Dido's Love: John Davinier
When Dido Belle first meets the legal apprentice John Davinier, she is turned off by his
unrefined behavior, but that disinterest soon turns to a deep, life altering passion. To play the film's
spirited version of Davinier, in all his zealous idealism, the filmmakers cast rising young actor Sam
Reid, who recently played Tolbert McCoy in the award-winning "Hatfields & McCoys" mini-series
and will be seen this year in THE RAILWAY MAN and SERENA.
Reid was intrigued by how the filmmakers had envisioned Davinier, who left behind little
history aside from his marriage certificate to Dido Belle. "They created John as a kind of early
human rights activist," he notes.
He also loved that that even as Davinier chases Dido, he is trying to impress his idol Lord
Mansfield. Says Reid, "When we meet him, he wants to be Lord Mansfield. Although John is a little
rambunctious, I think Mansfield recognizes his passion for humanity and his passion for the law. But
Mansfield is more pragmatic. John wants to change the world, but he's very emotional and he doesn't
yet have a good grasp on how to use the law to do that, which Mansfield does."
Ultimately the two men clash, both over the Zong slave ship case and Dido. Indeed when
Davinier and Lord Mansfield fail to see eye to eye, Dido becomes more and more attracted to this
obstinate but principled man. Says Asante, "She starts to move in John's world -- and John's is a
world of intellectuals and revolutionaries -- people who want to make an impact."
Asante says she wanted to emphasize the similarities in the two men's personalities. "It was
very important for me that John be a mirror image of Lord Mansfield," she says, "John Davinier is
really a reminder to Lord Mansfield of who he used to be before he became a part of the
establishment. They have great similarities and that's why they love Dido, and that's why Dido is able
to love them both."
Reid observes that Davinier's love for Dido takes the character by surprise. "They don't
initially get on," he points out. "They're both at a moment in their lives where they're so bullheaded
about their beliefs, that they don't understand each other. It's only through talking about the Zong trial
that they begin to see eye-to-eye and start to fall in love."
He goes on: "But their love story becomes about pure human emotion. In their hearts, it
doesn't have anything to do with social standing or race -- it's something deeply visceral. The way
Gugu plays Dido there is both a powerful strength and an amazing vulnerability to her that made it
easy to fall in love with her."
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