Roman Griffin Davis first burst onto the silver screen at only 12 years-old, cheerily skipping through a small German town while greeting every passerby with a hearty “Heil Hitler!” That’s quite the first impression to make, and the young actor’s starring performance in Taika Waititi’s 2019 satire Jojo Rabbit earned him instant recognition, critical acclaim, and a slew of awards – including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor.
As the son of cinematographer Ben Davis (Guardians of the Galaxy, Three Billboards, Eternals) and writer / director Camille Griffin, he’s no stranger to show business, but the sheer amount of raw talent on display in Jojo Rabbit is undeniable. The kid can act, and his second major role has him under the direction of his own mother in her feature debut, Silent Night.
The film is set on the eve of the apocalypse, where an incoming catastrophe is set to occur just after midnight on Christmas night. Davis plays Art, the intelligent and hopeful oldest son of Nell (Keira Knightley) and Simon (Thomas Goode), who invite old friends over for one final night of holiday cheer and well, living before the world ends (Davis’ real-life twin brothers play his onscreen siblings). Art is the heart and soul of the film, raging against his family’s supposed fate with all he has and forcing the adults to come to terms with the reality they’ve refused to face for so long, and Davis delivers another astounding performance that solidifies him as a notable force to be reckoned with and one of his generation’s most promising talents.
We caught up with the young actor to talk about working with his mother on Silent Night and being a part of such a star-studded ensemble cast.
What were the biggest differences between making Jojo with Taika Waititi versus this film with your own mother?
Roman Griffin Davis: Well in one of them, I obviously played a Nazi. And the other one I didn’t. So that was a big difference. I worked with my mother on Silent Night – on Jojo I didn’t – and I really enjoyed it. I thought it’d be a lot weirder, working with your whole family, but no it was great.
Was this movie something that she’d been working for a long time and you were already aware of?
Roman Griffin Davis: Me and my brothers still had to tape for the producers. But um, it would have been a bit awkward if she’d cast someone else. I don’t think it’d be very good. We would have a very weird Christmas.
Was it strange to film Silent Night and be calling somebody else your mother when your actual mother is right there?
Roman Griffin Davis: Yeah, now that I think about it, it is a bit weird. But I mean, sometimes I’ll be pretty locked into the whole scene. So I wouldn’t think about it sometimes. And also, she’s normally in like the other room because some of the rooms weren’t big enough for everyone to be in.
In both films, there’s an obvious comedic side along with darker and more dramatic parts. Do you have a preference or a side of that where you feel most comfortable?
Roman Griffin Davis: It was a lot of fun to do that because each day you’d kind of be doing something else. I really enjoyed it. A lot of the times I’d be biting my tongue so I didn’t laugh and it made the whole thing a lot more enjoyable. When you do more drama material, there’s a feeling once you’ve done well in it, of like, you’ve really nailed it. And I don’t get that so much in comedy. There’s a satisfaction to it because you can really know whether you’ve nailed something whilst doing a drama. And for me, I don’t really know if I’ve nailed something in a comedy.
Are there any actors or filmmakers that are really inspiring you right now?
Roman Griffin Davis: We just watched all of Hitchcock’s films. He’s one of the greats. I liked Rear Window.
Is there anyone you’d be interested in working with right now?
Roman Griffin Davis: There’s a lot of filmmakers I’d love to work with right now. I wouldn’t be able to choose just one.
What was it like to have the pandemic and lockdowns beginning as you all were filming this?
Roman Griffin Davis: Yeah, we kind of jinxed it. I’m sorry if we have. It was very weird, because the first few COVID cases were coming up when we were filming. It was a bit surreal. We’re talking about the end of the world, or something that seemed to be the start of it, and then we go and act about it. It was very weird.
If you knew the world was ending tomorrow what would you want to do that last day?
Roman Griffin Davis: There’s a lot of useless things that I’d probably do. Nothing good, to be honest. Nothing worth anyone’s time. I’d probably have a panic attack and then think about stealing a car…and then I probably would. I’d drive it into the sunset or something.
What would you want that last meal to be?
Roman Griffin Davis: That’s hard. I’d probably have some Thai food. But I don’t know how to cook Thai food, really. I’d probably have to watch a tutorial.
Do you like spicy food then?
Roman Griffin Davis: I’m more of that annoying guy who asks for it to be mild. That’s sadly me. I’m trying not to be that person but, you know.
What was it like to go from something like Jojo where you almost immediately got pulled into the world of red carpets and award ceremonies whereas with Silent Night, it feels much more low-key?
Roman Griffin Davis: COVID has mucked a lot of things up, but I like both of the films equally and I think the outcomes of both of the films are what I hoped they would be.
‘Silent Night’ comes to theaters and is streaming exclusively on AMC+ on December 3rd.