From Houston to Los Angeles, “Outer Banks” Jonathan Daviss is working his way up with passion and determination

PHOTOSAllegra Messina over FaceTime
TALENTJonathan Daviss
WORDS: Thilda Riou
PRODUCER: Jasmine Perrier

This feature is taken from Grumpy Magazine’s ISSUE NO.16, available now in digital and print worldwide

Born and raised in Texas, Jonathan Daviss has been looking for a way to work his way up through the entertainment industry since he was a kid who fell in love with movies. “Acting wasn’t a really big thing out there, especially where I grew up around Houston. There wasn’t a lot of acting classes and a lot of people doing it,” the 21-year-old actor recalls while we meet over a Zoom call. However, as he pursues his journey with passion and determination, Jonathan’s time to shine has finally come, NOW GRACING our screens with his performance as Pope Heyward on Netflix’s recent hit Outer Banks.

While Jonathan grew up watching superheroes and reading comic books, acting sparked his interest at an early age. “That was something our family shared. When I was young, it was a big treat for our father to take us to the movies,” he says, explaining that he would constantly watch all the bonus features of the DVDs he had. As he had his first gig in a local commercial at only 8 years old, followed by his first on-screen appearance on NBC’s show Revolution, the young actor was already eager to climb Hollywood’s ladder. It is in that state of mind that he took a leap of faith at 17 years old and decided to move to Los Angeles. “It was a way tougher decision than it seems,” Jonathan explains. “I was doing pretty well at school, and I had worked so hard to balance school, football, and acting. I had to make sure how serious I was about it.” Ultimately, Jonathan’s hard work paid off, and everything has fallen into place since we couldn’t imagine a better actor to take on the role of Pope in adventure-mystery YA series Outer Banks. “When I first saw the script at the audition, I expected teen drama. But it was different. I loved the rawness of the characters and their friendship,” he tells. “This was my first leading role, but this is something that I had been preparing for since I was 10 years old. I was ready, and looking for help from other people and getting their opinions is very important to me. I don’t think I know everything. On set, we were all open with communication and figuring stuff out with the characters.”

When I was young, it was a big treat for our father to take us to the movies

Pope is smart, ambitious, and a bit awkward. But most of all, “He’ll stand up for his friends and fight for them,“ Jonathan lets me know, as he mentions that he is actually a lot like his character. “Characters like Pope can so easily be taken for a joke, so it was important to show that people are the way they are because of circumstances,“ he adds. “He is that reserved, I-don’t-wanna-cause-confrontation type of person because he doesn’t want to lose his scholarship. And when he does lose it, there is nothing holding him back from being like JJ [Rudy Pankow] or John B [Chase Stokes].“ Pope loses so much that, by the end of the show’s first season, he ends up having the courage to confess his feelings to Kiara [Madison Bailey]. “Especially in TV shows like this, you don’t get to see a lot of black couples. It’s not a big represented thing, so it was cool for me to do that,“ he says. “With Pope and Kiara, it’s a very unexpected type of relationship. It’s gonna be interesting to see what does the supposed death of their best friend mean to that.“

Among a mysterious treasure hunt, gasping action, and blooming romance, the show also portrays a very clear social stratification between the working-class, known as the “Pogues” and the privileged “Kooks,” alongside a racial divide — an issue that undeniably echoes with our society. “It was very important to me that the African American community, my community, is represented accurately. I grew up with that social, class, and racial divide, and it’s subtle. There are not a lot of people now who are overtly racist or overtly classist, but it’s in small ways,” Jonathan shares. “People do not know things matter until they are in it. But you can’t explain it, it has to be something that is felt. You have to listen and understand. It takes bringing it to attention and people wanting to change consistently. On the other part, accepting that people can change. Because that’s something that is hard too.” Since the 10-episode drama has officially been renewed by Netflix, Jonathan is looking forward to seeing the group of friends get back together in Outer Banks’ second season. “The adventures of the first season were so much fun. I want to see a bigger adventure and more stakes. I want to see the Pogues do Pogues things and be the treasure hunters they are supposed to be.” As far as his future in the industry is concerned, the actor mentions some of his dream roles. “A Marvel or superhero project would be a dream come true. I would probably cry and pass out,” he laughs. “I also want to do a biopic. My favorite rap group is Outkast, and playing André 3000 in a biopic is another huge dream of mine.”

“There’s a lot of hate and rejection, and wondering if you are good enough to do it,” Jonathan shares when being asked about the challenges he’s had to face in the industry so far. “You have to dig yourself deeper to come out the other side, and that’s scary because you don’t know whether you are digging up or you are digging down.” Therefore, “staying inside the love of acting” and being surrounded by the incredible support system that is his family has helped him stay grounded and motivated — as well as finding other avenues to be artistic. “I picked up guitar about a year ago. There are so many videos or apps online to teach yourself. All you need is a guitar, patience, and the finger strength to do it,” he concludes, before addressing one last message: “Times are crazy right now, for everyone. There are a lot of things out there that are trying to split people up, and divide people. Let’s stay connected together as people.” 


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