The first season of teenage heist and adventure drama, Outer Banks, hit Netflix in the United States on April 15, 2020, almost exactly one month after quarantines, shut-downs, and stay-at-home orders were enforced. The show is entirely based around adventure, friendship, and hope–the same qualities that felt out of reach in those first obscure months of a years-long pandemic. Season one spent several weeks in Netflix’s “Global Top 10,” and each season since then gains more viewing hours (season three garnered about 155 million watching hours in the first four days of its release), staying consistent with its reputation as a fan-favorite around the world
It was, and is, a perfect formula. How could we resist? With the close-knit relationships, the rich vs. the poor, and the prosperity of love within mystery, murder, and secrets, Outer Banks satisfies our narrative-cravings that we’ve loved since Shakespeare. And if it’s true that all the world’s a stage—that one man in his time plays many parts—then Jonathan Daviss is only in Act I of the performance that is life, and it’s a very promising performance at that.
Jonathan Daviss, known to his familiars as JD, knew he wanted to act from a young age, and his experience on the TV-movie Deliverance Creek (2014) confirmed his love of the craft. In the years since, he’s appeared in projects such as All the Marbles, Edge of the World, Age of Summer, and 2022’s Netflix film Do Revenge, all of which allowed for him to grow as an actor, serving as stepping stones for his current success. He was still a teen when filming season one—though at 17, he was working at Saks Fifth Avenue by day, and charging Bird scooters by night. “It taught me a lot about discipline, consistency, work ethic,” he says of the random gigs that preceded his screen consistency. “Doing what you can to survive and really appreciating where you are. You know, I never felt angry at my situation. I always felt that as long as I’m pursuing what I want to do, I’ll do what I have to do now.”
Daviss recently turned 23 (a Pisces), and with his birthday landing on the cusp of spring, he feels that each lap around the sun pushes him forward into the next version of himself. Moving into that next stage happens whether we’re ready for it or not, as we all know the universe we share is hysterically cruel and at other times suspiciously generous. Each new generation pretends to rediscover this phenomenon, surprised at the arrival of the same April showers that both flooded and nourished the generations that preceded us. But to gracefully move onto one’s next stage, an understanding of yourself is required; knowing who you are at your core, understanding what you love—these are the only certainties that we bring with us through the reinventions of ourselves.
As for Daviss, who describes himself as an observer and analyzer, his understanding of himself might best be defined through the creative hobbies, skills, and interests that keep him true to himself. When he’s not acting or with his friends, he spends his time drawing and playing guitar. Growing up in Texas, he loved comic books and anime, and his favorite animated movie is Road to El Dorado, making his role on Outer Banks almost cosmic. “I always liked the idea of going on an adventure,” he shares, “leaving to do something unknown... a possibility of success or failure and just having fun on the journey. I think that’s what always stuck out to me about Road to El Dorado, is that they were friends—they had their goal, they had their situation, but they were just having fun on this journey with each other. That’s why it’s so weird I ended up on Outer Banks.” Stories of adventure and possibility acted as an escape for Daviss, offering a world different than this one. “As a kid, you kind of want to get out of where you are,” he says, “I felt not stuck per se, but I did feel like there was a future that was laid out for me that I didn’t really want, and there was no obvious path to get out of it. I always look back on those movies and those times with fondness because it inspired me to let go and go for it.”
So, he “went for it,” and now his face is recognizable to a majority of his own generation, and he acts in a story that offers the same adventures that teased his young imagination. It’s an interesting adjustment for Daviss to be in the limelight. Reflecting on the changes in his life since season one of Outer Banks, he says, “It’s just been different. When I did the first season of Outer Banks, I was a teenager. I was 18, and I didn’t really know that it was going to blow up in the way it did, which really makes me feel for kids like Jenna Ortega and Millie Bobby Brown who are so young, then got so, so popular. It kind of changes the way you see the world in a lot of ways and, honestly, the way the world sees you.”
