New Orleans has always been the home to a cast of characters, becoming the backdrop of famous works of literature, movies and plays revolving around its colorful residents. If all the world’s a stage, then New Orleans is its star player. So, it should be no surprise when personalities, products of New Orleans’ rich culture and creativity, become successful in the entertainment industry. This is true for New Orleans native Greg Tarzan Davis. Davis was exposed to theater and acting at a young age, by attending plays and performances throughout the city with his grandmother, and despite a small detour as a teacher, he has always had the desire to pursue his love of acting. In the summer of 2021*, Davis’ career will surely skyrocket as he acts opposite Tom Cruise in the upcoming sequel to the 1980s classic “Top Gun” as ‘Coyote’ in “Top Gun: Maverick.” He is currently filming “Mission Impossible 7,” another Tom Cruise blockbuster. We caught up with the actor to chat about his background and what’s to expect next from the NOLA native.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Greg Tarzan Davis? [I’m] straight out of New Orleans, with a love for children, would go to war [for the] New Orleans Saints, and a family man who puts them before anything. I have been told by others that I am a damn good baker, charismatic, charming and funny. Hopefully one day we’ll meet in person and I can get your input on who Greg Tarzan Davis might be.
Q: What was your road to success like, from being an elementary school teacher to now an actor in what is set to be the biggest movie release of the year? My journey has been an interesting one for sure. Many people are surprised when they see how far I have come in such a short time.
I do think that the “acting gods have smiled down on me,” but behind all this good fortune has been a lot of hard work and sacrifices. There have been endless 12-hour days alone in my room studying/practicing the craft and I have a relentless desire to be the best. I don’t want anyone to chalk my success up to being “lucky.” It has been preparation met with timing and opportunity and above all faith. I learned that lesson at a young age and I make sure that I am prepared in every situation because “I Don’t Get Tired,” which is the personal motto I live by.
Q: Does your background and upbringing in New Orleans impact your acting and the way you prepare for different roles? I always say New Orleans and its people are built different. We are unique in so many different ways that isn’t often noticed amongst each other, but very much acknowledged when we step outside the city. I feel that has allowed me to stand out as an actor AND an individual against other people not solely because of my accent, but the mindset, the attitude. I think that essence exudes when I walk in the room with people, and just the right amount of it blends into each role that I take on. My upbringing in New Orleans has also helped me develop a thick skin to handle the many, many rejections that come along with this business. I’m able to take it in stride and move on to the next. I love my city, man, and I thank it and the people for its lessons.
Q: What was the best part of filming “Top Gun: Maverick?” The best part of filming was learning how to fly a plane and ACTUALLY flying in the F-18 for the movie. Definitely will go down as one of my favorite past and future experiences of all time. Flying in an F-18 is rarer than then the amount of people who hold Super Bowl rings, and I can say I am a part of that elite group.
Q: According to IMDB, you’re currently filming “Mission Impossible 7,” is there anything fun you can share with New Orleans Magazine readers? I can’t speak to much on it at the moment, but I can tell you it is nothing short of a great action packed, character driven, edge of your seat, compelling piece of art that people will enjoy. I’ll give you a more in-depth scoop on our next interview!
High School? I went to the best high school in New Orleans, that’s Edna Karr. And if anyone wants to argue that I’m available. Haha….
Favorite New Orleans restaurant? It’s hard to say what my favorite restaurant is to be honest because I have a different one depending on my mood. I love me some Melba’s. I loved Gene’s when it was open. WeDat is another good one, as well as Morrow’s. There are so many restaurants and little gems out in New Orleans I can’t just pick one.
Favorite New Orleans festival? Favorite festival would probably be ESSENCE Fest. I’ve been going there since I was a child with my parents and then my friends, and then I started working there at the Coca-Cola booth escorting celebrates during the events. The next thing I would love is for Essence to book me as a guest to come speak at their major event. That’ll check something of my bucket list.
Favorite New Orleans Carnival parade? It has to be Endymion. My memories of those days are WILD, and I loved every bit of it as a youth. My friends and I had some fun, picking out our outfits to look fresh and flocking as a group down Canal street.
I was only a step away from being on the show “The Real World.” Things didn’t work out and obviously I wasn’t on there. But I think that would have been cool.
*Edit Note: The movie release was pushed to 2022 and hit theaters May 24, 2022.