‘The King of Staten Island’ Star Pete Davidson Shares How the Film Helped Him Move On from His Father’s Death

The death of Pete Davidson’s father has been a central issue in a lot of his work. He discusses his father in his standup comedy and on Saturday Night Live. In his movie The King of Staten Island, he plays a character who lost his father at age seven, just like the real Davidson did. In the movie, it was a standard fire. Davidson’s father responded to the Twin Towers on 9/11.

L-R: Alexis Rae Forlenza, Pete Davidson, Luke David Blumm | Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures

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Davidson was on NPR’s Fresh Air Podcast with Terry Gross on June 11 discussing The King of Staten Island. He explained how making the movie left him ready to move on from the tragedy of his childhood. The King of Staten Island is now available for rent on major VOD services. 

‘The King of Staten Island’ reflects Pete Davidson’s earlier view of firemen

The King of Staten Island stars Davidson as Scott, a man who resents his father for being a fireman, because he left Scott behind. He even says firemen shouldn’t have families because of just this possibility. Davidson revealed he once thought that too.

I think initially when I was little and that happened to me, I definitely felt that maybe it wasn’t a job for people who had families because of the consequences that could happen if, God forbid, you passed away on the job. As I got to meet with these firemen and my dad’s friends and just see how much they really loved what they were doing and the sacrifices that they were making and how important that job actually is, it made me feel differently towards it and now I think a lot differently.

Pete Davidson, Fresh Air podcast, 6/11/2020

Davidson definitely supports firemen having families now. 

King of Staten Island: Maude Apatow and Pete Davidson
Maude Apatow and Pete Davidson | Mary Cybulski/Lloyd Bishop/Universal Pictures

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“I just think that it’s just a necessary selfless job to have,” Davidson said, getting choked up. “I just think it’s a really important, necessary job and we’re lucky to have people that are willing to do that. They’re all heroes.”

Pete Davidson dealt with death at an early age

Like Scott in The King of Staten Island, Davidson definitely felt like seven was quite young to face a major death in his life. It definitely stuck with him in a way that other young people maybe don’t think about mortality.

King of Staten Island den
L-R: Moises Arias, Ricky Velez, Pete Davidson | Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures

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“I think usually a kid learns about death in high school,” Davidson said. “Usually there’s a kid in high school that passes away unfortunately and you’re a little older and able to deal with it. You’re able to grieve with people. I was only seven so it was such a shock. To have it be somebody so close to me, I think it really taught me that life is certainly precious and nobody has anything guaranteed.”

Losing his father made Pete Davidson more vulnerable

Davidson has spoken out about suicidal thoughts and self-harm before The King of Staten Island. He explained the unique way losing his father manifested in such thoughts.

“Being suicidal is just I always wanted to be with my dad so that’s where those thoughts come from,” Davidson said. “I really loved the guy and I just wanted to hang with him. I think that’s where they come from.”

‘The King of Staten Island’ was instrumental in the healing process

Making such an autobiographical film and becoming closer with his father’s colleagues made The King of Staten Island a healing project for Davidson. He said he is in a better place now that he’s made the film.

King of Staten Island: Pete Davidson
Pete Davidson | Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures

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“This was the most healthy experience I think I possibly could’ve had,” Davidson said. “It’s really a part of my life that I’m ready to move on from. I think this was the perfect thing for it. I think it’s time that I can move on from it.”

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.