Recently, we had the opportunity to chat with 17-year-old actor David (pronounced Dah-veed) Mazouz, who may be best known as young Bruce Wayne on the hit Fox TV series, Gotham, about a new promo video that he starred in for the "Brake It Down" campaign, a national road safety effort brought to us by Chevrolet and DoSomething.org. Mazouz was the perfect choice for the PSA not only because of his comedic skills but because he happens to be a semi-new driver as well! Mazouz has also had roles on the TV shows Touch, Major Crimes, Criminal Minds, The Office, Mike & Molly, has starred in the movies Dear Dumb Diary, The Darkness and Incarnate as well as lending his vocal talents to Family Guy so our exclusive interview with him was a great chance to discuss the safe driving campaign as well as his experience working on so many popular movies and TV shows.
TheThings (TH): Thanks so much for chatting with us today, David. How did you get involved with "Brake It Down," the national safe driving campaign from DoSomething.org and Chevrolet?
David Mazouz (DM): They reached out to me and my mom. DoSomething and Chevy partnered up on it and they gave me three options of what I wanted to do in the campaign. One of them would have been me riding around in this Batmobile around my room pretending that I was Batman and you’d really think I’m Batman the way it would have been shot would have looked cool and then you’d hear my mom in the background screaming, “David, you’re late for school!” something like that and then it’s kind of like flash to reality and it’s me riding around in a mini-car in my room. Then there was the one that I did, the one that I picked and the third option… because the Brake It Down campaign includes a quiz about your best friend on that link, they would have had me do a one-minute rapid-fire quiz about my best friend. But I thought that the one that I picked would have been the most entertaining, the most fun to do, funny and I thought it would also illustrate the kinds of bad drivers on the road and that’s the first step in preventing bad driving.
TH: In the promo video for the campaign, you star as the “four people you’re likely to encounter on the road”, The Late Date and The Daredevil who are drivers and The Chatty Cathy and The Karaoke Champ who are passengers. Did you come up with the idea for these characters and if so, were they based on personal experience?
DM: No, I didn’t. I don’t know where they based them off of. I have a little piece of all four of them in me. The Karaoke Champ, absolutely. You see on the video, I have an awful voice but I love to sing especially when it’s my song, the song I love so I definitely do that and it definitely can distract me from the road especially when I’m driving. I feel like there’s a little Daredevil in all of us. If it’s late at night and there’s nobody around, what’s the harm in going 10 miles over the speed limit just for the thrill? There’s the Late Date, that’s probably the most relatable. Everybody’s late for something always but when that happens, I haven’t looked at the statistics on it but now that I’m thinking about it, if there was a survey of the percentage of accidents that happened, I can probably guarantee that the majority happened because somebody was late rushing for something and wasn’t paying close attention to the road. Chatty Cathy was the only one in the video that was unscripted. For that one, they just said, “Talk about whatever you want.” As I was there before we started shooting, I was thinking, what do I know that’s random? I started doing research, I read a Wikipedia article and started talking about random stuff. I would say that one is probably the least relatable because not everyone has that kind of personality. I’m that way if I’m in the mood to be that way. But like I said, I think there is a little bit of them in everybody and that’s kind of why they chose those four personalities.
TH: Which of these personalities do you personally feel is the most dangerous on the road?
DM: Probably the Daredevil. If somebody’s trying to do a wheelie in an SUV like my character was, it’s probably going to end really badly and on a serious note… well, I don’t think anyone’s going to try to do a wheelie in an SUV but you know what I mean, anything along those lines, people who really try to risk and don’t have safety as their number one priority as a driver and also just for no good reason, just to have a thrill… because everybody else is kind of driving unsafely for another reason. The Late Date, obviously it’s still not okay, but he was trying to get somewhere. The Karaoke Champ was distracted because he was singing along to music. The Chatty Cathy, again, was also just distracted. But with the Daredevil, he’s driving unsafely just to drive unsafely and I think that’s the most dangerous of all.
TH: Why did you feel the importance of lending yourself to this campaign/what was it about this campaign that drew you to it? Does it hold a special interest for you?
