Jeff Davis has made a career in Hollywood doing whatever needs to be done.

If casting directors need a cop, bartender, priest, convict or dad, Davis can hand them his resume and show he’s played all those parts before. If the casting director needs a fence fixed at home or an actor needs a light fixture installed, Davis will do that, too.

Davis, 56, left Maine some 28 years ago to pursue his dream of acting. He’s appeared in dozens of TV shows and films including as an FBI agent in “The Mentalist” on CBS, a bartender on “The West Wing” on NBC and a surgeon on the CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” He plays a police captain in one episode of the current season of the Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why.”

He’s also a Hollywood-based handyman, supplementing his income over the years using skills he learned in Maine to make repairs at the homes of Meg Ryan, Ed McMahon and Diane Keaton, among others.

Jeff Davis as a Texas Ranger in the Discovery mini-series “Heartbreakers.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis

“It’s all word of mouth, working for actors, producers, directors. It’s things like fixing light fixtures, garage doors, some remodeling,” said Davis, who grew up in Buxton. “Once I got married and had my first son, I knew I had to find a way to make more money between acting jobs. I really wanted to make sure I could keep acting and support a family. It’s worked out pretty well.”

Davis refers to himself on his website as a “blue collar actor.” He doesn’t have big starring roles, and he has to be ready to play any type at any time. He also has to juggle casting calls and film shoots with calls to a Hollywood home for some fix-it work.

People who knew Davis growing up say the balance he’s struck is not surprising. As a teen, he began working on race cars, and driving them, at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. Even then he was comfortable being the center of attention – as the driver and face of a race team – but had no problem rolling up his sleeves and doing the grunt work either.

“Jeff’s always been the kind of guy who just does what he has to do, he’s never been afraid to get his hands dirty and learn as he goes,” said Peter Keef of Brunswick, who has known Davis since both were teenagers.

Carlton Chase of Gorham, another of Davis’ friends from his Beech Ridge days, says Davis seemed to like “being part of the show” on Saturday night at the race track.

A LATE START

Davis didn’t get involved in acting growing up, or at Bonny Eagle High School. He played basketball and was on the track team, and spent a lot of time learning about cars from his uncle and other adults in his life. He said that although acting “intrigued” him, as a high school freshman he thought he’d fit in better if he stuck to sports and cars.

Jeff Davis playing a convict on the Fox TV show “Lethal Weapon.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis

“I was trying to be cool, I guess, and didn’t want to be seen as the nerdy theater kid,” Davis said.

But in his senior year, he was asked to be in a fashion show, which he said gave him “a little bit of the bug” to perform. After high school, he worked at a Hannaford supermarket, and at the S.D. Warren paper mill in Westbrook. He learned various repair skills from his father and step-father – a machinist and a carpenter, respectively – and did some electrical work too. He also went to the gym a lot and eventually started his own business selling exercise wear, called Action Fitness on Route 1 in Scarborough.

While working and running his own business, he “dabbled” with acting and auditioned for, and got, roles in local commercials. He also took a local acting class. Later, he saw a woman from that same class had landed a role on a major network soap opera.

“I saw what she was doing and thought, ‘That’s what I’m missing. That’s what I should be doing,’ ” said Davis.

So, at the age of 27, he sold off his business and went to Los Angeles to become an actor, staying at first with cousins who lived about an hour from the city. He arrived in the middle of 1992 and began applying for work as an extra as often as he could.

When he began working fairly steadily – in TV, films and commercials – he joined the Screen Actors Guild and had to change his name. Not because he needed something more glamorous or easier to pronounce than Jeff Davis, but because there was already a Jeff Davis in the union. So for acting purposes he became Jf Davis, which is the name on his website.  You can also find a list of all his roles on the Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, by searching for Jf Davis on that site. He also uses the shortened name on social media.