Of course, his grace in harnessing success is rare accomplished alone. As we’ve seen through tabloids and talk shows, it’s one thing to be famous, and an entirely other thing to be famous and well-adjusted. His parents have been his biggest supporters, and according to the actor, no one will ever love him as much as his mother and father do. In Outer Banks, his character Pope and his TV parents get into several arguments, because any sensible parent wouldn’t be thrilled by their child ditching school and running away to find a treasure that may or may not exist. “I feel like I did bring a little bit of me and my father’s real relationship into that Heyward-Pope relationship,” reflects Daviss.“Same thing with my mother, I really try to make it as real as I can. You just end up disagreeing with your folks sometimes when you’re a young man, or young person in general. But, I always respect their opinions and I love them and they’ve taken care of me my whole life and, you know, I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for them. I think the sign of a good relationship is always being able to come to a middle ground and talk it out. That’s the biggest thing that they taught me: even if you disagree, nothing’s personal. Don’t hold on to anything. I always know, at the end of the day, those are the people who love me more than anybody.”
Similar to bringing the parallels of his real relationship with his parents to the screen, his personality in the real world is not too far-off from his character in Outer Banks. He carries a mature reputation amongst his peers, so much so that his co-stars were surprised to hear he was one of the youngest castmates on the series. “My sister is nine years older than me,” Daviss shares. “She was a big influence on me and taught me how to be mature in a lot of ways.” This maturity does not translate to rule-following, but the ability to know himself and what’s best for him, to picture what he wants his future to look like and navigate the path needed to reach that future. “I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily a rule follower. I’m more of an analyzer in that way. You tell me something, I figure out if it works for me, and if I feel like it benefits me, then I’ll do it,” he says. “Sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh, let me follow all these rules,’ and then you realize, ‘Man, I probably should have done my own thing.’”
So, what is Daviss’ “own thing”? For one, he’s inspired by people like Michael B. Jordan, who Daviss mentions diversified himself into the directing space, an occupation Daviss wants to move into. He also looks up to Quinta Brunson, Donald Glover, Samuel L. Jackson, and Chadwick Boseman. “There’s plenty of actors who I try to almost model myself after, in a way,” he says. “But I definitely want to stay my own person more so than anything. The world wants to see what you do differently and how you can diversify yourself. They definitely inspire me to continue to keep learning and growing, and not limit myself.”
In terms of dream acting roles, Daviss takes a moment to consider, and then says, “I don’t think there’s one young Black man in Hollywood who doesn’t want Miles Morales. But on top of that, Static Shock has been my dream since I was a kid. I remember loving that show and wanting to play that part because he spoke to me. He was in a tough situation. He had people on both sides, he was cool but nerdy, and like me, he had a big mouth and didn’t know when to shut up.” He laughs and continues, “Other than that, I’ve always wanted to play André 3000 from Outkast, because his whole approach to artistry inspires me. I think that’s another role that if I had an opportunity to take on, I’d want to give it 110%.”
For his directing ambitions, Daviss wants to take his real-world experiences and transfer them onto the screen. “I want to tell real personal stories that mean a lot to me,” he shares, “like the stories that I haven’t heard. There are a lot of films that don’t really tell [the stories of]—well, Outer Banks kind of does, but not to the full extent of even how I grew up, in the communities I grew up in, the kind of relationships that I had with certain people, and the hardships that don’t always look like what you think they look like. Other than that, I’ve definitely wanted to tell more elevated sci-fi stories, something interesting with characters that I don’t think we normally get to see just in these spaces. Especially as a young Black man, I want to tell stories about what I went through and what my friends went through. I think we’re definitely moving into more projects like that—I just kind of want to continue to break the mold and tell the stories that I think are interesting.”
From what Daviss has allowed us to see about his personal life and his true self, we can only conclude that he will be the decider of his own destiny, the captain of the ship that sails him to his personal city of gold. And it will be well-deserved.
Photographed by @InstaMaxMonty
Styled by @TheVonFord
Written by @FranchescaBaratta
Stylist Assistant: @Sangoubadi
Production Assistant: @EllaMadden13