“L.A Stands For…Lying All the Time” Tweeted CW’s All-American series regular Da’Vinchi who plays Darnell Hayes on the popular sports drama currently filming season three, slated to air sometime in 2021.
“I call it red carpet talk. Whenever you’re on the red carpet it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re super. Oh yeah, I have this…yeah, yeah, you know what? Call me.’ It’s pointless chatter,” says Da’Vinchi talking about the facade of “La La Land” while being interviewed on his 25th birthday.
Photography by Sam McGuire
Styling by Apuje Kalu
Grooming by Jenna Nelson for Tatcha
Within two weeks of arriving in Hollywood from New York City in 2017, Da’Vinchi booked his first L.A. acting job on Grown-ish, a spin-off of ABC’s hit series Black-ish created by Kenya Barris and Larry Wilmore. “I was super shocked that that happened. I still remember it like it was yesterday,” says Da’Vinchi. “It was only supposed to be for one episode, then it turned into two, three, four, five, six, seven, and then I’m throughout the season. It paved the way for me to stay in L.A. If I had listened to my agents and managers who said, ‘Stay in New York because you don’t have a name in L.A.,’ I would have never got that. Every time I think about that story, it’s so surreal because, it’s like, had I not listened to my intuition, I don’t know where I would be right now.”
It does happen, but not often, when luck plays a part in an actor’s early success, but Da’Vinchi is no overnight success. Before Hollywood he was grinding in the Big Apple and working on his craft. “I worked so many jobs, some legal, some illegal, then networking day and night, connecting with people and training and acting and performing. I actually got discovered at Jay-Z’s mom’s restaurant, Diamondz N Da Ruff Café & Lounge, in Newark, New Jersey. Me and Gloria Carter, Jay’s mom, have a close relationship, and it was at her restaurant that a manager discovered me.”
The hustle of an up and coming actor is non-stop. To make it in Hollywood takes a lot of sacrifice. Da’Vinchi was doing exactly that while he was a student at the College of Central Florida majoring in Criminal Justice. Da’Vinchi explained, “I got rid of my social life. I deleted my social media. I spent 18 months celibate. It was about two years I was celibate, and I was just really focused. I was saving my money and creating a plan on how to make it out, so when I got back to New York, I had capital because this was going to be the fuel that allowed me to move.”
Now that Da’Vinchi is a full-fledged Angeleno whose star continues to shine, he finds himself auditioning more, yet during this time when Hollywood is trying to rectify its diversity problem on-screen and behind the camera, he finds himself continually challenged by the diversity effort. “I see Hollywood is definitely trying, but there’s also some unfair things that happen, still,” says Da’Vinchi. “For instance, I’ll go out for a role where the Black dude is supposed to be from the streets or whatever. I will do such a great job, but the casting director is like, ‘He’s too clean cut. He’s too much of a pretty boy. He’s not Black enough.’ I’m just like, wait, what are you talking about? Yea, I had that happen a few times, and I was like, dang, that sucks.”
There are many things a young actor of color has to learn during their climb in Tinsel Town. It can be a confusing journey trying to hold onto your past, while simultaneously stepping into your newfound celebrity status. People change, friends become strangers and the hands that once extended to uplift you, now extend only for handouts. “During quarantine, I have really sat back and analyzed some people that are really close to me,” says Da’Vinchi. “I realized I needed to X out some people in my circle because they’re not good for my spirit.”
Knowing how to move and who to move with is a crucial lesson to learn, especially if you’re looking to empower and inspire the masses through your art like Da’Vinchi. “I would love to play a superhero. If I could play a superhero, oh man! I would quit acting right after. When I get there one day.”