Jeff Davis plays a wide variety of characters, including a construction worker in this Ford commercial. Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis

In his first couple years in Hollwood, Davis landed a bit part on one episode of the TV series based on the film “A League of Their Own,” as a Navy officer. He also was the body double for the iconic horror character Freddy Krueger in the 1994 film “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.” So when you see Freddy from behind, and not his face, it’s Davis. He was also the stand-in for Kevin Costner in the 1995 film “Waterworld,” meaning he’d stand in Costner’s place while shots were being set up.

Around that same time, he got an audition for a leading role in the syndicated TV show “The Adventures of Sinbad,” a fantasy adventure show. After auditioning for casting directors, he got call back to audition in front of the show’s producers and director. But at that audition, he says his mouth went dry and he forgot a line. He did not get the part but learned a lesson.

“After that, I realized there was nothing to get excited over. I should just to my thing and see what happens,” said Davis. “After that, I never had a problem.”

Not long after he began working in Hollywood, Davis met his wife, Rosana, and they’ve now been married 25 years. They have two sons, Brett and Jared.

GOOD GUY, BAD GUY

Over the years Davis has played good guys, bad guys and people somewhere in between. His role on this current and final season of “13 Reasons Why” is one he’s played before in several different forms, a member of law enforcement. The dark and controversial Netflix show focuses around the aftermath of the suicide of a high school student, who leaves behind cassette tapes telling why she ended her life. Davis appears in Episode 8, where students at the high school, feeling school officials have abused their power, begin to riot and revolt, Davis said. His police captain character appears in “a couple of scenes,” he said.

Though Davis has been able to build an acting career that’s lasted nearly 30 years, he still feels like he’s growing as an actor. He’d like meatier roles where he can show more range than playing a cop at a murder scene one day and an FBI agent at a kidnapping scene the next. He would like more roles like the one he played on an episode of “Criminal Minds” on CBS in 2016, a distraught father whose daughter had gone missing.

Despite the fact that he looks an awful lot like actor Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” it’s not easy to pick Davis out in a film clip. His costume, hair and way of speaking varies incredibly from role to role. In “Criminal Minds” he’s a clean-cut and fragile dad. In a 2017 episode of the Fox TV show “Lethal Weapon,” he played a brash, bearded convict in an orange jumpsuit trying to make small talk with a Texas Ranger. In a 2015 episode of the crime show “Castle” on ABC, he’s seen kneeling in church, asking for God to give him a sign. Seconds later stained glass shatters, and he has an apparent bullet hole in his chest.

Jeff Davis, left, played the dad to Annie LeBlanc and Tanner Fontana on the YouTube series “A Girl Named Jo.” Photo courtesy of Jeff Davis

Davis’s manager, Clearence Cheatham, says one of Davis’ strength as an actor is that he can, or will try, to play any role, take on any look and character. A lot of actors pigeon-hole themselves, he said, always trying out for the same types of roles and modifying their look and behavior to fit that type.

“Some actors find it more comfortable to be put in a box, to always do the same kinds of things,” said Cheatham. “But he’s always been willing to take risks and try so many different things. That’s how he’s been able to get the body of work he has.”

Lately, Davis has been branching out a bit, with bigger roles in smaller movies, instead of small roles in network TV shows or major films. He recently completed a film called “Outrage,” in which he gets star billing as a man set out to find his daughter’s kidnappers, a band of bikers. He has a starring role as a preacher in a Wild West town of the 1880s in the film “Showdown on the Brazos.” Neither film has been scheduled for release. He’s planning to direct and star in a film called the “Demons Within” about a teenaged girl possessed by demons.

Looking back, Davis is glad he followed his heart and found a way to build an acting career that has lasted more than 25 years. But he feels like his work is not done.

“There was a point when I was first out here, when I was a little down in the dumps and wasn’t making much money. It wasn’t home, because Maine will always be home, but I had a moment when I knew this is where I needed to be,” said Davis, who returns to the state about once a year to see family. “I had no doubt this is what I wanted to do, and I’ve been able to do it for more than 25 years. But I’m still not where I want to be, I always feel I can do more.”


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