Although Top Gun 2 features some iconic returns — like Tom Cruise as Maverick and Val Kilmer as Iceman — there is an exciting troupe of brand new Top Gun graduates all ready to be trained up and make a name for themselves as part of the most elite Naval airforce in the world. Among those new recruits are Coyote, Fanboy, and Payback: played by Greg ‘Tarzan’ Davis, Danny Ramirez, and Jay Ellis respectively.
Greg Davis was a primary school teacher before deciding acting was his true passion: swapping pencils for pushups as he stars alongside Tom Cruise not just in Top Gun: Maverick, but in the upcoming Mission Impossible movie. Jay Ellis pivoted from being a TV heartthrob — most recently playing the philandering Lawrence Walker in HBO drama series Insecure — to soaring in F-8s as part of Tom Cruise’s intensive training regime for the action movie.
As for Danny Ramirez, this isn’t his first time playing a character involved with aircrafts — he starred as Joaquin Torres, US Air Force officer and confidante of Sam Wilson in MCU series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Not only that, but he made history in Top Gun 2 as the first Latinx Top Gun pilot. As the heart of the movie and potential future of the franchise, The Digital Fix sat down with Greg, Danny, and Jay to find out more about their experience.
The Digital Fix: How did you overcome the pressure that comes with joining the next chapter of such a beloved movie?
Jay Ellis: Tom told us very early on that we’re not trying to recreate anything. You know, Tarzan can tell the story about anybody, but we’re not trying to recreate the original film.
Danny Ramirez: [To Ellis] Yeah, he was your champion!
Greg ‘Tarzan’ Davis: I was trying to be Iceman initially, I was just, like, chomping at everybody [imitates chomping]. But Tom was like, ‘Hold on, wait buddy. No, no, no, don’t do that.’ He let us know that we’re not trying to replicate their original, we’re just trying to make it our own.
And I think with that understanding and validation — he’s saying he picked us for this reason — we realised that we can handle it. It was like, ‘Ok, yeah, I guess we can fall into our characters.’ And I think we did a great job at doing that.
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Danny Ramirez: The pressure of what we actually were capturing kind of went away when it was like, ‘Oh, wait, no one’s ever done this in film history.’ So we’re already stepping into a place that the first one didn’t even step into. So I think knowing that just gave us such solid ground to be like, ‘We’re doing something so new.’
You can’t find the comparison. And the other film to be like, Oh, this is the space we’re kind of living in, we’re living in a space that just has never been before. So that kind of took away that pressure, because what we’re doing is unique.
TDF: Danny said that there’s things that are done in this movie that have never been done in film history. Would you guys be able to expand on that?
JE: There are seven actors who have shot a movie in the back of an F-8 [“That’s us!” Danny excitedly interjects] and they’re all in the same movie that comes out at the end of that month.
DR: Maybe there’s one more [actor] that has experienced G forces during filming. It’s just that the technology met the story at such a point of view, or point of intersection, that this story was finally able to be told in the way it’s supposed to, because Claudia Miranda went to Sony to develop these cameras to put in the cockpit.
Not only did he put one in there, he put six. So the moment you put six in there, it makes it a project that’s ambitious, feasible. And I think Tom says it all the time. Like, he was just waiting for the story to be in the right place with technology to be able to tell it.
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JE: I am sure there are plenty of folks who tried to get down to make this movie along the way, and when [Tom] was like, ‘The only way I’ll do it is if actors are in the back of the planes,’ I’m sure most of them were like, ‘You’re never gonna get actors in the back of planes.’ And yet, he was able to get us there.
DR: So, we’re walking around a normal set and you got a PA over your shoulder because they don’t want you to like put your finger in a power socket, let would trusting us with like an ejection seat handle that all it takes us 15 pounds and they’re 60 G’s up in the air.
So I think that was a big point of emphasis as to what makes this special. Tom was able to pull off going to a studio and be like, ‘Let’s take Jay up there, let’s take Tarzan, Danny Ramirez, Miles Teller, Glen Powell, Monica Barbaro…’
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TDF: If there was a Top Gun 3, where would you like to see your characters go?
JE: It’s back to what Danny said earlier. Part of it is a question of, how do you advance the filmmaking and the storytelling? So I think it’s twofold. I think, for me, it feels like the flight sequences, whatever those may be, would have the top what we’re doing now, which was intense.
We have pilots who had never done some of the stuff that we were capturing for the movie, like for some of them, it was their first time not necessarily doing manoeuvres but flying in certain places or at certain heights and certain speeds and certain heights and things like that. And so, you know, I think of how would you push, folks, you know, for the next one and story wise, then where do you go?
GTD: Okay, okay, so here is just a wild idea. Just throwing it out there. So if there was a Top Gun 3, right, and we all have our families now, and we all went and did our things and all of a sudden, we get this call — a magic phone and I’m in a garage, fixing my car, and then there’s a freeze frame of Jay throwing his kid in mid-air.
DR: And then you get a voiceover like, “So you might be wondering how we got here. We’re actually in space.”
GTD: And in a Top Gun 3, we aren’t just in the Armed Forces, we’re fighting aliens that show up!
Top Gun 2 soars into cinemas on May 25 in the UK and May 27 in the US.