Wendy Davis is on mission to learn about love, destigmatize ADHD and build ranch somewhere in countryside
Wendy Davis who stars as Wiser Nuri in 'Love Is __' and will soon be seen in a sci-fi movie with Luke Hemsworth talks about her past roles and her journey to destigmatize ADHD
When in April it was announced that Wendy Davis would be starring in Oprah Winfrey Network's newest dramedy 'Love Is___,' the world was ready to see her beyond her striking role of Colonel Joan Burton. After starring in seven seasons as the courageous disciplinarian on the Lifetime Television's hit series 'Army Wives,' she is currently playing the role Wiser Nuri, narrating the real-life romance of TV producers and creators Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil.
Three episodes have already aired since its first premiere on June 19. Even though the ratings aren't skyrocketing the show continues to be an important reminder of what love is. Told from the perspective of Wiser Nuri and Wiser Yasir's (Clarke Peters) who are in their 50s enjoying a comfortable life and a happy marriage, the plot is centered in the early 90s Los Angeles where younger Nuri and Yasir, who hail from opposite worlds, meet and fall in love with each other.
Wendy Davis sits for an exclusive interview with Meaww to talk about her role as Wiser Nuri and how she very much relates to the character. She also shares about her struggles with ADHD and how horses have helped her maintain her calm. As an actress, a mother and a teacher, she doesn't hold back from sharing anecdotes and experiences.
We first start with her newest role, because playing Wiser Nuri is something she enjoys, "I’ve seen a lot of characters but I’ve never played a character that is so about me," she exclaims. "I feel like it's my life, especially in terms of experience as the characters are going through the '90s," she explains. Besides playing what she can relate to, the 52-year-old actress also feels a sense of responsibility with her role. "There’s something about getting older when you feel like you want to share your advice with the younger generation, and I feel like I get to do that with Wiser Nuri," she adds.
"Wouldn't it be amazing if you could talk to your younger self?" she asks. "Nuri doesn’t get the advice from Wiser Nuri, but all other younger women in the audience do," Davis says.
As mentioned earlier, the series is a true love story of the show-makers, so Wendy Davis is watching Mara Brock Ali on the sets and also Michele Weaver, who plays younger Nuri. "Although I am playing an older character, my energy is expected to match Michele's. As for Mara, she's an incredible leader and I work for her. My job is to tell her story the best way I can. I look to her for guidance and leadership and she gives me the creative license," says Davis.
Working on this show has also been personally enlightening to Davis, who says she's understood what love means. "This show depicts how challenging love is. Sometimes love feels incompatible and seems easier to give up but all relationships are complicated. No one is perfect and there are gonna be things you love about your partner and things you wish they didn’t embody. But at the end of the day loving someone is about loving who they are and who they are not," says Davis.
In the recent episode, Wiser Nuri says, “There’s this phase of courtship that I love. I call it the cocoon phase. Every caterpillar has to go through that moment to become a butterfly and I think every couple needs to go through that phase as well. To forget about the outside world and just focus on what’s happening on the inside.”
There are so many wise things we learn about love from Wiser Nuri, and according to Davis, it's the journey about love that is best understood from her character. "It’s not like there is a finish line to love," says Davis. "Even at the present, the Wiser characters are dealing with new love challenges. What you learn is that it’s never getting over. There’s always gonna be something you’re working on your relationship."
And because of all that, we can see that Wiser Nuri is a "full-blown queen, secure about herself and her future." This experience is actually a universal one believes Davis, who says that as women age confidence grows.
Davis grew up in the small town of Joppatowne, Maryland, and earned a BFA in acting from Howard University. She ventured into acting when she was a 17-year-old high school student and was working as a prop master for a play. She was on the sidelines, watching the play behind the curtains and it was her first time being in that kind of an environment.
"I absolutely fell in love with it and I thought to myself ‘I can do that’ and so that was the moment that changed my life," says Davis. Her only regret? Not eating that donut!
If she could give advice to her younger self now she'd probably say "Wendy Davis go ahead and eat that donut. Because I remember when I was younger, I was so concerned about my diet. I would tell my younger self to leave myself alone. No one is perfect. There is always going to be a prettier girl so just embrace the journey and have a good time," she smiles.
