TOMMY DAVIDSON wasn't really irritated, but he wasn't exactly pleased when a reporter referred to a story that appeared in Essence magazine.
The writer of the piece had referred to him as ''brooding, deadpan and driven.''
''And I'm not,'' he said. ''Do you think I am?''
No, we said, we didn't, and that was the truth because Davidson, talking to the press at the Hard Rock Cafe in Washington, was certainly not brooding or deadpan, and driven is hardly the word you'd use to describe him.
But he is ambitious, self-assured and talented.
Davidson, who admits only to being ''twentysomething,'' was in Washington to talk about his new film, ''Strictly Business.'' It opens here tomorrow.
A regular on ''In Living Color,'' a Fox network comedy show, Davidson plays a mail clerk in the film. He wants to make it to the top. He is also helpful to one of the executives, a man who wants to meet a woman the clerk knows.
Davidson is pleased with the film. He says he would like to see it referred to as just a movie, rather than a ''black'' movie.
''It's not 'black,' and it's not 'white','' he said. ''There is very little about color in it.''
A film that plays like a variation on ''How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying'' (or, more recently, ''The Secret of My Success''), ''Strictly Business'' does include one and a half derogatory references to race (one word is not completed), but they weren't Davidson's suggestions.
''I wish they had left that out,'' he said. ''It really isn't necessary to the film.''
Davidson got his start when he did a 10-minute stand-up routine in a bar in Washington. Raised in a Washington suburb and then Takoma Park, he had been playing everywhere ''with one band after another,'' and one night, when one of the groups took a 10-minute break, the leader, a friend, suggested that Davidson get up and do stand-up. ''You're funny,'' he said. ''Why don't you do it?''
''I did, the audience liked me, and from then on, I decided I would do comedy,'' said Davidson.
He was working in a club in Los Angeles when Keenen Ivory Wayans saw him. Wayans is the guiding talent behind ''In Living Color,'' and he asked Davidson to join him on the show.
''It took a couple of years for him to call me, but he must have liked what he saw,'' said Davidson.
The offer came along at the right time. ''I had done a television pilot of 'Coming to America' for Eddie Murphy, I had a deal going with the Disney Studios, and the producers of 'Murphy Brown' wanted to write me into the show,'' he said.
''I said no to 'Murphy Brown' because I wanted to go with Disney, then the Disney deal fell through, the pilot didn't sell, and the 'Murphy Brown' opportunity had passed. That was when 'In Living Color' came along,'' he said.
''It's probably the best thing I've done. I do so many roles, I can't be typecast''
The ''Strictly Business'' producers were aware of Davidson's talent, so when they decided to do their film, asked him to play one of the leads.
Has it all been luck?
''I don't think so,'' said Davidson. ''Opportunity needs preparation. If you're in there working, things happen. You can call it luck if you want to, but I think it's more than that.''
He realizes that ''Strictly Business'' marks a change in the direction the black-oriented films are moving. '' 'New Jack City' and 'Boyz 'N the Hood' are realities, but movies like 'Strictly Business' are realities, too,'' he said.
'' 'Strictly Business' is about a young black man who is learning about himself, and that applies to a lot of young black men, those who are trying to find jobs,'' he said. ''This film gives them a good look at that situation.''
He continues to do club and concert dates and says he doesn't think that will stop. ''I'd like to continue doing movies, clubs, concert halls and television. I like something about each one,'' he said.
He writes all his own material. ''Everything that comes out of my mouth is mine,'' he said.
Has he ever bombed?
''Well, that depends on what you mean by bombing,'' said Davidson, who, if nothing else, thinks positive. ''I don't think I have ever bombed, because there was always someone laughing.''
The subject of criticism came up. Asked if critics should be kind to films written by blacks and starring blacks, he said, ''Absolutely not. All that does is promote mediocrity.''
His family, of course, is quite proud of him. ''They're very supportive,'' he said. ''They have been from the start.''