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New Orleans actor gets breakout role in new 'Top Gun'

Greg Davis loves his New Orleans roots, but after college at LSU, decided to follow the advice he gave his first grade students while teaching.

NEW ORLEANS — It was just four years ago this week, that a graduate from Edna Karr High School and LSU left for Los Angeles to see if he could make it as an actor.

And he did. Big time.

Today, Greg "Tarzan" Davis is in the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S. and has in interesting road to success.

“We have something different than the world, I call New Orleans its own country," Davis, 28, said. "We're like this little utopia right down, down in the bottom of the boot."

The actor loves his New Orleans roots, but after college at LSU, decided to follow the advice he gave his first grade students while teaching.

“Follow your dreams and everything, and I realized I wasn't following my dreams to be an actor," he said.

So, he took acting lessons from Jim Gleason.

“He was really driven, like he always showed up for class, and he was always prepared. His whole attitude is, ‘Nothing's going to stop me and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get where I want to go,’” remembers Jim Gleason of The Working Actor’s Studio with Jim Gleason, in Metairie.

“He understood how important it was to me, but he was also there for me whenever I needed him to call, and say like, ‘Hey, I need advice with this audition,’” Davis said.

He took a chance, moved to L.A., got some roles, then actor Tom Cruise wanted him for the sequel to the1986 hit,"Top Gun."

Davis was on a crowded public bus when the call came that he got the role of Coyote in "Top Gun: Maverick." Then he let it all out when he stepped off.

“I'm just going crazy, and I'm crying, and I'm screaming, and it's like, ‘We did it. Came to L.A., and got the first freakin' big job!’ I didn't know at the time it'd be the biggest movie of 2022," Davis said.

His former students say “yeah” and giggle when asked if it is cool to know movie star.

Baton Rouge eighth graders Kinley Thompson and Caroline Zernott give their first grade teacher "Mr. Davis" two thumbs up for his performance, but more importantly for being encouraging and supportive in their lives. He hung out with them during lunch.

When asked if other teachers normally did that, former student Caroline Zernott replied, “Not really. They would just watch us eat. He sat down and had conversations with us.”

Each student got a personal Christmas gift. He even drove an hour to watch a dance recital.

“He made me really excited that he was there, and he is like the best teacher ever for doing that, because like no one else would come all the way to New Orleans just to watch me dance,” said former student Kinley Thompson.

Davis remembers his mom swooning over actor Denzel Washington. Now he hopes his career is worthy of the same reaction.

“I wanted to melt hearts around the world. I wanted to make people cry. I wanted to make people laugh. and I wanted to do it globally not just at family functions," he said.

Davis says it's his love of Taekwondo that taught him discipline from his youth. He is a second-degree black belt.

Tom Cruise also picked him to be in his Mission Impossible movies as well.

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