Kreative Circle — Megan Davis
Megan, Welcome to Kreative Circle! Your history traces back to acting from the early age of three years old working on commercials.
How were you introduced to such opportunities at a young age? What was the experience like for yourself and your family?
I always wanted to act. I was obsessed with the character of Cosette in Les Miserables and used to clean our own kitchen floors by hand while I sang Castle on a Cloud. My uncle was directing TV commercials at the time and asked if I wanted to be in one, which, of course, I did! And then one led to two…
As an actress and producer, you’ve studied at the BFA Acting/Musical Theatre program at The University of Arizona. Did you host any preconceptions of what you would learn in this program to fulfill your academic and professional goals? What did you learn about self-development from completing this rewarding program? Is there anything you could have done differently?
Not really. To be completely honest, I only went to school instead of going straight to LA because I felt like it was super clear that I could get out of rehab earlier if I stayed in Tucson. And then I just completely fell in love with the BFA program and the professors and the other students and now, of course, I am so grateful that it happened that way because what an exceptional school to have been trained at. The producing kind of happened by accident. Scott Stuber, who is now the head of film at Netflix, was a University of Arizona graduate and I asked if I could intern with him over the summer of my senior year to learn the other side of film-making. He was awesome. In terms of self-development, I would say I have learned more about that here in LA, because when I was in school, there was still a projected course of action to follow which makes everything so much easier. Once there is no piece of paper telling you what to do next, then you really learn a lot about yourself. And he was kind enough to not only let me, but to teach me so much. There are always things you can do differently or “better” in hindsight, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You’ve also studied at Second City, an improvisational comedy enterprise based out of Chicago, with training programs and live theaters in Toronto and Los Angeles.
What are a few prerequisites (qualities or skill sets) that can benefit actors in performing improvisational comedy?
Was there any aspect of this craft that you found challenging yet mastered over time?
What professional advice can you offer to candidates seeking an opportunity to study at Second City?
What was your greatest achievement during your time invested at Second City?
Is there any comedian you admire?
The best thing you can take in with you when studying comedy is to completely lose the word “no” from your mental vocabulary. Sometimes the things that feel the most ludicrous in the moment work the best, and you will never know if you close yourself off. Also, comedy is a group sport, especially improv, so you want to keep an attitude of always being open so you can build with the other person. There is hopefully a true place of communion you can get to in comedy in the same way you can get to in drama. Well, I found it very challenging at first. In fact, the reason that I went in the first place was because comedy scared the shit out of me and I thought well I better throw myself into the hardest and best comedy I know of then and get over it. And then I found out I was actually really good at it. Improv isn’t really my jam in the sense that I don’t enjoy it as much as scripted comedy but improv is so important to all aspects of acting. So many shows and plays I have done — the best moments came out of improv, and therefore out of all of the artists on set behind the camera and in front of the camera having that attitude of not shutting off to their preconceived notions — of being open to let the muse come to them. I love Kate McKinnon. I could just watch her all day. Her timing is impeccable.
Megan, as a professional actress, you stress the importance of physical dexterity and athleticism in your craft.
As an equestrian that can also sing, play the piano and dance, are there any new physical challenges that you’re entertaining?
How can novice actors develop different forms of dexterity to grant them a competitive advantage in their acting roles?
Have you played a body double for another actor due to your wide range of athleticism and range?
Are there any action roles that you’ve opted to perform yourself instead of delegating it to a body double?
Hmmm, I think for me it is more just about overall wellness and keeping up with your training in every area. Just like I think actors should always be in class (I’m actually answering these while my Shakespeare class is on break) I also think you should always be training your body. Your body is obviously a huge part of your craft and I think it should always be in a state of readiness to transform or of feeling at your best, whatever that means for you individually. Also, I do think that the more you can learn, the more you can experience, the more you have to work from. I am a bit of a thrill seeker so I enjoy sky-diving and bungee jumping and cliff jumping. I enjoy training in hand to hand combat and broadsword and rapier/dagger. I think your body is such a huge part of acting that any movement you can study is wonderful. Any art form you can study that contributes to the mind and body being as in sync as possible. I have not but I have had multiple people play my body double. I would almost always prefer to do it myself, but sometimes the production just isn’t comfortable allowing you to do the stunts.
Your work references Katharine Hepburn as a form of inspiration. What was it about Ms. Hepburn that influenced you in how you approach and represent the art of acting?
I don’t know that my admiration for her is even just about her acting, but really who she is as a person. She is unapologetically herself. She is just such an inspiring human being. She always found a way to make it happen even when people were telling her no. I fell in love with her when I saw this movie Love Affair, which was essentially a re-make of An Affair to Remember. I think that was the first role I ever saw her in. And I remember thinking she was so strong and so vulnerable somehow at the same time.
Among a few entertainment genres, your work also includes drama and comedy. Did you find one genre more difficult to connect with than the other? Are there any common threads among those two styles of storytelling that audiences overlook?
Oh, I think they are so similar. Underneath both of them is the most important thing in storytelling — truth. Comedy is funny because it’s grounded in truth. Drama is compelling because it’s rooted in truth. They are just different ways of approaching the truth — they appeal to our different senses and defense mechanisms as human beings. I don’t think I find one harder than the other — there are definitely huge traps in both — but both are so incredible.
Some of your works include the American Horror Story, Bones, 2 Broke Girls and For Nothing. What have you learned about receiving direction from Directors and improvising at your discretion?
