Khris Davis

Vintage shirt and pants by Yohji Yamamoto. Top by Hanes. Earrings, Davis's own.

Live from New York: Khris Davis

George Foreman may be best known today as an infomercial icon for his eponymous Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines, but long before he became the face of the best-selling appliances, he was a man of surprisingly varied callings. After claiming gold in boxing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, he worked his way up to World Heavyweight Champion, battled Muhammad Ali in the historic Rumble in the Jungle, and spent years as a pastor after a near-death experience during a match. A decade after his retirement, he announced his goal of reclaiming the heavyweight title and, with years of persistence, managed to do so at the impressive age of forty-five. Foreman's life could provide the source material for a dozen biopics, but the new film Big George Foreman spans these momentous decades in a single run, a challenge the actor Khris Davis, who plays the boxer from his youth through his grillmaster years, dug into. "What drew me to it was the complexity of the story, the nuances that would be involved in telling this individual's growth over several decades," he says. "It seemed like a really nice challenge to dive into the spectrum of his life in that way."

The movie is a major moment for Davis, who notes that he felt the pressure of appearing in nearly every minute of its two-hour-plus running time after coming from the world of theater. "It'll make your head explode when you think about the responsibility of that," he laughs, noting that it is his first time leading a studio film after parts in Detroit, Judas and the Black Messiah, and Atlanta. Still, he credits his background for providing him with the tools to manage the demanding role. "I had done everything that I possibly could to show up on the day to do what I had to do," he says. "Theater is very physical—even when you're not doing physical stuff on stage, it's a very muscular way of acting. I think that prepared me for stepping into being George Foreman without a doubt."

Davis spent last fall reacquainting himself with those stage skills as the wayward son Biff in the latest revival of Arthur Miller's legendary Death of a Salesman, the first time the Lomans have been portrayed on Broadway as a Black family, adding additional nuance to its story of a family beaten down by prejudice and societal constraints. Davis first participated in a reading of the play in 2017 and says he has been chasing the project ever since. "Every single year I'd be like, 'Are they doing it?'" he says. "That was the only thing I wanted to do on Broadway because I felt like this is a huge opportunity to really break this story open in a way that's never been done before. It's almost like you'd be doing it for the first time."

At a time when Broadway, and American theater at large, is reconsidering questions of visibility and representation, Davis says that the Black-led Death of a Salesman offered a vivid and necessary recontextualization of a classic. "Those nuances hit differently when you talk to the restriction of access, when you talk about capitalism as it pertains to the Black experience in America," he explains. "It means something else, though the story is the same. I was asked before, 'What does the American dream mean to Black people?' I think that's the point: It's the same dream, but accessing that dream is what's different. This was a beautiful story to show the audience, what it means to be in America, striving for legacy and purpose and some type of agency through the lens of the Black family."

Big George Foreman is now playing in theaters. Read this story and many more in print by ordering our sixth issue here.

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Hair by Rebekah Calo. Makeup by Andrew Colvin at Saint Luke Artists. Photographer's assistants: Daniel van der Deen and Mae Stark. Stylist's assistant: Jane Bickford. Makeup artist's assistant: Zac Hart. Model: Jason Pettigrew at We Speak Model Management.

As a nonprofit arts and culture publication dedicated to educating, inspiring, and uplifting creatives, Cero Magazine depends on your donations to create stories like these. Please support our work here.