Embrace of the Serpent: Star Brionne Davis Talks Life, Career and the Revolutionary Film That Merged Them into One
Seven years ago, gifted and versatile actor / director Brionne Davis wrote on his vision board that he would receive an Oscar in 2015.
He thought he missed the mark.
However, on February 28, 2016, at the 88th Academy Awards, Brionne’s dream leapt off the page and into reality when Embrace of the Serpent (El Abrazo De La Serpiente), the Colombian adventure drama he starred in was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Foreign Language Film”.
In addition to being a critical darling, the film is also the highest grossing foreign film of 2015 and 2016, having earned over $2.6 million at the box office; beating out Son Of Saul and all other foreign films for the year.
The awe-inspiring visuals of the Amazonian jungle mixed with the timely relevance of the importance of preserving the rain forest continue to propel Embrace of the Serpent to the top of nearly every “must-see” list.
In Part 1 of this MoreMentum exclusive interview, you’ll discover even more interesting and inspiring facts about Brionne’s life and road to the Oscars, and how (as Brionne states) nearly every event in his life served as a stepping stone in discovering his true purpose—not only as an actor but in using his craft as a means of giving back to the community.
Brionne also shares his amazing journey from working multiple jobs as a struggling actor; to sitting in a canoe rowing up the middle of the Amazon River playing famed American biologist Richard Evans Schultes—one of the scientists that inspired Brionne’s critically-acclaimed role in Embrace of the Serpent.
In our one-on-one with Brionne, he divulges intimate stories of his childhood while also offering sound advice on how to take life’s struggles and turn them into success stories. This mindset embodies Brionne’s ability to play believable and diverse characters that have earned him the title of “the nicest villain in Hollywood”.
He has utilized his deft dramatic skills on stage and screen, starring as the handsome and dubious character “Lee” in the Sam Shepard play True West at Theatre Row in New York. The role garnered rave reviews and a critic on NYTheatre.com wrote, “Brionne Davis embodies the hard-living Lee with a dangerous presence, as well as vulnerability. One senses a pain that is nearly too much for his body to contain.”
Brionne’s accomplishments are extensive and include over 30 indie films and numerous theatrical productions that span from New York to Texas and California.
Off-screen, Brionne utilizes his acting and motivational expertise in the classes he teaches at Acting UP Network, a well known and respected “community that will help you hone your auditioning skills, introduce you to the casting directors and agents, direct you to vendors and services that will make you a much more viable professional in this very competitive business.”
Additionally, Brionne has been a featured speaker at the Indiana University at Bloomington to discuss Embrace of the Serpent with future engagements to follow at Lawrence University Wisconsin; and the Rel/event Series Part II (Hollywood Panel).
Click here for more information on Brionne Davis’ current classes at Acting UP Network in Burbank, California, which include:
- Ongoing scene study and character development Monday & Wednesday nights beginning May 4th 2016
- Private couching & career counseling (available at discount rates for Acting UP members)
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT BELOW (Brionne Davis):
Seven years ago, I put on my vision board and I had in my journal that I would be getting an Oscar in 2015. I didn’t know how. It was a world that was just so far away…from me, but I visualized myself being there. There was this surreal component.
On-screen graphic: BRIONNE DAVIS’ VISION CAME TO LIFE WHEN A SMALL INDEPENDENT FILM SET IN THE FORGOTTEN WORLD OF THE AMAZON JUNGLE CLINCHED AN OSCAR NOMINATION FOR BEST FOREIGN FILM…EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT.
Embrace of the Serpent Clip: I’ve never dreamt. Neither awake nor sleeping. Not even caapi has had any effect on me. The shamans from the Baras, Tukano and Siriano villages said only yakruna could help me.
I was in the middle of this…incredibly huge river, the middle of The Amazon. The mountains are around me, and you could speak, and it would just echo…echo. And in that moment, I sat there in that canoe and I looked around me and I said, everything has led me up…to this.
On-screen graphic: “There is a time for departure even when there is no certain place to go.” -Tennessee Williams
My parents…the greatest value that I feel other than just the love was the ability to let me fall on my ass…that they let me uh– take risks. And if I failed, then they would be there to support me and lift me up. They were my first mentors to expose me to as many opportunities as they possibly could. I was, I think 9 years-old. My mom said, “Maybe you should audition for Tom Sawyer.” And uh (laughs), I was painting the fence and the whole audience started laughing. And uh, I turned around, and they started laughing harder. And I said shrugged, and I turned around and started painting the fence and they laughed even harder. And I realized in my 9 year-old mind that I had the power of effecting people.
I went to Harding Christian University in Arkansas and I spent all my time in the theater, but I was getting a business finance degree. So, um, I made the decision to go to New York, so I didn’t have a lot of means, so the first thing I did was got into the HB Actor Studio. A big piece of advice that I give to anybody that moves to LA or moves to New York is, before you do anything…before you get a job…you land inside an actor’s studio, because that’s going to be your foundation. That’s going to be your family. Those are my friends to this day. My mentor and my acting coach was Edward Moorehouse, phenomenal human being. He said to me one time, “Just be 100% yourself, because that’s what’s going to get you work.”
On-screen graphic: BRIONNE DAVIS HAS STARRED IN OVER 30 INDIE FILMS & REKNOWN THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS, BUT A SEARING ONE MAN PERFORMANCE WOULD DRAW CRITICAL PRAISE & STAY CLOSE TO HIS HEART FOREVER.
I had written a show called “A Nobel Exile”, where I play fourteen characters written by Tennessee Williams. Stanley Kowalski, Valentine Xavier, Blanche DuBois even. But during this time, my father was diagnosed with cancer.
All of these characters carried me through it. They gave me strength and they showed me the way. And I said, “Dad, I’m doing this show for you. You have to be there.” Flash-forward a year later, the show is opening and Renée Taylor and Joe Bologna — God bless them — host the evening and introduce the show, and Dom Deluise is in the audience and all these people that my dad grew up watching, and they’re all watching me do a one-man show.
I mean 120 people were in this 99 seat theater. The only way I was gonna get through this was by trusting ‘cus the second I walked out on that stage, I had nothing else to do but let go.
The light on the house came up and it was just still. Standing ovation. I hear Dom Delouise, “Bravo! Bravo!” And just all these people… and my dad is three rows back and I reach out and grab his hand and um — his face is just white-washed and…pride and understanding. My dad said to me, “There’s ten people in the world, maybe ten people in the world that can do what you just did. And that — was all I needed.”
You don’t run away from something. You run to something. Seven years ago, I was in New York and I was doing “True West” by Sam Shephard. We had sold out audiences, incredible reviews. Yeah, I was struggling trying to make ends meet. I did a couple other plays, started directing more, I booked a film Avenged. While I was shooting Avenged, I was working two jobs, and then getting ready to play “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in San Fransisco. All of this stuff was going on. I mean two years ago, I was thinking to myself, what am I gonna do? Here I’m approaching the age that I’m approaching and wanting some sort of stability.
I can look back on it and know uh — that I was very blessed. My mom would put me in baseball, soccer, karate. I used to teach canoeing and rowing in Boy Scouts. And then you turn around and you’re landed in the middle of The Amazon jungle. No matter what you do, trust in the universe.
Video diary: At the very top of the mountain, no one’s ever been there. Sometimes in your life, you wonder how in the world you got to where you are, but you visualized it.