DM: Absolutely. I just started driving. I hadn’t even had my car yet when we did the campaign. I think I got my license maybe two months before that so I just started driving. I was driving pretty infrequently but I’m a new driver so I’m super careful on the road and I’m very aware, my parents made sure that I’m very aware of all of the possible dangers that are [due to] not just me as a new driver but as everybody brings to the road. You never know if you’re going to encounter somebody who is one of those four personalities to an extreme and is driving unsafely on the freeway. The day after we did the campaign, I was driving up in Santa Barbara with my mom and my dad. My mom was driving and we were on the freeway and there was a car that was in our right lane that all of a sudden just swerved right in front of us for absolutely no reason and my mom, thank God, had good reflexes and avoided it. She always says, ‘I’m not worried about your driving when I worry about you driving, I worry about people like that.’ You have to have good reflexes, you have to know how to drive defensively. I think the campaign, it was geared toward teenagers, it was geared toward people like me, new drivers. When you first start driving, you can get very arrogant and think you’re a good driver immediately. This promo was just to say, ‘Hey, teenage drivers, I know you think you know how to drive better than anybody else but just be careful, please just be careful. Don’t put your life, your friends’ lives or any strangers’ lives at risk if it’s unnecessary. ‘
TH: Why is it important for celebrities to speak about important issues like this?
DM: Well because we have - calling myself a celebrity is a little weird - because we have an audience, I guess. And I explained why this specific cause is important to me so if you have a cause that’s important to you and you have an audience that listens to you then talk about it and promote it and get people to know because it’s simple - they’ll listen.
TH:Who is the target audience for this campaign?
DM: It does lend itself to everybody, any driver can relate to it and honestly, not just drivers. I think that was kind of the point of making two of the personalities passengers. I think in the original concept there was going to be some personalities for pedestrians also. I don’t know what happened but it just didn’t pan out in the final script. It’s everybody’s job who is near or around a car to be involved in road safety, not just drivers so it applies to everybody. Everybody can relate to it and can get something from it whether or not they even drive.
TH: Traditionally, PSAs were serious in nature. Your promo video is hilarious. Do you think that the target audience responds better/will pay more attention to comedy?
DM: Yeah, I do. As I said, it’s targeted toward teenagers and unfortunately, teenagers, we’re not known to have the best attention span so if there’s something that makes us laugh and entertains us, I think we’re more likely to pay attention to it and listen to its message than something more serious.
TH: Playing Bruce Wayne in the TV series, Gotham obviously requires you to play a serious role but you also seem so at home in the promo video. Do you have a preference of comedy or drama or do you enjoy them equally?
DM: I enjoy them equally. I just haven’t gotten to do as much comedy but I love doing comedy. I did an episode of Mike & Molly which was my third theatrical thing ever when I was 9 and I still remember it so vividly, it was so much fun and I don’t have a good memory, I don’t remember a lot of things so that’s saying a lot. It was really a fantastic experience. Even more so, I did an episode of The Office around the same time, I think I was still 9, the same year and that was so much fun. We did a lot of improv. I was working with Rainn Wilson a lot and those guys are so nice and so funny. It was a dream team for sure. I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh but I would say that my drama skills are probably more fine-tuned than my comedic skills just because I’ve been on Gotham like you said, it’s very serious, for five years and I was on Touch for two years before that and I’ve done a lot of dramatic movies. It’s just a muscle and I’ve gotten to work it more. But I would love to do comedy. I love it. I don’t think I could pick one over the other. This campaign was really fun to do because I hadn’t done it in so long. It was nice to get that comedic break.
TH: Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you’re involved in?
DM: Nothing is set yet. I’m still doing Gotham which will premiere sometime probably in 2019. After Gotham, who knows? Only the future will see. There’s a couple things in the works but nothing that I can talk about because it’s not official. Once it becomes official, I’ll be sure to let you know.
TH: Any other campaigns that you’re working with?
DM: Not right now but that could change tomorrow.
TH: Finally, can you tell our readers what your favorite book is?
DM: The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka but I think it's really Harry Potter or most things by Stephen King [like] Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption.
TH: David, thank you so much for your time. We really appreciate it. I know that our readers are really going to enjoy this article and learning about the Brake It Down campaign.
DM: Thank you.
Readers, you can take the quiz for yourself by texting BRAKE to 38383 between June 15th and September 15th and enter to win a $5,000 scholarship from DoSomething and Chevrolet. The "Brake It Down" quiz is designed to question the quiz-taker about their friends' on-the-road habits. Based on the answers, customized safety tips will be provided.