Well, this is a tricky question. I always believe in being open to improv. But there are times when it wouldn’t be appropriate for the character or the moment. But I think in all of those projects you listed that we were all very open to collaboration and improv. In Bones, the director and I decided to do something in that scene and not tell David Boreanez that we were going to do it so that they could just catch his reaction when the cameras were rolling. In American Horror Story, Sarah Paulson asked if we could just play in the scene at one part, which, of course, I loved. To get to work with excellent actors and get to play in the moment with them, that’s it. That’s the best.
You’ve also produced projects such as American Street Kid (2018) and Famous (2019). What was your experience working on American Street Kid which focuses on the youth homelessness epidemic? Were there any new professional epiphanies acquired behind the scenes while working on this project?
Obviously this was incredibly rewarding and challenging. I felt so very grateful to get to be a small part of telling that story. Those kids are so courageous and so strong. And it is an issue that we don’t talk about, in my opinion, enough in this country. There is no reason that we have children living on the street. And one of the things that I think the director did so beautifully was address the common misconceptions that people have about why these children ended up living on the street.
Famous was a story that challenged the protagonist to learn the price of fame.
From your personal experiences, how do you define fame? Do you believe fame comes at a price?
…ooo fame is hard to define. There’s different levels, there are different ways in which someone can be famous or renowned. That specific project was loosely based on the stories of Corey Feldman and Corey Haim and River Phoenix. And it wasn’t just about fame, it was also about children being taken advantage of by the mechanism of fame all those that stood to benefit from their fame. And I think we have seen so many examples of that in every part of life, sadly. I think of course it comes with a price, and in a weird way, I think we are seeing a piece of that from the phenomenon that is social media and the way it has affected and continues to affect people. We are all starting to see how detrimental it can be to live publicly and to have anyone be able to comment anything they want on anything you do or say. It’s a dangerous place mentally. And I am hopeful it will lead to a wider conversation about self-worth.
Megan, you were also nominated for the Best Actress Award by the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival for portraying the prescription-pill addict in Adverse Effects. How did you prepare to play the role of Samantha?
Well, in this specific circumstance I have had a lot of experience with addiction and how devastating it can be. I was really lucky to have Spencer as a director on this and to have Aaron on set with me, because they both allowed me to go through being crazy and being broken and all of the things I went through with her while we were filming.
How do you know you’re satisfied with your performance? Is there a certain validation you receive from the outside world, or is there an inner knowing you’ve done justice to the role you’re trusted to honor?
Oh man, I am never satisfied with my performance. I always think that there is more that can be found, more that can be explored, more that can be done, I think outside validation is always great and anyone who says it isn’t is totally lying, but I think most artists really crave that internal feeling when they hit that sweet spot of the truth and know it, even if only for 30 seconds. I could ride that high the rest of my life. I think something that I always love is when someone tells me that they saw themselves in the role, because it then feels like you’ve at least touched the truth. When Corey Feldman first saw Famous he said that I was exactly like an ex-girlfriend of his at that time, which I loved because it meant that someone who lived that story recognized the work I had done as true to the story. I liked that.
Your latest project is The Christmas Family Reunion projected for a 2021 holiday release. What was the experience like working with the cast and what can audiences expect from this project?
This was a weird one because it was my first time working with all of the new COVID protocols. So there were a lot of things that had to be done or not done in order to ensure that everyone was safe. I think the most notable to me was that it meant less time hanging out together before and between filming — which I love that time because, for me, it helps me to experience a certain level of comfortability. But Jake Helgren is an excellent director and he is so fun so he really helped us through all of that and still created a fun and safe environment. This is the second film I have done with Ninth House and both Jake Helgren and Autumn Federici are incredible and I felt very safe throughout the whole process. And with all of their projects, I think the audience can expect an excellent holiday film. I honestly felt so lucky to be working with them after they had just done “Dashing in December” — an important holiday film that told the story of two men falling in love in such a beautiful way. I found myself thinking while I was watching it, “Why haven’t I seen this story before?” And so to be working with a company and with artists that are on the forefront of telling new stories — that is such an honor.
Are there any shows that you love watching in reruns or those that are in active production?
I am so ridiculous about this, I watch so many shows and movies over and over and over again. I’ve probably seen Friends all the way through maybe 20 times. I’ve watched the series Playing Shakespeare at least 5 times. Once something inspires you, I think you crave that feeling over and over. But, I have to remind myself to stop looking for feelings I have felt before and allow myself to experience new things that might have similar or even greater results.
Is there a book that you’re reading at the moment? Is there a book that you recommend to audiences?
As I look at the ground next to my bed, there are four books I am reading now, which is weird because I normally only read one at a time. I am re-reading Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” which my friend Brooke recommended and it is so excellent. My mom and I are both reading it and then talking about it together. So much respect for Gelnnon Doyle. I am also super into self development and spiritual books. Just speaking to my own profession, I think you have to always be growing and learning and working on yourself and the more you grow and learn as a person the more you learn and grow in terms of your characters. And, who doesn’t want to be better every day? I am also reading The Sociopath Next Door and A Visit From the Goon Squad and The Worthy Project. I am super into audio books too. I love to drive around at night — when everything is quiet and still in LA — and put on a good audio book and gaze at the lights.
Megan, please share how audiences can support your work.