Gil Davis

Gil Davis

Gil Davis must be doing something right, even if he doesn’t know exactly what it is. The 43-year-old actor was recently cast in two upcoming productions — and in both cases he auditioned for a different role from the one he was finally offered.

“It’s funny, because sometimes you really don’t know what they’re looking for,” Davis says. “The more auditions that I go on, the more I realize that you just have to let it go. Don’t worry if it’s too over-the-top; they just want to see something. And if they see it, they’ll let you know. If not, you just keep moving. You can’t second-guess yourself.”

Davis may sound like a seasoned veteran, but this Asbury Park, N.J., native started auditioning in earnest only about six months ago, attending five auditions since. The two roles he landed, both of which he read about in Back Stage East, are Joe, a pool-hall owner and hustler trying to keep his son out of the game, in the dramatic indie feature Potnah, and Madison Sinclair in next spring’s Off-Off-Broadway production of the 1930s African-American drama The Right to Understand. Davis describes the character as “a militant black man dealing with a lot of racial issues but trying to do right by his people.”

A former Marine infantry sergeant and platoon leader and a Gulf War veteran, Davis says his military background prepared him for the roles and for the grueling audition process, teaching him discipline and the strength to conquer fear. And now, after years of being scared to follow his lifelong dream, he has made a remarkably strong start. “No man wants to be told by anybody that he’s not good enough,” he says, “or that something that he did wasn’t what they were looking for. But you have to get past that and realize it’s not personal. That’s just the way it is.”

Before reading for Potnah or The Right to Understand, Davis auditioned for a supporting role in another project. The producers brought him back to read for the lead, but getting a callback after what was his first audition made him too excited. “I was just totally scatterbrained,” he says. “I just blew it, and I knew it as soon as I was in there. Every audition is a learning experience.”

IaDyne, the producer of Potnah, saw his talent instantly. “When Gil came to the door, he fit the part,” she recalls. “The way he looked, sure, but then his performance really nailed it.”

Davis isn’t quitting his day job as a security guard just yet, but he and his manager continue to work on his goal of becoming a full-time actor. “I’ve always wanted to act; I just never had the guts to do it,” Davis admits. “But as I got older, I just said, ‘Screw it. It’s time for me to get out there and see if I can pursue this dream.’ You know, you always have that little bit of fear — but fear is what lets you know you’re alive.”

This “Who Got the Part?” column was published in Back Stage and online at BackStage.com.

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