Stranger Things Star Sherman Augustus On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in TV and Film
… For me, it is helping kids who are less fortunate and may be limited by their physical abilities. We as a society have a way of helping the older adults who have some sort of handicap, but we tend to forget about the younger folks. I have enjoyed spending my time and energy focusing on ways that I could help in that realm, and I believe having something outside of acting to keep yourself busy is important. I’ll never forget the day a friend told me “you might be going through a hard time, but look to those who might not have as much and what they are doing through it all” and that still resonates with me to this day.
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sherman Augustus. Sherman stars as Lt. Col. Sullivan on the Emmy-winning drama “Stranger Things” (Netflix). Prior to joining the show for Season 4, Sherman starred on the cult-fave AMC sci-fi martial arts series “Into the Badlands”.
Sherman, thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to get to know a bit about your origin story. Can you tell us about your childhood, and what led you to the various stages in your career including becoming an NFL player and then an actor?
Growing up, I had a lot of relatives in the business, so I just figured I was going to end up in the industry as well. I was just unsure if it was going to be as an actor, director, or filmmaker. I love film and have since I was a child, especially the older movies from the 1940s and 50s so the idea of working in that realm was always appealing to me.
Since I grew up in Los Angeles, I had a lot of issues with asthma due to the smog, and with my family being from the South, they felt the best way for a child to overcome a sickness was through involvement in sports.
Because of this, I began my football journey at a young age playing flag football, which turned into Pop Warner, and I just kept going all the way through high school and college until I was drafted into the NFL and played for the San Diego Chargers (now the Los Angeles Chargers) and Minnesota Vikings. While that time of my life was amazing, and I did achieve the dream I set out to do, it began to feel repetitive and I needed a change. One day after having knee surgery, I woke up and thought to myself ‘I’m tired of pretending to be an athlete, I’m going to pretend to be an actor instead.’
While the transition from an NFL player to an actor wasn’t that easy per se, I was lucky enough to have met some people prior in life including actor Jimmy Bridges (actor Todd Bridges’ older brother) whose father James Bridges, Sr. was a talent agent. With this connection, I was able to start in small roles like commercials, while I began attending classes and learning the trade.
I imagine you have some fascinating stories. Can you share with us some of the most interesting stories that have happened to you since you began your career?
The story that I like to tell when asked this question is the time I had an audition for Colors directed by Dennis Hopper and starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall. It was going to be my first movie role, so the night before the audition, I watched Blue Velvet and was taken aback by Hopper’s character Frank. The next day, I’m sitting in the waiting room, and Hopper himself walks in and starts talking to me. The next thing I know, I’m in the room with him and he was so gracious and helpful with pointers that assisted me in being able to land that role.
Over my career, I have been blessed to work with some incredible actors including Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt amongst others, and had projects work out for me at the right time. I believe that all of those characters that I have played, chose me, all the way back to Colors, which sometimes feels rare due to all the rejection in the industry.
It has been said that sometimes the best teachers are the mistakes we make. Do you have any story of an interesting mistake you made and the lesson you learned from it?
There are only four living rooms in Hollywood, so be careful of what you say! I was working on the set of Virus with producer Gale Anne Hurd and was invited to her house for the screening. After the screening was over, I was talking with some people. I wasn’t too happy with my agents at the time, so I made a few comments about them. The next morning I woke up to an angry phone call from my agents asking if I wanted to stop working together. I should have remembered that my first acting teacher was very adamant that you should be careful what you say because news travels fast in this business. I think this is true for most industries because it was the same way in the NFL. You shouldn’t say anything about coaches, because by the time it comes back to you, it’s just an awful experience and you can be the one losing your job, not them.
You have been involved with a lot of cool projects. Can you share with our readers some of the interesting projects that you’re working on now and what you see yourself working on in the future?
I recently had a couple of projects greenlit by Mike Richardson who was a producer of Virus, and also runs Dark Horse Comics and Dark Horse Pictures for a film called The Hero William Noble which is based on what will first be a graphic novel turned live-action. I’m also going to be working on the new film The Daughters of Django.
Our readers know that you will be on the fourth season of Stranger Things, and as you know, the show is a cultural phenomenon. What do you think is the reason behind the popularity of Stranger Things?
The acting and writing. The Duffer brothers have done such an amazing job. I think the way the show has been laid out, the horror, the suspense, the relationships of the characters, it all just works together in such a seamless way.
For me, I understand the aspects of the show and it deeply resonates with me, so that made it even more fun for me to be a part of. The crew both on and off-screen each have ways of making the show successful and fun no matter their role, they show up and make things flow so well.
What would you say are lessons we can take from Stranger Things, and how could we apply them to what is going on in 2022?
For me, layering what is happening in our everyday lives, on top of the character I’m playing at that time is important, and what continues to motivate me as an actor.
I started working on the show in early 2019 and before I knew it, the world had completely changed. Fast forward a year, and we’re now dealing with COVID, an election, etc. I’ve enjoyed working on the shows because the producers layer the project with items that are currently happening in the world. I feel like it’s a smart move to not only draw people’s attention but also make it feel more authentic, which I feel they do a great job with on Stranger Things.
You have been blessed with success and a career that can be challenging for many. Do you have any words of advice for somebody who would like to follow a similar career path, but who is daunted by the prospect of failure?
First and foremost, step out, have faith that it is going to work, and apply yourself every single day. Some days you might have huge leaps in your progress, others might be a baby step towards your end goal, and another day might be absolutely nothing. But, the main point is to keep working towards your goal. There is no one timeline for achieving success.
One thing I try to accentuate to younger actors is that everyone’s timeline is going to be different. Don’t think you’re going to come to Hollywood and within X amount of time be a big star. It might take 15 years to reach that point, it might take 24 minutes, you just don’t know. A lot of it depends on how well you adapt to the situations of Hollywood including dealing with other people’s constant opinions, finding and working with an agent, getting into the union, finding a manager, etc. There are several moving parts to having a successful career in this industry. At the end of the day, the biggest thing is, do not give up. Ever. Just stay true to yourself, period.
What are the five things you wish someone would have told you when you started out as an actor?
- First, do not set any expectations on what you want to achieve in your career.
- Second, as I stated earlier, be true to yourself.
- Third, find your camp of people. These are the people who are there for you for your highs, and lows. They give you confidence and challenge you to keep moving forward.
- Next, never compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own things going on, their strong suits, and are working roles that are right for them. Whatever role is right for you, will find you. If you don’t get a part, just remember that wasn’t the right role for you.
- Finally, never let someone pick something for you, nor push you into something that makes you uncomfortable.
Sherman, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
For me, it is helping kids who are less fortunate and may be limited by their physical abilities. We as a society have a way of helping the older adults who have some sort of handicap, but we tend to forget about the younger folks. I have enjoyed spending my time and energy focusing on ways that I could help in that realm, and I believe having something outside of acting to keep yourself busy is important. I’ll never forget the day a friend told me “you might be going through a hard time, but look to those who might not have as much and what they are doing through it all” and that still resonates with me to this day.
We are very blessed that many prominent leaders read this column. Is there anyone in the world that would you like to meet? It could be someone who might give you your next big break, or take you to the next level. We would be happy to tag them and see if we could make it happen.
That person for me would be Steven Spielberg. I would love the opportunity to sit down with him and pick his brain on filmmaking, how all the aspects on set come together, and even small things like camera angles, setting scenes, etc.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Stranger Things Star Sherman Augustus On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.