Monday, 7 November 2006.  

It’s 3 days before the start of the New York Independent Internaional Film and Video Festival.  Kelley Davis, SAMARITAN’s Mrs. Gredenko is sitting down for a little chatter over coffee.  

Kelley Davis:    Make me witty and adorable.

Ethan Marten:    Kelley you already are.

KD:     Gracias — I say that because that’s all the Spanish I know.  Actually, I know how to say cervesa as well, and donde esta el bano…

EM:      Sorry, I can’t type that enyae….Nice hat by the way, what is that — a herring bone railroad hat?

KD:    Thanks, it’s actually my husband’s, but I think it looks better on me.  I grabbed it anyway.

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On the waterfront with Kelley Davis.                                    Photo by EEM

EM:    You had a car accident about two months ago. You look great.  How are you feeling?

KD:    I’m finding you never really recover completely.  Rest isn’t an option, chiropracters, muscle relaxers, working out, but not necessarily in that order.

EM:    Muscle relaxers first?

KD:    Yes, but not before teaching classes.  (Winks.)

EM:    I know you’re only joking.  You were spot on on the shoot.

KD:    (Laughs, but admits nothing….)

EM:    Where were you born?    

KD:    Born in New Mexico — moved to Las Vegas when I was five.  Lived there for six years.   Kissed my first boy in Kindergarten (I went back when I was16!)  I shocked him.  I ran up grabbed him and then ran away.

EM:    See, you were born for the theatre!

KD:    I have one older brother, Greg.  We were raised in a military family, so we had to be close.  Always moving, losing old friends, and trying to
make new ones….Dad was a Luitenant Colonel in the Air Force. Greg and I are very different.    He is silently protective.  I am such a mind speaker -my friends have accused me of having an undiagnosed case of Teretz.  Anyway, he expresses how proud he is of me.  He’s a chemical engineer.  I tell him he has all the brains — I have all the looks.  He was very concerned when I started studying theatre.

EM:    I guess it confirmed his darkest fears —

KD:    That his sister was insane?  Possibly.  He’s a chemical engineer, what kind of career can a theatre provide?  He came to all my plays, but he saw me in Tennessee Williams’ Talk to me about the Rain, and let me Listen at (CNU) and finally smiled.  “Damn, you can actually do this.”  He didn’t worry about my ability to eat, pay my bills (and hit him up for money) after that.   

EM:    So you said you originally intended to become a social worker.  When did it hit you that you would rather act (and possibly need the services of a social worker) than be one?

KD:    Always, ever since I was little.  I just didn’t consider it a viable job.  I was misserable studying — so I took two years off of college.  Though Mom and dad were less than thrilled at the prospect — they supported me finding my way.  One night over a couple of glasses of wine with Mom (you know, wine equals truth,) Mom asked, “If you had it all to do over again, what would you do?”  No hesitation, first thing that came out of my mouth, “theatre.”  She said, “Then, why don’t you.”  Next day I registered at CNU’s theatre program.  Worked my little tushy off, and loved every second of it.

EM:    You earned a nickname on the set —

KD:    Ya — I think it was Swollen Ass.  I was trying to be all macho and do my — well I wouldn’t say macho — I’m all girlie — no I’m not —

EM:    Split personality maybe?

KD:    That’s why I am an actor.

EM:      Picking up the thread —

KD:    I insisted I didn’t need a mat for all the pratfalls…I didn’t realize I was going to hit the ground so many times.

EM:    We actually got the shot on the first take.  I think your nickname should have been Buns of Steel!

KD:    Oh really?!

EM:    Na — I’m just screwing with one of your personalities.

KD:    Which one?

EM:    The girlie one.  The macho one doesn’t care!  But like the Buns of Steel thing.

KD:    Girlie Personality likes it too.  Thank God Kimball (Director Kimball Carr) insisted I be safe and comfortable, and made me use the mat.

EM:    How did you hear of SAMARITAN?

KD:    Call from my agent at Atlantic Talent. She asked me if I wanted to audition for this film —

EM:    25-cent fine for the film comment!

KD:    Forgot about that — you need a jar!  I wanted to audition for this ground breaking high definition movie project that I knew nothing about.

