Fits of laughter, close-knit circles, and unknowingly low stakes encompass the intangible feeling of youth. An eventual adulthood nostalgia distilling in the molds of our memory. There is one night, however, in the angsty teenage experience, where the intangible appears attainable—the often cringey, sometimes magical rite of passage—high school prom. LA-based actor, Travis Bennett, recalls his prom vividly: a black and white suit rented from Friar Tux, a pinned floral corsage, hints of high school drama, completed with an unreleased pair of Eric Costen Nike SBs. Prom was not only the now 28-year-old’s final high school experience, but an introduction to growing pains and an embarkation on the beautiful uncertainties of adulthood.
Chatting with Travis Bennett is like hearing a mellifluously unfiltered ode to LA. He’ll candidly tell you that the 101 freeway is by far the worst because of its absent carpool lane, that the epitome of LA gentrification is the unveiling of another Erewhon, and that Awash on Pico’s flat chicken and rice is the top-tier Ethiopian meal. He grew up binging LA-centric TV shows, George Lopez and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, to which he credits his charisma and ability to uncannily brain map Los Angeles without hesitation. Given his extensive knowledge and Mid-City upbringing, you would surely guess that starring in two LA-based projects, Dave and You People, had the actor feeling in his element, right? Guess again.
Bennett’s teenage self and early confrontation with the limelight parallels a nontraditional high school experience, and the insurmountable feeling of awkwardness. Instead of cramming for exams or attending what could’ve been his high school graduation, Bennett was the kid performing at Coachella and touring Europe as a member of the music collective Odd Future. Initially stumbling into the acting sphere at a mere 18-years-old via the group’s Adult Swim series, Loiter Squad, Bennett never predicted he would find himself in front of the camera a decade later. “Acting again sounded so bad to me because my only acting prior was Loiter Squad and when I did that, I was so uncomfortable with myself,” he reveals, “acting had left a bad taste in my mouth.”
To his own surprise, this perspective changed years later after meeting Dave Burd, aka Lil Dicky, during quite the ineffable meeting at Camp Flog Gnaw. “I saw him, ran over to him, hugged him, said ‘I love you,’ and ran away—him not knowing who the fuck I was. That was our first introduction.” The creatives crossed paths again, this time in a more unified manner as basketball teammates, where Burd proposed another collaboration. “We kept playing basketball over the summer and then he asked me about doing the show. I read the script and genuinely laughed at it. Reading stuff to laugh is kind of crazy. You can do it with memes and shit, but 3O pages of laughing is a little different.”
With a third season of Dave returning in April, Bennett reprises his role as Elz in the FXX comedy series, and metaphorically describes the new season as,“Seeing turtle births on TV. You know when the turtles come out of the sand and run into the water? Season 3 is the cuteness of that and the edginess of them getting chewed up by something as soon as they get to the water.” Comedy and all, Bennett speaks of acting as an evolution beyond the confines of his teenage years. He now finds himself yearning to rekindle his relationship with the art form more than ever. “I started going out for roles,” he shares, “and there were roles which I didn’t get, and I was really sad about it. That’s when I realized I love something.
Growing into one’s self is synonymous with inviting change, especially when change presents itself as an unfamiliar face. Bennett is an avid believer in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, a mentality he would rarely adopt earlier in his career. Being thrown into a brand new cast, as he experienced with You People, alongside household names—Jonah Hill, Eddie Murphy, Lauren London, and Nia Long—forced the actor to turn inwards, allowing for contentment to usurp anxiety. Speaking to his self-evolution, Bennett relays, “It was nerve-wracking, but the thought of being uncomfortable is much more intriguing now. When I was younger, being uncomfortable was just the worst feeling ever. I’ve learned you can be uncomfortable in a place you’re very comfortable in, or you can be comfortable in a place you’ve never been. The unknown is always uncomfortable. This project was a different world to me, so I was definitely nervous, but I also leaned into the feeling. I learned how to be like, ‘Okay, I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. How do we combine these two and get the best performance I can get outta myself?’ And that’s just preparation.”
Preparation, complimented by an innate knack for comedic relief, has naturally propelled Bennett into the comedy space. However, diversifying his body of work has been on his bucket list for some time now. As for other genres, Bennett mentions horror as a point of interest, so long as he’s the mastermind behind the plot. “I don’t want to play the scared one,” he laughs. “I wanna be a dark dude. I want somebody to be like, ‘Damn, that n*gga Travis is crazy. You saw that movie where he was killing everybody?” I need that because I’m so happy, so comedic.’” This one-eighty just might streamline Bennett towards scooping up roles in other genres. Maybe even his dream role as Kobe Bryant. I jokingly ask Bennett if he’s willing to buzz his hair, emulating the basketball legend’s twenty-four days, to which he quickly replies,“anything for the Bean.”
Bennett expresses consciousness for the world around him, an appreciation that admittedly passed by him as a teenager. He still very much identifies as the LA kid who deems his loved ones invaluable and is grateful for each opportunity. While he’s still practicing becoming ‘comfortable with the uncomfortable,’ he discloses, “I’m trying to feel present in the day and time, the life I’m living now, in the transition of everything. Going from being the plus one homie to being me—it’s a whole different world.”
Photographed by Alex Mcdonell
Styled by Bin X. Nguyen
Written by Shei Marcelline
Groomer: Kasha Lassien
Barber: Ronald Mccoy
Flaunt Film: Annika Chavez
Set Design And BTS: Brian Callaghan
Photographer Assistant: Nichelle Dailey
Styling Assistants: Tazhae Stanley and David Gomez
Video Assistant: Sophie Thomason
Production Assistant: Brooke Metayer
Location: Early Morning Riot