April 24, 2023
Khris Davis spent months preparing to portray George Foreman in a forthcoming biopic about the two-time heavyweight champion, despite knowing the boxing icon primarily through the promotion of his eponymous portable grill.
Davis, a Camden native and Cheyney University alumnus with more than a decade of experience acting on screen and stage, will appear as Foreman in "Big George Foreman: The Miraculous Story of the Once and Future Heavyweight Champion of The World," which arrives in theaters on Friday, April 28. The film explores more than 20 years of the boxer's life and career, through his retirement and eventual comeback to regain the championship title at 45 years old.
Davis grew up in Camden and spent much of his childhood acting in religious skits at the Miller's Temple Church of God in Palmyra. His family later moved to Ohio, but Davis returned to his hometown after the Creative Arts Academy opened in the Morgan Village section of Camden in the late 1990s. Davis moved back with his family and graduated from the school in 2004.
After his graduation, Davis enrolled at Cheyney University in Delaware County — the nation's oldest HBCU — in the fall of 2005. There, he joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and studied theatre arts before graduating and moving to Philadelphia to pursue a career in acting and entertainment, according to Cheyney.
Though he never worked as a teacher, Davis began working as a teaching artist at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, later becoming a founding member of the Quintessence Theatre Company in Mount Airy. The group, which originated in New York City, moved to the Sedgwick Theater on Germantown Avenue, directing a handful of professional theatrical productions each season.
Davis' New York stage debut — and his first time portraying a boxer — came in 2016 with "The Royale," an off-Broadway production at the Lincoln Center Theatre. In the play, Davis' character is a cocky boxing prodigy who frequently toys with his opponents' self-confidence. The role is loosely based off of Jack Johnson, the first Black heavyweight champion.
Seven years later, Davis is heading to the big screen to portray yet another heavyweight champion, though fans can expect some more active fighting scenes, if the film's official trailer is any indication.
"To be able to jump timelines, to be able to age up, or age down, it's one of the great challenges of acting, to be able to stretch your body thin and wide and long and short, to take physical contact and to give it," Davis told CNN. "If you ever have the opportunity and the privilege to do it, it is something you'll never forget. So I'm incredibly grateful as an actor that I had the opportunity to do so."
Director George Tillman Jr. told Deadline that Davis was chosen to play Foreman because he was "the only one who could encapsulate his journey so effortlessly as he went from one of boxing's most feared fighters to retirement only to achieve one of the most astonishing comebacks at age 45."
Though Davis was too young to have seen Foreman at the height of his career, he was old enough to remember the George Foreman Grill, the portable grill the boxer began promoting in 1994, the actor told Entertainment Tonight. The actor spent some time with Foreman before they shot the film.
Since the movie wasn't shot in chronological order, Davis spent much of the production gaining and losing weight quickly to ensure he was playing the role accurately. He told Entertainment Tonight that, at some points, he was eating up to 7,000 calories per day in order to hit weight goals for filming.
More than anything, Davis wants to express Foreman's gentle nature and help audiences find inspiration in the boxer's life story.
"That his anger, his rage, what happened to be that was really just him just fighting to be seen, fighting to be respected and fighting to be loved," Davis told Entertainment Tonight. "Trying to find his way. And that's what this film is about. It's about him trying to find his way, finding yourself and the power of a second chance."
Davis most recently played Biff in the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" alongside Wendell Pierce, André De Shields and Sharon D. Clarke. The show, which featured a primarily Black cast, closed on Jan. 15 to positive reviews. Davis previously appeared in the Tony-nominated play "Sweat" in 2017.
After making his onscreen debut in Kathryn Bigelow's "Detroit," Davis appeared in "Judas and the Black Messiah," "Space Jam: A New Legacy" and "Atlanta."
"Big George Foreman" will premiere in theaters nationwide on Friday, April 28. Moviegoers can check for showtimes and watch the official trailer below.