Her first big breakthrough in Hollywood came with a guest-starring role on a show called 'High Incident' produced by Steven Spielberg. "I was on a pilot playing the wife of Rocky Carroll. There were three scenes, two without a dialogue," she laughs. Following her major debut, Davis was reviewed and acclaimed by the critics, so she was made a recurring character and a series regular in the first and second year. The takeaway was also her learning experience from Speilberg, "a generous leader."
In 2007, she was cast as Colonel Joan Burton in 'Army Wives' and her groundbreaking role landed her three NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series nomination. The series ended in 2013 after the seventh season where we see Colonel Joan Burton retire from the army. Davis's fictional character garnered several fans who were bittersweet about the ending. Davis herself says that she did not see the end coming to the point of choosing a career or her family. "I really wanted Colonel Joan Burton to become a general," she sighs.
"I really wanted her to go to war college and become a general. That would have been amazing. But I also like the fact that she chose her family. When she was in a position to become a general and lose your family, her choice moved me very much. That was a humane choice and the right one."
Other works of Davis include her roles on 'Scandal,' 'Designated Survivor,' 'NCIS,' and 'Major Crimes.' Davis recently completed the science fiction film 'Encounter' starring Luke Hemsworth, which will be released in theaters in the summer of 2018. Wendy Davis plays the role of an FBI agent, who investigates a pod that lands on a cornfield.
Another notable significance of Wendy Davis is that she is a powerful advocate of ADHD. The actress realized that she had ADHD when she was in her 30s and her daughter was diagnosed with the same condition. "When the doctor said that ADHD is hereditary, it all made sense to me." Davis never understood her condition when she was young, but now she does and supports her 15-year-old daughter in the best ways she can. "So when I found out that my daughter had ADHD, I wasn’t surprised. I felt slightly relieved that now I could support her well because I had the same challenges as a kid," says Davis.
Davis has particularly realized that being around horses help. "Horses help to have a calm energy around because you have to be calm around horses, and that helps you to relax," shares Davis. She has two horses, namely Gandalf and Fiona, and she and daughter go for frequent horse rides together. Wendy also sees herself in a horse ranch somewhere in the countryside about ten years from now.
"The older you get, the better you get at managing your ADHD symptoms," says Davis, who views that ADHD is a gift, in some ways. "There are some aspects to ADHD that is very beneficial. I think a lot of creative people have ADHD. There are some components to it that support the creative mind. It’s normal in my business although I don’t know if most people are diagnosed because of the stigma attached to it," says Davis, who also thinks there is a lack of conversation on the condition.
"People don’t talk about it that is one of the reasons why I am talking about it," she points. "There are so many in my industry that has the condition but they don’t wanna talk about it. I want to destigmatize ADHD because people see it as a sort of a disability. Of course, it's not a walk in the park but it’s also not the worse thing that could happen to you. It’s something to manage just like anything else," shares Davis.
The biggest challenge in her career isn't the condition, it is something that majority of the actors deal with in Hollywood. During times of less work, it's hard to ace an acting job especially if you aren't the "number one, biggest star around." This tends to severe an actors self-esteem. "When you are not working, it is difficult to keep yourself physically and mentally happy."
For Wendy Davis, when she is off her acting schedule, she spends time with her daughter and runs an acting school, actingpros.com. "When I moved to Los Angeles, I was a theatre based actress. I felt like there were a lot of skills I needed to learn before I started television," she says. With this idea, she launched her school to equip young actors with the skills that are necessary to make it to television and films. In a funny anecdote, she says that she conducted few classes on the sets of 'Army Wives,' while shooting in South Carolina.
As for her biggest supporters and inspiration, it continues to be her parents. "I am who I am because of my parents and thank goodness, they are both alive. I have my parents and my daughter has her grandparents," she smiles.
Now the only thing Wendy Davis is looking forward to is to act in another sci-fi space movie and play her ideal role, which includes a Western film on women pioneers. "There are so many stories yet to be told and especially for Western films. The danger of seeing only one story is that you will think that is all there is."
Love Is__ airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on the Oprah Winfrey Network.