In an exclusive interview, Flickering Myth sat down with Davina Colaço to talk about acting, inspirations and her role in the anthology series, The Blank’s YPF…
You have such a wonderful diverse background, can you tell us a bit about life growing up?
I grew up as an expatriate in Dubai, a city so unique and new, that many of my experiences there were the first of their kind. I say that, as unlike other traditional expat hotspots, the UAE was a relatively new country. It will always be an experience I hold close to my heart. However, I find that sometimes it can be difficult to talk about the nuances of a childhood in Dubai as there is little to compare it to. One thing I can say for sure is that I was privileged to be exposed to innumerable cultures at all times. Diversity is all I’ve ever known and with that comes a pleasant mental conditioning that I hope to replicate and share.
How have your family reacted to your career choice and your successes in the entertainment industry?
I always had equally varied interests- I was no more academically inclined than I was artistic or athletic. I think that simply having an aptitude for something should never become a ball-and-chain towards lifetime commitment… just because because you can, doesn’t mean you should, right? Of course, in the society I was surrounded by, that attitude is almost exclusively reserved for any un-academic pursuits. So when I began discussing acting as a profession, I was met with a lot of discouragement. I had already proved my mettle in the arts by then, but all the support I received while it was conveniently still just ‘hobby’ of mine had been retracted. I was bummed that my family would be so boring and cliched. Thankfully though, they gradually caught on.
Was it always your dream to be an actor?
In all my daydreaming, there has been only one avenue I knew I’d be forever enamored by, in all aspects, and that is: storytelling. I knew that no matter where I fell in the fold, that I would be content as long as I could participate in any part of producing, writing, directing, performing, designing sets, costumes etc. I have always respected the value of good storytelling and admired the reach it possesses so even if I were handed a broom to sweep sets for the rest of my life, I’d do it with conviction.
I understand you have trained at the prestigious The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA, and also with some notable acting instructors. How important is training for you as an actor?
Before moving to LA, I had little opportunity to work or train as an actor. I was forever climbing a mountain in search of something more intense and was left constantly disappointed. Then for the first time, I was challenged, my passion celebrated- and all alongside peers whom reciprocated my own dedication and provided healthy competition. The Academy gave me that. It was a comfort to have my ambitions legitimized by structured training, and to work with veteran instructors whom gave me invaluable experiences. It is also the one time an actor is given the freedom to be selfishly, solely focused on performing and nothing else. Most working actors don’t get a chance to actually act everyday, and it is most certainly a struggle in the initial teething years as a professional. If nothing else, training humbles you and thickens your skin- two things vital to survival in the long run.
That being said, sadly, classically training can be incredibly expensive, scholarships or not, and I don’t think it defines the value of an actor. It is a luxury and privilege, not a necessity. In my mixed experience, I’ve been able to learn different, yet, equally important skills in smaller workshops and on student films. Also, even before I arrived in LA, I was able to take advantage of the wealth of information available online. The main takeaway is- approach a career in acting as you would approach work in any other field. Be a good student- that means never stop doing the homework!
You are one of the lead actors in “Droplets Pellets Bullets” a segment in season 3 of ‘The Blank’s YPF.’. Can you tell us about the project?
The Blank’s Young Playwrights Festival came to me at a remarkable time. I had just graduated and had begun auditioning professionally, so needless to say, yet I’ll say it because I’m still so giddy about it, I had not expected my first gig to be such a powerful piece of work.
Droplets Pellets Bullet is about the phenomenon of false memories experienced by student and teacher survivors of school shootings. I remember reading the script right after there had been a similar incident in the news. I was unsure at first if I would be able to do it justice, in light of recent events, and was nervous to mishandle it. But, I wasn’t alone. I had the support and guidance of writer Isabel Tongson, my director, June Carryl, and my co-stars Gavin Lewis, Maddie Nichols, Madylin Sweeten and Jeff Torres. Together, we did our due diligence to carry the weight of such an important story. I feel lucky to have shared in that.
What character do you play and what were some of the characters attributes to the storyline?
Besides the commentary on a lack of accountability for those whom hold the power to prevent such things, Droplets… also deeply explores the burden placed on children to act as vigilantes and bear responsibility for the extremist actions of their peers. I play Suma, a student whom gets caught in the crossfire and not only falls victim to a lethal bullet wound, but also to victim blaming amidst the trauma. In hindsight, it’s sad that I had so many real life incidents to draw from. While it was emotionally taxing, and a complex subject for me to tackle on my first job, I felt rewarded in knowing that we were telling an important story.
How did you prepare yourself as an actor?
June Carryl was a brilliant collaborator. She handled the intensity of our story with such earnest, and created a safe rehearsal space for me to explore the trauma my character was experiencing. I didn’t grow up in the States but I had always been aware of the culture and been exposed to the news. I still did a lot of reading and research before hand, but I primarily benefited from the discussions had with my fellow co-stars whom were able to offer closer accounts of being in America. My school in Dubai did have occasional crisis-drills, but I never fully comprehended the extremity of it, as for us back home, the drills were kind of absurd and we all treated it callously- confident that it was a measure that we would never have to practice in reality.
Do you have a particular genre of film you prefer? If so, can you explain.
In terms of being an audience to film, I am completely adventurous. I’ll watch anything and everything without any prejudice. As an actor, I can’t deny that as much as I initially tried to run away from identifying as a total clown, comedy is my strongest suit. If given the choice, I’d love to do a stylized-period-comedy next. I’m a total sucker for fancy costumes.
Are there any actors or directors you would love to work with in the future? Any actor you’d like to play alongside?
I’ve long admired Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett’s body of work. In terms of ideals, they fall pretty close to what I aspire to be. Watching their work helped me appreciate the importance of being fluid with one’s identity in this art. I like to believe I am no longer fixed on presenting myself in a singular light, thanks to that. It’s liberating to find that self-assuredness and I hope to continue building on it. As for directors, Mira Nair and Greta Gerwig are at the top of my list. I feel like the stories they tell closely align with my experiences or beliefs and so it would be dreamlike to work with and learn from them.
Do you get to go to the cinema much? Any films you have enjoyed lately?
Listen, if I’m missing for an extended time, don’t call 911. Call up the nearest cinema because I guarantee you that’s where I’ll be. Getting to experience films that are parallel to your life in the moment is such a surreal experience and nothing tops the feeling of sitting in a large dark hall before a big silver screen, so I definitely aim to watch most films in theaters. That being said, Petit Maman and Everything Everywhere All at Once this year absolutely ruined me, in the best sense.
Finally, any advice you would give any actor who is trying to break into the entertainment industry?
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel qualified to hand out advice, so I can only share what I remind myself.
Don’t neglect yourself. Discipline and dedication should not equal torture. And, do whatever you can to keep the love for your work alive.
How can people find and follow your journey?
People can keep up with me on IMDb.