Camden, NJ native and actor Khris Davis portrays two-time boxing champion George Foreman in the new movie "Big George Foreman"
Sony Pictures Classics film BIG GEORGE FOREMAN: THE MIRACULOUS STORY OF THE ONCE AND FUTURE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION OF THE WORLD is now exclusively in movie theaters.
The movie tells the incredible journey of two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman.
Portraying the boxing champ was incredibly challenging for actor and Camden, New Jersey native Khris Davis, who really only knew about George Foreman through the champ's famous Foreman Grill. But Davis, who joined SportsJam with Doug Doyle, says he did plenty of research for this role and took his meetings with George Foreman seriously.
"I had this idea that he was probably nicer than the books and media were saying, and when I got to see him my idea was correct. He proved me right that he was a sweet guy, that he was a gentle and giving man. That's what I needed. I needed to see him with his grandchildren, with his family, and in his church. These are things that no amount of YouTube videos could give me. His autobiographies couldn't give me those subtle and sweet nuances."
The film explores more than 20 years of the George Foreman's life and career, through his retirement and eventual comeback to regain the championship title at 45 years old. With that timeframe in mind, Davis had to prepare in many different ways, especially physically.
"I was going from 228 pounds one week playing young George, the next week I got to be fighting Joe Frazier, so now I'm bumping myself up to 242. I'm doing this week by week and sometimes we were shooting out of sequence in the same day. That's when my theater background came and I had to jump into some physical character work to make that happen. I had to try to somehow to create some kind of alchemy to shrink myself to not be a giant man and play a 17-18 year old kid. The second half of the film, that's when it got serious. That's when it got hard because we all know he came back a lot heavier. So in his prime fighting days he was between 225 when he fought Joe Frazier, but when he lost to Jimmy Young in Puerto Rico he was 232. We then took six weeks off. I had a nutritionist who gave me a plan. The plan wasn't really going to get me up to weight. It was like four thousand calories a day when I was at home, five thousand calories , when I was filming, six thousand calories when I was doing some boxing training, but I wasn't going to make weight so I had to mix it up. I bumped it up to seven thousand calories a day and I ended going from 225 to 275 in five weeks. Now that was hard. That was painful. That was a miracle. I don't know how I did that."
That commitment to his craft and the story has helped Davis become a favorite in the movie industry. He has more than decade of experience acting on screen and stage. Khris received praise for his work as the character "Steel", the leader of the Crowns in the acclaimed movie Judas and the Black Messiah. It wasn't the first time that Davis, a Cheyney University alumnus, had played a boxer. He portrayed a character in The Royale (his New York City stage debut at Lincoln Center Theater) in 2016 that was based on the first African American heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. While their stories are vastly different, Davis say Johnson and George Foreman do share one narrative.
"I thought the only similarities that I could identify would be that they were both incredibly misunderstood. They were both kind of pegged in this light of being a villain to some and a hero to others. They both suffered that from the media perspective."
Working with director George Tillman, Jr. in Big George Foreman was a delightful and powerful experience for Davis.
"He and I think about the work in very similar ways. We like to be incredibly thorough with our work. It was fluid. It was easy. We understood each other. It was almost as though we were speaking with our minds. We had a certain type of telepathy. He would look at me and I would know that there was something else we needed. Or I would look at him and he would know that I wanted to try something without saying anything. We would build scene by scene by scene. Our shooting schedule was so crazy. There were some days that we were doing six to nine scenes a day and switching locations. You got to have someone you can completely trust on an artistic level to show up in those moments."
Davis most recently played Biff in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman alongside Wendell Pierce, André De Shields and Sharon D. Clarke. The versatile actor previously appeared in the Tony-nominated play Sweat in 2017.
After making his onscreen debut in Kathryn Bigelow's Detroit, he also had roles in Space Jam: A New Legacy and Atlanta.
Davis told host Doug Doyle that he respects his roots in South Jersey.
"Beautiful things come from Camden. You're in Newark. I'm from Camden. Some times these cities get a really bad rep. Lot of times what happens in these cities are out of the control of the people who live there. You are kind of just born into this fight, if you will. I am proud of Camden, New Jersey. I'm proud of all the people who come out of Camden who are also doing excellent things. I'm grateful I get to have the visibility I have and I get to speak on it, but I also want to say there are hundreds of people who are coming out of Camden and doing incredibly amazing things. That's my city and I love it."
You can SEE the entire SportsJam interview with Khris Davis here.