Many people at one time or another have watched television or a movie and fantasized about what life as an entertainer would be like. Paul Davis of Hannibal spent this past summer living that dream.
The 2012 HHS graduate saw the door of opportunity swing open during his freshman year of college at Central Methodist University (CMU), when he met established TV and movie actor Bill Chott.
“I was very fortunate this year to be cast as Bill Chott's understudy in our school year finale of ‘Rumors,’” said Davis, who is pursuing a double major in English/Theater. “During the process of helping Bill with lines we developed a friendship and camaraderie. The idea came up of me going to L.A. to learn improv from him and to see if acting is in fact what I want to do with my life. I felt like it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I decided to pounce. It is not often that someone offers a foot in the door of the industry.”
Davis’ easy decision suddenly became difficult when he learned his mother, Jessica Lowe, had suffered a broken neck and back in a car wreck.
“At that time I had to make a decision of whether to pursue my dreams or stay home with Mom,” said Davis, whose father, Russel Davis, lives in Decatur, Ill. “After a lot of thought, I came to L.A. since this opportunity won't always be there.”
There was little idle time this summer for Davis.
“I am acting, doing improv, writing sketches and (doing) stand up (comedy),” said Davis, whose acting included appearances in a National Car Rental commercial and an ESPN Monday Night Football commercial. “I have been fortunate and have worked hard to develop a reel and resume while I was here.”
While many aspiring actors must supplement their income through odd jobs, Davis has been able to focus on his craft.
“I have been very fortunate in that I have been able to make a living purely off of acting. I haven't had to have a survival job. I am actually a professional now,” he said, laughing.
In reality, Davis worked enough this summer to gain eligibility for the Screen Actors Guild.
Davis is quick to credit Chott and B.J. Lange, a host on MTV’s “Spring Break,” for opening their homes to him and for their career guidance.
“They gave me opportunity and helped show me the ropes of the industry. They deserve so much credit in all of this. I couldn't be more thankful,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - After some initial reservations about his decision to head west for the summer, Davis says his family and friends have been in his corner.
“They wanted to make sure I would be safe, but they were supportive,” he said. “The entire town of Hannibal has been wonderfully uplifting and encouraging. I appreciate everyone who has been wishing me the best and following my career. It truly is humbling to have everyone behind me.”
While Davis has returned to college, his summertime efforts continue to bear fruit. Davis has been cast in a film that shoots this winter. And when not pursuing theater at CMU, Davis may frequently be found in St. Louis.
“I have a few great audition opportunities lined up there already and there is representation interested in me. I plan to choose an agent by September and work my way to the top of that smaller market this year,” he said.
But don’t look for Davis to be content in St. Louis. He intends to return to L.A. after the spring semester wraps up.
Unlike this year, when Davis returned to Missouri to pursue his education, next year Davis will stay on the West Coast to continue his studies.
“I intend to transfer to USC's (University of Southern California) School of Dramatic Arts so that I can hone my skills and still work in the L.A. market,” he said. “A semester or two after that transition I plan to go to Chicago and go through the Second City degree program. Afterwards, I want to either tour with their company, audition for their main stage, or make my way to New York City to audition for Saturday Night Live (SNL). No matter what, I will audition for SNL at some point.”
It’s still hard for Davis to grasp how much his life has changed in the past year.
“Last summer I was working at Dunham's, hanging out with my friends, and struggling inwardly with my decision to leave football and become an actor. It was not an easy choice, but I am definitely happy with where I've come,” he said. “I never would have guessed that one year later I would be here, doing what I love, in the city that made it famous. I am truly honored and blessed to be here. I haven't taken a second of this ride for granted and won't for as long as it keeps going.
“I am very fortunate to be young and already have the ball rolling, I am appreciative of everyone who helped me along the way, and I am looking forward to many fruitful years of entertainment, and making everyone back home proud.”