Jonathan Daviss Reveals His Personal Connection To Pope's Outer Banks Season 2 Story
"I was pulling from real emotions that I really felt. I was pulling from a place I'd really been in."
Outer Banks might be full of romance, adventure, and tomfoolery, but the second installment of the Netflix hit steered the conversation in a meaningful direction. Specifically, Season 2 — which released on July 30 — explored modern-day ramifications of slavery and racism in-depth through one of its main characters, Pope (Jonathan Daviss). And it turns out, Pope's Outer Banks Season 2 story was more personal for Daviss than anyone could have imagined.
Spoiler alert: This post includes details from Season 2 of Outer Banks. Daviss’ character, Pope, had a major life-changing revelation in Season 2. After learning he was actually related to the late Denmark Tanney (who was formerly enslaved and was able to buy his freedom), it quickly became clear Pope’s family wasn’t just a bunch of Pogues. Instead, they were descendants of some seriously wealthy — and history-making — people. In fact, Tanney was not only the owner of the Royal Merchant gold (which the Pogues learned in Season 1), but also the object of Season 2’s treasure hunt, the Cross of Santo Domingo.
Despite being able to buy his freedom, Tanney’s life ended in tragedy. After Tanney was denied the ability to buy his wife’s freedom from slavery, she attempted to escape. While fleeing, she was killed. And then, when Tanney tried to collect her body in order to give her a proper burial, he was lynched.
If seeing Pope learn about Tanney’s death and the injustice his ancestors faced was extremely emotional, then portraying it was on a whole different level. In an interview with Elite Daily, Daviss reveals he could relate to his on-screen counterpart extremely well, which made the entire plot all the more personal for him.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: What was your reaction when you found out about Pope's connection to Denmark Tanney and the treasure?
Jonathan Daviss: Oh, I was hyped. That's such a cool way to make it personal for all the characters. It was a really cool experience to be able to read [it and say], “Wow, they're really getting serious with what they want to do with these characters and how personal they want to make the story.” And the more personal it is, the more invested you are.
ED: Pope’s experience learning about his family was extremely emotional. What was it like for you to portray that?
JD: It was something the writers called me about before we even got to work on the season. They picked my brain about my personal life and I let them know about my history. I’m [connected] to Pope in the sense that my great-great-grandfather was lynched. I didn't know about that until recently, and that gets directly translated into this season with Pope and finding out about his ancestry. It hit so close to home for me because of that. I was pulling from real emotions that I really felt. I was pulling from a place I'd really been in.
ED: Was it difficult to pull from your own experiences in that way?
JD: It came at the perfect time. During summer , the Black Lives Matter movement [gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd], and I went to a couple of different BLM protests. Coming straight off of that into shooting a show that was tackling subject matter like this — it was a lot to take on. Like, that anger was there. It's just this emotional thing where you want to cry, but there's this thing in you that won't let you cry. As a Black man in our community, you’ve got to have that stoicism there. All that is emotionally hitting him, but it's also motivating him to find this cross. Being able to tackle those themes this year and have it come from a very, very real place was something that not a lot of actors get to do all the time. And it was cool for me to be able to do it.
ED: Thanks so much for sharing that. Aside from that important aspect of Pope’s story, what was your favorite Season 2 scene to film?
JD: The moment when we're all in Charleston, [and] we see each other for the first time. We really hadn't been working together since we got back, because [Chase Stokes and Madelyn Cline] had no scenes with us. So we saw each other around, but we hadn't been in full Pogue costume or had our day together to be like, “We're back.” So that was the first time we started shooting with each other [in Season 2]. And when we got around that corner — that moment we met — like, I swear, we saw each other and I got chills. I was like, “Wow, this feels real. We're all working together again. We're making a Season 2.” We love each other. We're friends like that, and all those reactions are real.
ED: What was the hardest scene to shoot?
JD: A lot of the sequences in the swamp with the gator. Like, you were running through the swamp in the middle of nowhere, and the water is cold, and it's in your face. That sequence was a pretty tough day; it was all day. Other than that, the day we were running from the police. That day was physically tough, running through brush and swimming. We swam that leg at least three times and then you get out the water and you're, like, dripping wet and the wind is blowing [but] you've got to act like it's summer.
ED: What about the scene when you’re literally climbing rafters and get stung by wasps. Was it challenging?
JD: All the wasps were fake, obviously. They didn't have a wasp wrangler on set to come in — but even when we go into that whole sequence after, it’s that chaotic energy of the Pogues. I've never been in anaphylaxis, and believe it or not, I've actually never been stung by a wasp or a bee. I don't know if they just like me, or if I’m just the luckiest person of all time, but it’s never happened to me. I’m going to jinx that. I’m going to get stung like, tomorrow.
ED: How did you prepare for the intense fight scene between Pope and Rafe at the end of Episode 9?
JD: Drew [Starkey, who plays Rafe] is one of my favorite people, and we are very like-minded when it comes to stuff like this. But because our characters are rivals, we barely work together. So we were like, “Hey, we finally got a moment. We want maximum mud. We want maximum struggle. We want the blood.” We wanted that fight to be like somebody is going to have to die for them to get out. In the original [script], there was dialogue. I was supposed to be like, “You took the cross from me.” But we were like, “What if they were just silent?” It was one of my favorite sequences to film because it was so raw. We had so much input.
ED: Where do Pope and Kiara stand at the end of Season 2? Is there hope for them to get back together?
JD: At the end of Season 2, they’re kind of like: “We tried it really quick, but right now, I think it's best for us to be friends.” I think the friendship right now is more important. There are bigger things going on. But I guess it just depends. We'll see. I think they got together [in] the first season because they were grieving. You don't want the reason you get together to be because you had common grief. You want to be together because you both like each other. You've got to step back and be like, “Maybe we're right for each other, and that could happen later.” Or it could be like, “Yeah, we work better as friends.” I guess only time will tell.
ED: What do you think will happen next if Outer Banks is renewed for Season 3?
JD: I don't even know. The writers get bigger and bigger every episode, so I could only imagine what they have planned for us in Season 3. I'm like, “Do I even theorize anymore, or do I just let it wash over me?” The twists are so much cooler when they're organic, and I had no idea some of the stuff that was going to happen until it was literally happening. So I'm hoping that's what I feel when I read Season 3 — if we get [a third season], I'm hoping that's what I read.
ED: College was originally a big deal for Pope, but now he's dealing with some other stuff, like being stuck on an island. Do you think he'll end up going off to college?
JD: At this point, the only way Pope's going to college is when he gets that cross and pays his way. Pope wanted to be a coroner, but I feel like that was almost a thing of like, “I'm different.” I'm sure he wanted to study and go to school, but it's the adventure of it that’s important to him. And then all of a sudden, he finds out he can do so many more things. He’s stronger than he thinks he is. He's smarter than he thinks he is. And he just has to apply himself in that way. So I'm interested to see Pope fully give in. Like, “If we're going to be treasure hunters, let's be treasure hunters.” I think whatever [the Pogues] decide to do, if they do it together, it'll be awesome.
ED: What’s one OBX theory you hope eventually comes true?
JD: I hope, eventually, to get a win. I hope [the Pogues] come out with something, you know? I hope it’s some sort of treasure or something comes to them in the end. If not, [I hope] they just get to live happily ever after. That's what I really hope.
Outer Banks Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.