woke up, and I raise up, he looks straight at me, I stand up, get out of bed, I look at him, he turns to look at me again, and I follow him out of my room into the darkness. But then he’s done. I was not terrified, in fact peace came over me. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized who and what it was. I was and am okay with it,” Brionne said.
Another fascinating filming experience included the leading man being amongst butterflies that were consuming minerals on a bank of a river. Brionne’s director and the cameramen captured a magical moment, which I hope makes it into the film. The experiences he shared about this project make “Embrace the Serpent” a must see, post-Cannes. I’m looking forward to the Hollywood premiere.
“It was another great experience as an actor. But I’d never filmed in such a place like this before. I reminded myself that at any time I could fall off a cliff or tip over the canoe that I was in, and the production crew was 100-feet away. But, I always want to tell stories and be in films that touch the lives of the viewers,” Davis enthused. “I love to perceive the world from my character’s point of view in any project I am in.
“I never sought fame. I never sought the celebrity-status as you know. It’s always been about the work, about learning and growing as an actor. I am happy with the projects I have under my belt that represent who I am as an artist,” Davis admitted. None more acclaimed right now than Eric Casaccio’s “Narcissist.” Another role Brionne Davis was cast in after someone else wasn’t available for the part. But it’s amazing to watch him in this film, and he has also received a festival nod for Best Actor as a narcissist in that film role.
Davis also, as previously stated, appears in June in the Showtime hit “Ray Donovan.” The episode is the second in the upcoming third season, and it’s titled “Ding.” Davis is becoming one of the most versatile actors of our generation. Plus, his film role in “Avenged” is now on AMAZON Prime and at Redbox. Other projects coming out in 2015 include a Film Short “Misbehaving,” “Fire City: The Interpreter of Signs,” which the handsome star puts on makeup and prosthetics to become a lizard man and coming out also later this year (2015) is “Atticus’ Activists.”
Highlight Hollywood will be keeping up with this rising star. Talent and good looks aside. He’s also a pretty wonderful guy. You can follow Brionne’s career and learn more about him at his official website.
You can follow us on social media at www.twitter.com/HighlightHwd or on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Highlight-Hollywood/193119760769011, and now on Google+ at: https://plus.google.com/+TommyLightfootGarrett90211/about
Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: IMDB; Brionne Davis’s Collection
Follow us on Twitter @HighlightHwd or @LightfootinHwd