Justiin Davis, poised to receive a B.F.A. in acting from the Department of Theater in June, is celebrating early.

Acting Student Conquers an "Empire"

January 28, 2011

Justiin Davis, poised to receive a B.F.A. in acting from the Department of Theater in June, is celebrating early.

Davis was recently cast as Lester White, son of Michael K. Williams' Chalky, on the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, winner of the 2011 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series ­– Drama.

"I started shaking and couldn't catch my breath when I found out," the talented actor shares. "It was the moment when all you worked for finally pays off."

Abandoned by his parents as an infant and raised by his grandmother in the housing projects of Brooklyn, Davis set out, from the beginning, to defy the traditional narratives that contrived to stifle his creative spirit.

"Someone once said to me: ‘You think a little boy from the projects is going be on TV?' Since then, I've fought and pushed to get where I wanted to go."

Davis has appeared in The Good Wife and The Taking of Pelham 123, but Empire is the first time he will be a featured and recurring player. The achievement, he said, is largely due to his Brooklyn College experience.

"BC has one of the best acting programs for the money," he notes. "At other acting schools, the normal class size is 20 or more students. Here, it's 12 or fewer. There's more time to work and more opportunities for faculty to focus on individual needs."

He auditioned for the part after being contacted by the agent to whom he was referred by a theater company. After a callback and some tense moments waiting by the phone, his anxieties were finally put to rest. Associate Professor and B.F.A. Acting Program Head Rose Bonczek — who has served as Davis' instructor, adviser and director — was as excited about the news as Davis.

"When he told me he had been cast, I literally cried for joy," she beams. "Justiin has had many challenges in his life, and he's always met them with strength and positivity. So the news that he was cast in this hit HBO series was extra sweet."

Davis, himself, is thrilled about what the future may hold for him.

"I want to go as far as this career will take me. I'd love to win an award, but I don't need that. Of course, if Oscar, Tony or Emmy want to come live in my china cabinet at home, I'd open the door and let them right in."

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