Actor David Arquette, 51, known for his role as Dewey Riley in the Scream slasher films, plays a flamboyant magician in the quirky new Peacock show Mrs. Davis, about a nun fighting to stop artificial intelligence. He talks about his attempts to learn magic, dreams of working with his sisters, quest to bring back Bozo the Clown and the life changes he's making in his 50s.
1. Your new show, Mrs. Davis, is a head spinner. Break it down for us.
It's a real epic adventure, chock-full of pop-culture references and strange scientific knowledge. But it ultimately centers around the character Simone — who's played by Betty Gilpin — who goes on this quest to defeat Mrs. Davis, the most powerful AI on the planet [and] who has eliminated all the other search engines and social media and has achieved a sort of omni-powerful presence in the world. So it's this incredible adventure [Simone] goes on. It's comedic, but it's also very emotional. I play [Simone's] father. I'm a magician named Monty. I, along with my wife — Simone's mother's in the show, Celeste [played by Elizabeth Marvel] — we've traumatized her. And you learn about the bad parents we were.
2. Have you ever done any off-camera magic?
I'm a horrible magician, but I've tried it. I studied with two magicians — Frankie Foti and Brent Geris — for this role, but I'm pretty useless when it comes to magic. I learned how to cut a deck with one hand, some shuffling, some sleight of hand, some card tricks. I've never been very good at it [but] … I love magic. I love the costume.
3. Speaking of the costume, you've always had a unique fashion style. Has this changed in your 50s?
Oh, for sure. A lot of the stuff I wore way in the past, the real flashy stuff, was sort of a defense mechanism to be able to enter a room. … My style now is more appropriate to my age. … I like to dress to express myself or find joy.
4. Any other big changes in your 50s?
I've found a lot more calm in my life. I find it easier to really enjoy the wind or a nice walk and — the subtler — being able to sit. I've always been kind of ADD [attention deficit disorder]. So, being able to be calm and sort of understand a lot more about myself, that's nice. That is good.
5. How do you maintain a positive professional and co-parenting relationship with ex-wife Courtney [Arquette and actress Courtney Cox have a 19-year-old daughter, Coco]?
The older I get, the more it becomes apparent that arguing, for sake of arguing, is just such a waste of time. You can obviously have boundaries, and you have to have people respect them, and if they don't, then you can remove yourself from that situation. But I think it's important, especially if you're co-parenting with somebody, to be kind and set up that it's all about the kids, ultimately, and that's really what matters. So not to get into the trap of fighting with lawyers and this and that, and then respecting. I'm in a beautiful marriage now [with Christina McLarty Arquette]. We have two kids. My wife's wonderful about being an incredible stepmom and respectful of everything. Everybody works together. We worked out all of our stuff in the past. We got to a great place.
6. Do your sisters and fellow actors, Rosanna and Patricia, ever give you professional advice?
They're incredible. I call them, just sort of go over things. I've talked to my sisters about, “Do you ever go into a role and just doubt yourself?” They're like, “Every time.” On [Mrs. Davis], I had gotten [my role] from an audition that I sent in online. So I showed up on set, and I was not really sure if they liked me or not, or what my character was. So the first day of rehearsal, I was really doubting myself and worried about it. And then the second day, when we came back to shoot it, I had taken the notes that the director had given me and applied them. When we did it, she was really happy with it. So, it gave me a lot of confidence.
7. Would you like to work together on a project with your siblings?
That's a dream of mine — to work opposite my siblings. There's a really magical thing when friends work together, or family members or siblings. There's just a natural element. You know things about each other. You can tap into stuff that you don't even have to talk about.
8. Speaking of dream projects, you recently bought the rights to the Bozo the Clown character. What's that dream about?
To spread joy and happiness, laughter and silliness. … To help bring kind clowns back. [Our production team is] developing a feature film right now, and we're editing a documentary. It's been a fun adventure. There's a lot to learn. Clowning is really beautiful. We've been working with a charity called Healthy Humor — they [coordinate specially trained] clowns that go into hospitals throughout the U.S. [to entertain patients]. … We've been raising awareness about the incredible work they do. ... It's about spreading that kind of joy.
9. Are you playing Bozo?
Of course! Yes. There's a lot of different Bozos. I am also a Bozo. We've announced Jozo Bozo, the first female Bozo the Clown. At one point, there were over 200 Bozos throughout the world, official Bozos. We want to replicate that model.
10. You've also been a professional wrestler. Are Bozo and Ronald McDonald going to duke it out?
Not anymore. I was in a fight back in the day with Ronald, but I think we're all on good terms now. Willard Scott was one of the original Bozo the Clowns. He also helped develop Ronald McDonald. So you put the pieces together. He's not opposed to wrestling, but he doesn't like hitting people. He will use pies and a seltzer bottle. So there's options there.
11. How have your career goals changed as you've aged?
Acting is this weird profession [and] you have to be really selective at a certain point in your career to do things that you want to spend time on — things you really love and believe in. So I'm being a little more selective now. I used to do a lot more independent films and give first-time directors a chance, and I'm still willing to do that, but there's a lot that comes with that. … It's about staying true to yourself, staying in touch with yourself and not getting too full of yourself. It's this weird balance where you have to have slight narcissism and also be humble. You have to find this sweet spot so you won't get pushed around.
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