His sunny disposition almost makes you forget he was just released from jail. Played by Khris Davis, Tracy’s presence does nothing to overshadow Darius’ (Lakeith Stanfield) existential comedic presence. Instead, it adds more personality, charm and wittiness to the group’s dynamic. “Sportin’ Waves” (aired Mar. 8) shows this when Tracy gives Earn (Donald Glover) terrible advice on gift card scamming. He also unleashes well-kept waves, so good they were impossible to create naturally.
But Davis wasn’t interested in adopting any cues from his Atlanta bredren. Like Bryan Tyree Henry, Davis’ theater background came into effect when preparing for Tracy. “I watched the first three episodes and I had to close my computer because I felt myself paying more attention to what they were doing,” the New Jersey native tells VIBE. “I felt like I was running the risk of jumping on either Keith’s energy, Brian’s energy or Donald’s energy instead of bringing my own.”
Davis’ decision to follow the beat of his own drum landed him a possibly permanent spot in the Atlanta crew and one of the best moments of the series thus far. Keep reading to learn more about the infamous wave scene, what Davis learned from the cast and more down below.
VIBE: I was able to watch the first three episodes of Atlanta and instantly loved your character. What were your first thoughts when you found out you would be playing Paper Boi’s homie?
Kris Davis: When I found out that I booked it, I felt a lot of things. Mostly, I sunk into myself and was ready to lean in because I felt like there was no room for me to Number One, be too nervous and Number Two, get so beside myself that I don’t focus on doing the work. I completely prepared myself to show up and show out, to connect the guys and bring some good energy to the synergy that’s already existing and going on in Atlanta. I started to go back and rewatch it, but three episodes in, I had to close my computer because I felt myself paying more attention to what they were doing. I was like, ‘I love the show, but I can’t rewatch it because I’m watching it through a different lens now.’ Literally that night, I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about how great they were doing and what I was going to be able to bring.
…Especially when it comes to group dynamics. We see on the show there are so many different types of personalities that blend very well together. I know black people like that. We exist, and all those people do cross paths whether in family or on the streets.
Yeah, and they all have a voice.
In “Sportin’ Waves,” it seemed like you had a good job interview, only to get turned down. With many formerly incarcerated people catching that same fate, what was it like preparing for that part of the scene?
To feel disappointment and let down, as an actor, I’ve felt a whole lot of that. Being able to channel that wasn’t too difficult. I feel like with Tracy, like any of us that are trying to follow a dream. We have some type of hope or aspiration to get to a certain place in our lives, that gets us out of that muck we may feel like we’re stuck in or whatever rut we’re in. What are we willing to do to get that? How far are you willing to go?
Tracy’s like, ‘Look man, I ain’t got the money for these shoes and sh**, maybe I do. But I’m about to take these jawns and I’m going to find a tie. I’m going to do whatever I gotta do, whatever I gotta do, to put myself in the position to change my life.’ To have that kind of hope, that kind of resilience and belief in themselves no matter what the circumstances are or what. I think that’s the humanity of someone like Tracy.
“We all got those family members. I got a couple Tracys. The painful part is seeing them busting their a** trying to figure out how to make a change for the better, only to get pushed out by society.”
You said it. They’re getting pushed out by the workforce. Sometimes they’re getting pushed out by their families, so now they’re isolated and left alone. When he gets turned down, it hurts because he had so much hope in leaving that behind, leaving into a different state in his life. There’s fear and disappointment in having to go back. Tracy is thinking, ‘I’m stuck and I just have to exist in this dark space I don’t want to be in anymore. You mean to tell me I did all of this? I wore this f**king wave cap for like a f**king month! I did it! I got shoes! I put on a tie! I got a shirt! I’m good. I did it. I’m smart. I’m telling you, you know I’m smart. You know I can do the job. But you’re telling me I can’t. That hurts, man.’
Exactly. Those waves though. That was a wig right?
Nah, that was my real hair. Nah, that was a wig [Laughs].
I have friends dedicated to the waves all the way. That part was funny.
Let me tell you something. If I ever, ever, ever, ever do that to my hair, y’all need to pull me aside because my edges don’t do that. That means I done permed that thing about three times, and then relaxed it, and then dyed it. Mmm-mmm. Pull Khris Davis to the side and say, ‘Bruh, naw.’ But I did get dedicated to the waves. I did my own personal wave because Tracy had to have waves.
I’m not going to lie, these wigs I had were slipping. I was wearing this wave cap like crazy. I had a whole brush-my-hair regimen. I had to brush my hair with special shampoo, special conditioner. I had my morning time and nighttime pomade. I was in there. Taking my biotin for the hair strength. So I show it to Donald because I was proud of these waves. I was like ‘Aye, D, look at this.’ And he was like ‘Nah.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God. All this work, so much work.’ Then he showed me a picture of a guy on Instagram who had waves like Tracy and literally screamed like, ‘Oh! Oh hell naw! There’s no way that can happen to my hair.’
I started to freak out because I’m like, ‘Listen man, they’re going to fire me. They’re going to find a Puerto-Rican dude whose hair looks like that.’ Thankfully the ladies in [our] hair [team], they went and got this real-hair weave wig. They cut it down, edged it up and shaved it down. The barber came through and kind of colored my hair, sprayed it so it naturally looked like it meshed with my hair. I know it was so much work.
How’s your real hair now?
My real hair now? I like it natural. I have my good ol’ natural curls up top. At a certain point its either going to recede or go. I say you wear that sh** out for as long as you can because when it’s gone, it’s gone. You got to! I have friends that went bald at 22, I’m not lying.
I believe it. Where do you think Tracy gets his confidence from?
Being alive. For real! Think about this, Tracy is from the hood, he’s been to prison, and he’s still making it. It might not be what we think of ‘making it,’ but I’m out of prison. I’m having a good time. I’m at my homie’s crib. I’m going to talk to a few girls here and there. I’m ready to live my life. That kind of confidence gives him the ability to do what he had to do to get that job interview he knows he probably might not get, but who cares? What does he have to lose at that point? The only mistakes to make is to not try. Tracy knows that. At least he puts his best foot forward and he loves living his life and having fun. That’s where he gets it from.
“When you grow up in the hood, you grow up having to have some kind of confidence and some kind of belief in yourself.”
You have to come from somewhere. There was a saying when I was growing up—I’m from Camden, New Jersey—where the kids in the neighborhood would be like, ‘Don’t let somebody take your heart.’ If you did, then you became a target. So you always had to walk around with your head [held] high and your chest out like you got some heart. Even if you can’t beat up Joey down the street, you better stand like you can. No matter what you may think inside or what you may be feeling inside.
Confidence is everything. If you feel it, than everybody else feels it.
It’s everything. You can’t afford to walk around and not walk around confidently anymore. You can’t walk around downtrodden. No man, you’re a target. Stand up. That’s the least you could do in these circumstances. We know it’s heavy on your back. It’s heavy for everybody. Get up!
I noticed Tracy is out and about with the group. What can viewers expect from your character for the rest of the season?
What can they expect from Tracy? A lot of love. A lot of light. A lot of fun. A lot of smiles.
He’s one of the true, I call him the ‘Everyman.’ He’s a lot different than the other guys. He’s ‘every man.’ He’s a part of the group of people that nobody really cares to know, the person with the wave cap and the ‘beater walking around in the convenience store that we automatically judge. He’s the every man. He’s the blue collar guy. He’s that guy. But with that being said, he’s extremely loyal and fun to be around. He really does love life, Tracy does. I think our fans can expect to go on a really fun journey with him.