EM:    So when you found it was another Indie pic — you couldn’t wait to jump on board!

KD:    I only hesitated slightly.  (Another wink, and more laughter). 

EM:    You were tentative?

KD:    Yes.  Good word.  I tell my acting students any experience is good experience, however, I’ve been around long enough to know you have
to develop a sense of what will help you grow as an actor.  You can have an experience that isn’t necessarily the best, but you still grow.

EM:    I imagine you might also feel that you get to a point where you might want your learning experiences to also be pleasant experiences.

KD:    Very true.  It was amazing.  Script was amazing.  At the audition — Johnny and I were discussing the intelligence of the script, and how rare
that is.  That sounds terrible, but it’s true, and how it didn’t reveal too much.  I think a lot of writers underestimate the intelligence of their audience.
I don’t want to speak for Johnny, but I think he felt the same as me.  SAMARITAN was really good, and it had the burden of “Indie movie.”  Truth about Johnny’s character — there were not a lot of actors that could manage that character.   The language was precise, and proper.  “No I do not,”  not “no I don’t,” small example, but indicative of the character.  Otherwise it would have rung false and awkward.”

With my theatre background I’m used to sticking to the written word.  It was a strange feeling moving into film, and having a little leeway with what was on the page.  Of course, with really tight scripts — I wouldn’t dream of improving or improoving what’s on the page, but let’s face it — when you start out — you get a lot of crap.  The key is to recognize this, stay true to your character — without being a pain in the ass on the set.  We have a job as an actor to make people believe that our words and actions stem from truth, and I think at times it’s harder to sell than at other times.

EM:    So Samaritan was a soft sell?

KD:    Because of the way you constructed it — the script, casting, direction — I loved the way Kimball directed — giving you something and then getting out of the way.  That could be taken the wrong way, what I mean is — he tells you what he wants and instills the confidence in you that he believes you can give it to him.  He was very courteous and respectful.  He was accomplished in his job and allowed you to execute yours.

EM:    See — witty, adorable AND intelligent!  Tell me a little bit about your character, Mrs. Gredenko.

KD:    I liked, at least, I wanted to portray some strength and obviously she’s upset (she’s been in the middle of a shooting) she could have been blubbery.

EM:    You showed a great deal of vulnerability, and yet your character had a great deal of strength.  That one look you give after Victor whispers in your ear — that was amazing.  I’m going to cross the actor’s line and ask what your secret was — what were you thinking?  What’s behind that look?

KD:    I was gonna say I never reveal my secrets, but I will say that it was meaningful to me as a person.  I had my own traumatic experiences to draw from.  There was more in the script to draw from for the actor than was put on the screen, so for me as a person — I’ve never had a Victor in my life or been a witness to a shooting or a robbery.  So if I actually had been through such a trauma, what would I want said to me to give me strength.  I always try and have my own secrets — my own internal dialogue to deliver a truthful character.

EM:    What was the biggest suprise?   

KD:    I just wasn’t expecting to have so much fun.  I knew I liked your personalities and your audition process off the bat, you seemed genuinely nice; but when you guys explained what you were trying to do with this
project — how much we had to do — in such a short window (81 set ups, 2 nights) — I was expecting a bunch of pissed off, cranky people!
EM:    I thought you were going to say you thought we were out of our fucking minds.

KD:    Well, that too. 

EM:    So instead?

KD:    One, everyone was so nice, and two — I don’t think I saw one person blow up even once.  You just don’t find that on any set, really.  That peaceful nature in such a dynamic atmoshphere.  I was expecting complete stress.  Not me per se, but I thought  — I was shocked.  I thought there was no way in hell…Oh God what have I gotten myself into?

EM:    Now we’re getting to the ugly underbelly! 

KD:    (Laughs)  Maybe an extra day or two of shooting will work in my favor!  The hair and makeup, the lighting people — the chiropractor — all so nice!

EM:    Dr. Dan — the chiropractor isn’t gonna like hearing about the muscle relaxers.

KD:    Tell it to macho personality — a Girlie Girl has got to do what a Girlie Girl’s got to do.

