The Originals Q&A: Charles Michael Davis on Marcel's Persuasiveness, Being Friends With Joseph Morgan, and Out-Beefcaking Werewolves

Spin-offs can be a surprisingly rough proposition. Sure, there's the built-in fanbase, but those same fans are often the first to reject something that deviates from expectations, and the elephant graveyard of quickly canceled shows is littered with failed spin-offs. The Originals may've had the advantage of poaching away three of The Vampire Diaries' best characters, but that didn't mean its success was a sure bet. After a slightly awkward backdoor pilot and then a straight-up reboot of that pilot as the proper series opener, any misgivings fans had about The Originals quickly dissipated after the show made some brilliant creative decisions. Probably the best one was introducing to the world Charles Michael Davis as Marcel, Klaus Mikaelson's former protégé turned usurper. For years, Davis appeared in smaller roles on shows like Grey's Anatomy and, going even further back, the Disney Channel sitcom That's So Raven. But as Marcel he's finally found a part that's worthy of his talents, as he's been able to keep a tricky character compelling even without a British accent or a thousand years of backstory. And most importantly, he was a good sport when BOTH of our phones cut out repeatedly during a phone interview.

Is it possible that someone put a curse on us?

One of those witches. Jane-Anne from the grave.

Do you believe in that kind of stuff? Are you superstitious at all?

Not about witchcraft. I think the things that you believe in, I think they kinda end up coming true, so I won't even touch it.

Probably a good call. So, on The Originals you get to act opposite some very talented people. When you first learned that you'd be doing scenes with someone like Joseph Morgan, were you excited about it raising your game, or were you just like, 'Finally. People on my level.'

Good question. It was more of a 'Finally, I get to get out into the field and play.' You know? I always use sports analogies, but it would be like that good college athlete that finally gets to play in the NBA. Where there's still that excitement about playing. For me, like, watching Joe on TV—I watched him and I said, "God, he's like in his own film." The quality of his work is so good, I'd never seen anybody do that, elevate a show like that. And then it was a great blessing to be cast as his counterpart. So for me, I'd already been doing good work in class and I knew it, and it was just owning it and being confident about it. But my real confidence came from those first few episodes and the pilot, all my scenes really gelled. So it just came from really working with the other cast, and I knew I could trust them. So yeah, it was, one, having the confidence to be there, and also the excitement of actually working with people of that caliber and especially Joe.

Do you remember what you were doing when you first found out that you'd landed the role of Marcel?

I was at a coffee shop on Lankershim here in L.A. and I was going to go read for NBC's Crisis. I had a pilot audition and Joe called me, actually. And Joe hadn't called me in years. Like, we'd texted each other back and forth, but I knew he was always so busy. And he called me before any agent, any manager, any casting person called me. Because he found out from [executive producer] Julie [Plec] and he got so excited. So yeah, that's when I found out. It was kinda funny because he plays my mentor and my father figure on the show and he was the first person to call me and sort of mentor me and get me prepared and we talked for like 45 minutes and he finally goes, "Okay, okay, here's what we're gonna do. I'm going to hang up, you go call your agent and just ask 'Hey, did I get it?'"

Does your real-life friendship with him bring an extra chemistry to your scenes together?

For sure, there's a comfort there. Even in reading the pilot I knew what it was for me to sit across from him and be connected to him as a person. And when I first met him, we were talking about photography and he was so enthusiastic, so passionate about it, that even when I was preparing for the pilot and the audition, I could hear his voice and I knew the kind of energy that I would be playing off of. So that made it really easy for me to create it. And yeah, I'm super comfortable when I do scenes with him and I know without a doubt that it's going to be good, just from rehearsal on. Much the same with other actors on the show, because casting has done a really good job of hiring people who complement the level of acting that we've already set the standard for.

Marcel's a tricky character to play in that he switches between romantic hero and bad boy, likable and sometimes unlikable. What kind of scenes excite you the most?

