Interview: 'Sin City Saints' star Baron Davis compares acting to playing under Mike Dunleavy
Somewhat lost amidst the hype about the return of "Community," Yahoo premiered the original basketball comedy "Sin City Saints" last week.
Focusing on the hijinks surrounding an NBA team in Las Vegas, "Sin City Saints" has a strong cast that includes Malin Akerman, Toby Huss, Bruce from "Mixology," Tom Arnold and several former NBA players including Rick Fox and Baron Davis.
A couple weeks back I sat down to talk to Davis and Arnold in separate conversations about the new Yahoo comedy.
Baron Davis plays Billy Crane, a former NBA player who retired too young and decides to take one last shot at a comeback. Davis, of course, also retired young and there were links of media reports suggesting he was hoping to join the roster of an NBA playoff team. In our conversation, we also talked about Davis' personal dislike for practice and how that carries over to pretending to play basketball on TV.
In addition to his basketball career, Davis has been paying his dues in Hollywood for a while. He produced the Stacy Peralta documentary "Crips and Bloods: Made in America," among other projects. Most recently, through Indiegogo funding, Davis has been putting together "The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce," a documentary about the Compton summer league that he's also directing.
In the interview, Davis discusses his hopes for a comeback and his own experiences with dreadful NBA owners, which gets comedic treatment in "Sin City Saints," now available on Yahoo.
Check out the full Q&A and stay tuned for the Tom Arnold interview, which is kinda just a monologue or two about Las Vegas...
HitFix: In this series you play a former NBA All-Star who retired a little bit early and is making a comeback. And as this is coming to TV, to the Internet, there are rumors about you coming back to the NBA, making a comeback. Is that art imitating life, life imitating art?
Baron Davis: I guess a combination of both I think. You know the art has influenced the life and the life has... As far as my injury I was just far behind. It was going to take a year-and-a-half, two years for me to get back. And in the meantime I wanted to keep myself busy and this seemed like a great role. It drew me closer to where I am in, you know, in the real world so to speak.
HitFix: Well at least in theory are the rumors true?
Baron Davis: Yeah, I’m figuring it out. Yeah, I’m back healthy and I’m playing basketball and working out. And so who knows? I could wind up on a team. I could wind up in China. Somewhere! But now it’s time to get back out of the house and get on a team and do something.
HitFix: Have your Hollywood productions, have they kept you out of the house enough or has that not been enough?
Baron Davis: Yeah, no, it has. I’ve been busy producing and directing a documentary. And then sold a couple of TV shows. So I have been busy, out of the house. It’s just nothing gives you that feeling you get when you’re in the gym.
HitFix: Now playing basketball on film in this, you have to convincingly look like a player but you also have to deal with camera setups and all of that. What is the different discipline of playing basketball for a TV show, for the TV camera?
Baron Davis: You know it’s kind of like playing basketball for Mike Dunleavy. He tells you to do everything out there anyway. You feel like a robot. So I was pretty much used to it. So when we did get in the arena and the cameras were on I was like, "Oh, I’m used to being told what to do every time I dribble the ball so this won’t bother me at all."
HitFix: One of the backdrops here is there’s sort of an owner who’s a bit of a horror show. But do you ever go, "Excuse me, I know from bad owners. Let me tell you some stories."
Baron Davis: Life imitating art. [He laughs.] Art imitating life. Real life experiences. Yeah, of course. I mean I think the show has a lot of relevance, you know, when it comes to what’s actually happening in sports. You know a lot of the stories and the loglines are things that are actually happening in the sports world today.
HitFix: When you were on the Clippers were you like, "Okay, I’m saving up stories because some day this is going to make a great... a great something."
Baron Davis: Yeah, I mean you know you just live. When you're playing basketball, you hear stories. Everyone has stories. Everyone lives stories and every day it’s a different story and a different journey. So, you know, playing on the Clippers definitely I have a trough full of stories.
HitFix: Can you laugh at them now? Were there things that you couldn’t laugh at five years ago?
Baron Davis: I can laugh. I can cry now. It’s all that. You know for me it was something that I had to go through, learn who I was and I think that ultimately it strengthened my character to be the person that I am now. And there’s just a lot of highs and lows and a lot of high expectations and not good results. So, you know, you live and learn but now I can live and kind of laugh about it. It’s not that funny though. It’s not that funny.