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“A Girlie Girl gotta do what a
Girlie Girl gotta do.”  —  Kelley Davis         Photo by EEM

EM:    Give me a preview of your Oscar speech.

KD:    Really?  Oh my Goodness.  Oh Wow, More than anything in the world I would have to thank my parents.  They are the only reason in the
world I have been to sustain this.  My courage and belief in myself stems from their belief in me.  Any time I have lost faith in myself — their belief in me has helped me have the strength to believe in myself. 

EM:    Don’t you want to know which category you were nominated in?

KD:    Oh Good Lord — WHAT– OH no!

EM:     You tell me.

KD:    Well, I would win for best kiss. 

EM:    Lucky Wendell. (The hatless husband.)

KD:    Lucky me….

EM:   Good save since you didn’t thank him in your Oscar speach!

KD:    (More giggles)  Hmnn…Best suppooooortiiiing — I’m underestimating myself —

EM:    What would Mom and Dad say?

KD:    Awww.  Cutest Actress in any film.

EM:    Awwww.

KD:    But I would say, “Best Ass-Fall in a Drama.”

EM:    You’ve got my vote.  Speaking of which — you hit the polls?

KD:    Of course.  Vote, but vote for the right people!  I’ve got my views — but that’s a whole other interview.

EM:    You looking forward to New York and the Festival?

KD:    Yes!  I love N.Y., and to have my movie in a NY Festival — I called all my family and friends.  People’s reactions were animatedted.  I’m feeling overwhelmed. It was as if I had progressed to another level in terms of the acceptance of my work. It’s slightly scarey, because I don’t like watching myself on screen, but I’m proud.  From the moment I read that script — I wanted the part.  The actors cast, J. Michael Hunter, Johnny Alonso — great resumes, great talent.  Great script.  That’s why I wanted it.  Did I get paid?  Yes.  Was I treated well, and with respect on the set? Yes.  Did I think I’d be having a premiere at a prestigious New York festival?  No.  The rest of
it — the chiropractor the pay, the catering (really good).   Especially the festival, I thought — this is wrong — this can’t be happening!  Not because I didn’t believe in the project, but because it was so surreal — it was a big deal. 

EM:    Okay, I think we’re about done, not that I’m throwing you out of the house or anything….Should we do the Barbara Walters thing?

KD:    What’s that?

EM:    If you were a tree — what kind would you be?

KD:      A Dogwood.  But do I have to say why?

EM:    You do now.

KD:    I don’t know.  I have one in my yard that needs to be planted! 

EM:    C’mon —

KD:    Okay, because they look  just like ordinary trees, but then they blossom and have these beautiful flowers.

EM:    That’s a very beautiful sentiment.  Of course then winter comes….

KD:    (Laughs)  Jerk!  (More laughs)

EM:    Barb knows what she’s doing.  What kind of animal would you be?

KD:    A chihuahua — owned by me, because that pup has a gooooood life!
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Puppy Love…“She’s not really
that spoiled…well maybe a bit.”

EM:    If you had to wear superhero underoos — which would they be and why?

KD:    I had Wonder Woman ones when I was little.

EM:    How long ago was that?

KD:    Two years ago.  I don’t know who I would wear wear?  I’m my own superhero?

EM:    You trial ballooning that?  I didn’t know that this would present such a challenge.

KD:    I’m afraid of heights — so I don’t want any flying superheroes.  I would love to be invisisble, but that would present its own problems —

EM:    Sure, and then how would you find your underwear, anyway?!

KD:    Very true.  Audrey Hepburn!  She was an extraordinary actress who overcame her own insecurities and then spent most of her life giving back.  She was UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador.  I would like Meryl Streep underoos, too.

EM:    You’re on a roll now!

KD:    She is just an amazing actress.  I love her.  She loves me, too…she just doesn’t know it yet.  She would be at the top of my list for actors I want to work with. 

EM:    Me, too.  Well, Kelley Dear, Buns of Steel, Macho and Girlie Girl — it was wonderful having all of you over today.

KD:   Thank you for the opportunity and for the nuts and cappuccino.  See you in N.Y.!!!

EM:    Almonds.  We don’t want the kids to get the wrong idea!

KD:    The foam was great, too.

EM:    You are witty and adorable to the last.

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