Persuasive scenes. Scenes where I actually have to work on another character, get in their head, or even if it's a group of people. I love group scenes where it's Marcel holding court and being the center of attention but also sort of getting the crowd riled up. So any time I have a big speech or any time I get to sit one on one with a character, that's a great time. And also if I do any scenes with Sebastian [Roche], who plays Mikael. Because he was one actor who I caught myself watching him and just being, 'I got front row seats to a great show.' So those scenes are really exciting to me.

Do the writers provide you with backstory that the viewers don't know about, or do you learn that stuff as we learn it?

We get an overview. We get general, large brush strokes on the canvas when Julie comes in and she sits at the table read and everyone asks questions and she'll just say "Okay, here's what I have planned..." And she's so enthusiastic and she tells us and then we listen to the story and then at the end--no one's taking notes--we just listen to it and that's what carries us through. We hear a general broad stroke and then sometimes other actors will come up to me and they'll be like "I wonder what's going on with my character right now? I wonder what's in store?" And I'll be like, "Well, you remember what Julie said..." And they'll be like, "Oh, you think?" And I'm like "Yeah!" But it's happening really quickly; the way she says it it's like this epic odyssey, like it's going to take seasons and seasons for what she has in store in her head. But you see, the pace of the show, it moves so quickly that even though in my head these things would take months to develop the storyline, they just happen so quickly, so they even surprise me, just the pace of it.

You've had romantic scenes with at least three of the main characters on the show. Who do you hope Marcel seduces next? Please say Bastiana.

[laughs] Bastiana the witch? I ripped her head off.

Well she could be a ghost, you never know.

Yeah. Well, Marcel has great chemistry with anybody. I wouldn't count it out. I'm always down for new love interests and bringing new characters in, as far as love interests go. Because those are the only things that unlock certain sides of characters. So we saw a lot from Marcel and I know there's more but it depends on the chemistry that he's across from. So, I love that he gets to explore those different relationships, but it's kind of like now I always want a different relationship where any other show it would take a little bit longer for those relationships to develop. I'd be excited to see some new girl roll into town, whether it's a witch or werewolf or vampire or human, it'd be interesting. My second choice would be Bastiana.

Before the werewolves showed up, Marcel was the show's biggest source of gratuitous beefcake shirtlessness. Do you think that's why Marcel hates the werewolves so much, for stepping in on his territory?

[laughs] Definitely, yeah. The introduction with Oliver at the party, I'm standing around like, "Damn, that dude's buff." Now I know how Joe feels when he has to do a shirtless scene right after one of my shirtless scenes. I'm actually on my way to the gym right now, because I've got to give them some competition.

Gotta keep up with the werewolves.

I appreciate the werewolves because they challenge me in that respect.

A lot of people are always hoping for crossovers with The Vampire Diaries, but what are the chances of a crossover with That's So Raven?

[laughs] I'd say pretty slim to none considering that show's been off the air for a long time.

Maybe Raven was a New Orleans witch or something.

Oh, I see your connection now. Well, I'll talk to Julie. And if I happen to bump into Raven [Symoné] again, I'll ask her if she's interested.

Great, I would really appreciate that. Thank you so much!

Thank you.

The Originals airs Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW.

Comments (9)
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Oct 17, 2014
Price, I'm starting to see how this Raven crossover could work... what about the raven from the pilot episode of The Vampire Diaries?
May 03, 2014
Haha, fun interview.
Apr 30, 2014
"My second choice would be Bastiana." LOL. Love him!
Apr 30, 2014
"Charles Michael Davis"? I'm sorry Price but you got the name wrong. Its Sexy McSexy Sexythang.
Apr 29, 2014
A little more background on his friendship with Morgan such as how long they've known each other, when they met, had they worked together before might have been nice and helpful here, as that was/is unknown to me and sort of surprising. A question about Claire Holt leaving would have been good too.
Apr 29, 2014
LOL Great interview. I love your interviewing style Price. So random and unexpected. He must have been taken off guard by your desire to see Marcel with Bastiana lol. And you can totally see where he shines most when he talks about group scenes. The actor gets so excited when in front of a crowd.