HitFix: No it’s really not.
Baron Davis: It’s funny but it’s not that funny.
HitFix: Well does it become funnier now that the situation has been at least somewhat taken care of by the league and by time.
Baron Davis: I mean I guess. If you want to say that. Bad guy wins. The bad guy wins in that movie. I don’t pay too much attention to it but you can laugh about it now.
HitFix: So how do you critique your own ability as an actor? What are your strengths and your weaknesses as an actor?
Baron Davis: To be honest I don’t even know, because I don’t know what I look like. I haven’t seen anything. I would say that my strength is the fact that I can do everything in one take. And I would love to do everything in one take.
HitFix: Does that mean there are parts of the process that you enjoy saying more and less? Is there something about acting that you really love?
Baron Davis: Action. I like action. When I’m in the scene and they say, "Action," I love that. The waiting around is the tough part because I have like serious ADD in HD, 3D with the Occulus and I'm just like running around set like doing jumping jacks, push-ups, flips, you know. And they’re like, "Action" and then I’m in there. I’m in the moment.
HitFix: How does that compare to practice and practice time?
Baron Davis: Oh, I'm the same way in practice. I have to constantly be playing because if I’m not I’ll wander off and I’ll be putting in practice kicking balls in the stands.
HitFix: It seems like more and more NBA players are beginning to see Hollywood and producing and acting as a sideline or a future occupation I guess. And I feel like you were a little ahead of the curve on that. Does it feel like that to you like you got into this world early?
Baron Davis: Yeah. I am glad that I did, because I can honestly say that I paid my dues. So as far as the things that I want to accomplish I’m going about it the right way, I feel like. You know I’m going through the process to be able to absorb everything and now the times are really for that for athletes to be able to tell their stories on so many different platforms. So it’s a great opportunity and like I said, there’s a lot of stories being told and a lot of ideas that translate in the locker room. So it’s great to see guys being able to come up with things and sell shows and tell their story.
HitFix: You’ve had to go through a lot of different parts of the process on "The Drew." You had to raise money for it. You’ve been directing it. What has been the hardest part of that process?
Baron Davis: I think the hardest part is raising money, you know, asking people for help. It’s like when you’re so used to doing things on your own, the most humbling experience is making a film because you really have to listen and learn and also beg and borrow. And it’s a lot of courting and you realize that it’s not for you, it’s for the sake of the project and the benefit of the project. So you really learn to become selfless in the whole filmmaking process.
HitFix: You have to be selfless but if you’re also the director you have to be the guy with the biggest ego, so...
Baron Davis: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You have to be selfish too. It’s like "Hey, I see this a certain way." But for me it’s like more so try to remove the ego out of it and think about the team, you know, put in the best people together and watching that happen. And I think those are the similarities between filmmaking and basketball is if you put that right chemistry and that right team together then you’ll have a good product.
HitFix: You’ve worked with some very good and reputable documentary filmmakers. Who are your inspirations on this?
Baron Davis: I would say Stacy Peralta was a big inspiration for me on this just because we did the "Crips and Bloods: Made in America" and I’ve learned a lot by just sitting back and watching and being able to produce. And, you know, I was like, "You know what? I have a story, my version of LA, a story that I want to tell and I’m gonna go for it."
HitFix: Now if you do an NBA comeback how long do you envision that being before you come back to the world of filmmaking?
Baron Davis: You know hopefully I can do both. Make movies in the summers and play basketball in the fall.
HitFix: But you would see it as maybe being a multiple-year comeback, not just a one playoff push?
Baron Davis: For me, I think that my starting days are over but being able to be a good veteran guard and complement some guys. I see another two or three years the way that I’m feeling now, definitely another two or three years that I can play and be a good guy coming off the bench and doing some damage.
HitFix: Do you think that young you would have sort of understood your mindset now or do you think this is something you’ve matured into?
Baron Davis: I think the young me would definitely understand this. I’ve always been one to always think ahead and think about my future plan A, B and C. And so I think the younger version of me would be in agreement with what’s going on.
You can watch "Sin City Saints" now on Yahoo.