Every Black actor can relate to Jim’s Citibike ride through Brooklyn. As the D train crosses over the Manhattan bridge into Manhattan, he snaps old school photographs on a 35 mm camera. His destination is Washington Square, where by chance, he encounters Joy, and the best kind of “day in the life” NYC story begins. Actor and internet influencer Greg “Klarity” Davis Jr. (Jim) created Joy & Jim, Part 1 of a 12-part episodic series, and my heart is so happy he did! Lex Scott-Davis stars as Joy, a model from Baltimore in Manhattan for an audition. BGN shared a coast to coast Zoom session with Lex Scott-Davis to chat about Joy & Jim.
How did this project come about?
My husband was in NYC filming a show, and I was visiting him. Greg’s one of our best friends. He was like, “I have this great idea. I want you on to help me produce, and Mo will hopefully direct.” So were pulling it together trying to cast, do locations, all of the producer things. We got to the Joy & Jim script, and I’m like, ”Why is this me on paper?” Greg was like, “I was hoping you’d say yes to making it.” I was literally just visiting Mo because he was working in town. So I said, “I would love to be Joy for you.” Greg and I have such great chemistry; we’ve known each other for so long. I stayed in the city, and we shot everything. I co-assistant produced one of the other episodes and then, I went back to LA. Joy & Jim just kinda gained momentum. It’s a sweet surprise, how far it’s gotten.
The camera glides to the music, and both you and Greg have wonderful chemistry. I’m sure it wasn’t easy shooting an indie film in New York. What was the most memorable challenge?
Oh yes, every single day was challenging. [Laughs.] Co-producing meant constantly putting out fires and trying to find solutions for everything. The biggest fire that came up for us was filming in the club. It’s a beautiful location. We met with the manager, everything was a go. We show up ready to shoot, and the owner is pretty much like, “No. this is not okay.” In all honesty we kinda stole that shot because I guess they didn’t understand how big of a production we were bringing into their place of business. Some of their guests were so confused….it was a lot. But the whole shot ended up being beautiful.
Joy & Jim is one of the most authentic tellings of what it’s really like to be a Black artist in New York City. What was your favorite part about playing Joy?
Her freedom was a running theme. Just opening myself up and using my body to tell the story was liberating. So often with acting there’s a village of people looking to correct, direct, and edit everything you do. So it starts to feel a bit robotic if you’re not careful. Joy is probably the most rewarding role I’ve played yet because I was able to just exist without anyone picking the character apart technically.
You studied dance and have a dance therapy background. Your intuitive movement work reflects a Black woman, embodied beautifully. So often audiences are accustomed to seeing Black women restricted to executing someone else’s choreography perfectly. Joy in motion, added nuance to the story. And, I loved that there was no basketball involved in this love story. [Lex and I laugh.] Talk to me about the importance of sharing stories that humanize Black people?
I love that you pointed that out. Because as I was watching it, again literally this morning as a refresher, it felt like wow I’m not watching a “Black story,” I’m watching a love story. We just always… [sighs] …for some reason there’s a certain nationality that comes with this type of story. So when we see there’s two Black leads, we automatically assume it’s something very specific. Any person could have played these characters. That’s what makes this beautiful. We’re forgetting “stereotype” and just existing with these two young adults in this wild city that we love so much. You don’t have to feel like these are “Black people” doing “Black things,” whatever that stereotypically means, you know? We can just be. We can just meet a guy or a girl and see what’s up with them all day and fall in love.
Yes to love! Self-production in the Indie film world allows agency in the story you are telling. That’s liberation. And…it’s SO sexy…without any sex scenes. Was that a better way to work?
I feel like almost every project I’ve done, I’ve had to do a love scene. I don’t always agree with where love scenes are placed and how they’re used. I’m all about telling a story. If it moves that story forward, then absolutely, let’s do it. But it doesn’t always. It feels like this society is just a little bit desensitized, and we just think we need it. It’s just part of TV and movies now. “Where do we put it now?” But do we really need it? Or do you just wanna see this version of these actors because it’s “hot”? What’s the motive here? I love that this is a love story, without the love scenes. It speaks to how well intimacy and spirituality can drive that energy without you having to see clothes come off.
This is a question I ask each artist I interview. What brought you the most joy from embodying…Joy?
I love New York so much, and this comes full circle for me. I was a dance major in Philadelphia but I dropped out, moved back home to Baltimore, and worked in a hair salon to make enough money to move myself to New York, and I went to acting school. Living in New York with no money, I literally used every dime to move myself into a place that was… that’s a whole other story, but my living situation for my first couple of months in New York was not safe. It was not okay for a young woman to be living in those circumstances. But, I was doing what I wanted to do. So to be struggling while learning how to act and make films, then graduating from that program, and still not being able to find work, I moved out to LA. I had nothing to lose. Obviously, it worked out because, fast forward I’m back in New York, doing the thing that I love in a legit way with peers in the industry, producing this beautiful thing. It all came full circle and then on top of all that to…literally just be…now I’m getting a little emotional about it. [Tears up.]
I’m literally just being me. As I played Joy, I had to go through all these trials and hurdles to come back to where it all started on my own terms at a whole different level, and I’m just being me.
Enzo Industries and Raging Queen Entertainment Present Joy & Jim, starring Lex Scott-Davis and Greg “Klarity” Davis Jr.
Currently streaming at the 2021 Pan African Film Festival (PAFF)
February 28 to March 14, 2021
Watch the film at the Festival: https://www.paff.org/films/joy-and-jim/
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.