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The Origin of a Horror Franchise: Actress Lex Scott Davis on ‘The First Purge’

October 2, 2018Ben MK

The fourth installment in the ongoing Purge franchise, director Gerard McMurray's The First Purge, takes the horror series back to its fictitious roots, telling the story of how America's most violent and bloody holiday began.

Set in a near-future version of Staten Island, New York, the film finds the country divided over the New Founding Fathers of America's plans to conduct a first-of-its-kind experiment, whereby all crime — including murder — would be legal for 12 hours between sunset and sunrise. But when a local community activist named Nya (Lex Scott Davis) becomes caught up in the chaos and discovers the sinister truth behind the NFFA's plans, she, her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), and her drug kingpin ex-boyfriend Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) must contend with more than just the usual dangers of their inner city neighborhood — they must struggle to survive the night.

To mark the home entertainment release of The First Purge, I caught up with Lex Scott Davis to talk about her role in the movie, and to find out more about what sets The First Purge apart from previous installments.

Are you a fan of horror movies in general? And what is it like being a part of such a well-known horror franchise as the Purge series?

Scott Davis: I'm a huge fan of horror. My favorite genre, in general, is psychological thrillers, so to be part of Blumhouse — and even more specifically, this Purge franchise — is a dream, honestly. I'm already a fan of all of [them], so I never thought in a million years that I'd one day be part of it all. But it's been a real ride, it's been exciting.

Of course, your director, Gerard McMurray, worked with Ryan Coogler on Fruitvale Station. And Ryan's movie, Black Panther, was a big milestone for African American cinema. Since The First Purge has a largely African American cast, how meaningful was that for you?

Scott Davis: It's great. Definitely a huge responsibility to be able to represent not only the franchise that already exists, but the African American culture within that franchise. I think there's something very unique about what Gerard took on and what he added to the whole saga. Cuz this is the first time we are seeing it specifically in a black community. So watching it from the beginning and watching how it's experimented on a particular culture and a particular demographic, and just diving into how that may or may not reflect what we are going through today — it's definitely a huge responsibility.

I play Nya in the film. She is an activist for her community, so to kind of further what I'm already passionate about and bring it to the screen was a tremendous opportunity and extremely meaningful for me.

Was that what drew you to the project, aside from being a horror fan?

Scott Davis: Yeah, before I auditioned for it I read the script, and it was a page-turner. All of the symbolism that was there, all of the conversations that it created, beyond just the violence of the night. I love that it talks about relationships between women and men, and relationships between sister and brother, and what it is like for a young man to be raised in an environment that does not want him to succeed, for lack of a better word.

And watching how they handle all of these different scenarios that do exist in our neighborhoods. And so, again, the theme is set up in the night of the Purge and the horror of the Purge, but there's definitely conversations that were happening from beginning to end that were bigger than just the Purge holiday. So it definitely had a major influence — just purely what the writer put on the pages had a huge influence on my choice to join and to give it a shot.

What was it like working with the rest of the cast?

Scott Davis: So much fun. So much fun. I definitely gained a lot of family members [laughs] working on The First Purge. We shot the majority of the film in Buffalo. It felt like summer camp — everyone was moved to this interesting town that I don't think anyone who as part of the cast had ever been to before. So it was extremely fun for me. I was kind of like the little sister to a lot of the guys on-set. And, yeah, definitely gained a few brothers out of this one, for sure.

And was there any moment or scene during filming that was especially memorable for you?

Scott Davis: All of them were so memorable. Actually, unlike most actors, I showed up on-set even though there were days where I wasn't working. Cuz I was just so into it, I was so excited to see how they were going to shoot other scenes that I wasn't a part of. So I was definitely in the background hanging out in Video Village, which is where the director and DP stayed for most of it. Definitely there just every day — every day I could be there, whether I was working or not — just to see everything unfold.

So it's hard to say if there's a favorite or most memorable [scene], because I literally was there throughout the whole shoot. Everything with fire and stunts and shooting and bullets flying everywhere, I was there for it all. I dunno, it's all so exciting for me. And this was my first time shooting a studio feature film, so it's even more awesome having to be there and watching everything.

Speaking of which, who are some of your role models that have influenced you in your acting career?

Scott Davis: There's so many actresses that come to mind, and actors too. I love Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman and Jada Pinkett, who's from the same city I'm from. Watching her journey into becoming the woman she is today is beautiful to observe. Even Spike Lee, who has a particular directing style that I love, and that I want to encourage myself to continue to try to strive to be as amazing as his name is, one day for myself in future directorial opportunities.

But, yeah, [there are] so many different people I could pull from to say I get inspiration from. Angelina Jolie for sure was one of my first inspirations because of Tomb Raider. And I remember being a kid and my mom taking me to see Tomb Raider, and to see a badass women just lead a film with action and acting chops was just fantastic. So yeah, it's a lot of different people for different reasons.

Are you planning on moving into directing at some point?

Scott Davis: Absolutely. Absolutely. Writing and directing is a hidden passion of mine that I'm also pursuing.

In the meantime, what’s next for you?

Scott Davis: I've still been completely engulfed in the Purge world. And I've been getting so many fans and people reaching out to me saying they're watching it or downloading it. So yeah, I'm still heavy in Purge land right now. [laughs]

The First Purge is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital.

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