DeMane Davis

DeMane Davis

Flo Ngala/Netflix
DeMane Davis

DeMane Davis on the set of The CW's Naomi.

Luan Agostinho
Fill 1
Fill 1
March 04, 2022
In The Mix

For DeMane Davis, Seeing Is Believing

Inspiration leads to creation for this industry pro, who is committed to paying it forward.

Did DeMane Davis — a former latchkey kid turned writer-producer-director — always believe she'd make it in this industry? "Yeah, but not this fast," she says, "and not with the people that I've been incredibly fortunate to have worked with — like Cicely Tyson and Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Blair Underwood and Tiffany Haddish. It's bananas."

Raised by a "dope-ass single mom" in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Davis was the youngest of five children. Norman Lear's Good Times, The Jeffersons and Sanford and Son were her babysitters, but the detective show Mannix — which costarred Gail Fisher, one of the first Black actresses to have a regular series role — was also on heavy rotation.

Davis didn't realize the impact Fisher had had on her until she wrote her application for a Sundance lab. "Seeing her be a secretary was how I knew I could be a secretary," she recalls. This informed a core goal: "to give other people of color, people who are marginalized, people who don't feel like their story has been told, give them the opportunity to see themselves... and see how they could potentially be anything."

Following her debut film, the 1997 festival favorite Black & White & Red All Over, Davis mostly worked in advertising — until the fateful day she received a "hey sis" DM from Ava DuVernay. That led to emails and eventually a directing gig on Queen Sugar. "Everyone on Ava's crew and the environment that she's created, they're all there to create and to help you create your vision," Davis says. They're also some of the most diverse sets in Hollywood. "It's absolutely incredible to turn around and see a Black female camera operator."

After serving as a producing director on Queen Sugar, Davis worked on shows including Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, Clarice and How to Get Away with Murder.

She recently signed an overall deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, under which she's re-teamed with DuVernay for The CW's adaptation of DC Entertainment's Naomi. Kaci Walfall (Army Wives, The Equalizer) stars as a small-town teen who discovers superpowers that take her deep into the multiverse. Davis, who is directing episodes and serves as a coexecutive producer and producing director, is excited "to have a teenage superhero, a young Black woman you literally watch grow."

Looking forward, she hopes to have several shows going at the same time while directing a film every other year. Like DuVernay, Davis wants to pay it forward and "bring along people who haven't always had the opportunity to be involved in the creative process."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #1, 2022, under the title, "Seeing and Believing."

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