Make a choice for a character and commit to it. The audience knows when you’re not committed.
As a part of our series about creating a successful career in TV and Film, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Drew Waters.
With more than 80 credits to his name, Drew Waters has created an impressive body of work as a TV and film star, both in front of and behind the camera.
His very first television role was as a recurring character on NBC’s “Surface”, which then led to roles on such notable shows as “Chase,” “Victorious,” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” In 2008, Drew landed the role for which he is still most recognized today, Coach Wade Aikman on NBC’s Emmy® Award winning hit show “Friday Night Lights.” His success on “Friday Night Lights” led to roles on other critically acclaimed shows like “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Bones,” and HBO’s “True Detective.” He has also appeared in numerous feature films opposite the likes of Diane Keaton, Matthew Broderick, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Paul Giamatti, and Marcia Gay Harden, among others.
Drew’s talents reach far beyond the acting world as well. As the co-founder of Argentum Entertainment, he has produced and directed multiple films.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Akron, Ohio, but grew up in Orange, Texas, where I excelled as a high school athlete in football and track. Upon graduating from high school, I gave up an athletic scholarship to Rice University to pursue a career with the United States Navy. I was stationed with the “Grim Reapers”, a fleet replacement squadron based at Eglin AFB, Florida. I rose quickly through the ranks and became responsible for nearly 100 F-14 fighter jets. After eight years of service in the Navy, I decided to make a major shift in my life and pursue a career in the entertainment industry.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As I neared the end of my military career, I was discovered by a modeling scout. After winning a national modeling contest, I was signed by a top agency and began a successful career in fashion, appearing in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Prada, Structure, Versace, Hugo Boss, Chaps, Guess, and Abercrombie and Fitch. Over the course of eight years, I walked the globe’s top runways and graced the pages of GQ, Vogue, Men’s Fitness, and Men’s Journal, among others.
On this journey, I found myself in Tokyo, where I was asked to do my first commercial. I instantly fell in love, but didn’t have the confidence to pursue it. I returned to the states and opened up a contraction company to help pay the bills. However, I couldn’t quit thinking about the commercial in Japan. So on my 30th birthday, I decide to take a chance on myself, stop chasing money, and start chasing passion.
I’ve been in the entertainment industry ever since.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
So many to choice from. The one that always comes to mind, however, happened during my time with Friday Night Lights. I had booked a 3–5 episode arch role as interim quarterback coach Wade Aikmen. On multiple occasions while filming episodes 3–5, producer Michael Waxman came by me and said, “Good things are in the works.” I eventually asked for some clarification, since I wasn’t expecting my role to be long term and was surprised to still be there. He then asked me what it felt like I was doing on the field, to which a replied “becoming an assistant coach.” All he said was “maybe you are,” and then walked away. The next week, I received word from my agent that the show was making my character just that.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
100% agree! When I first started out, I tried to push myself into a character instead of trusting and allowing the character to evolve over time. I struggled with insecurities early on and caught myself not listening to my co-actors on set. I was just running through the lines. It took me a while, but through training, great working relationships and hard work, I overcame them.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m blessed to be working on several motivating, inspiring and exciting new projects right now!
I’ll be appearing in HBO Max’s Love & Death, a riveting drama from David E. Kelley that tells the true story of Candy and Pat Montgomery and Betty and Allan Gore — two churchgoing couples enjoying their small-town Texas life… until an extramarital affair leads somebody to pick up an axe. The show’s official premiere is set for April 27.
Meanwhile, my wife, Erin Bethea, and I are continuing to create powerful, humorous, truthful, and heartfelt stories that both hold the highest appeal to audiences. Our production company, Argentum Entertainment, currently boasts an inspirational slate of projects, including Festival of Trees (Romantic Comedy), Little Miss Christmas (Romantic Comedy), Taking the Long Way Home (Drama) and The Bayou (Crime Thriller).
I’m also in talks to direct a few upcoming network television shows.
You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Fear is a good thing. It can be a motivator to push yourself forward or to let you know you’re not ready. Don’t worry about the ones you don’t book. Focus on building confidence, trust in yourself, never take criticism to heart, and stay prepared. You never know when that perfect opportunity will come. If you’re not ready it may pass you by. Above all… this should be fun and exciting. Don’t chase the fame.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Diversity should be represented in all professions. BUT film and television is unique in the sense that it has the ability to break down walls, create all types of emission, and represent all cultures if we choose to let it as story tellers.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Make a choice for a character and commit to it. The audience knows when you’re not committed.
- Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.
- Make bold choices. Not just safe ones.
- Quit making it about memorization. It’s as much about listening and responding.
- Trust that you’re enough. Don’t try and fit every space.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Ask yourself, “What would you want to do if you could be in the entertainment industry?” If you have something in mind, go chase it. You’ll most likely have quicker success. If you can’t think of anything, then dive in head first. Start getting in classes, build valuable relationships, and start making content. It’s a long road for a lot of us and you never know where that road will lead you.
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. 🙂
It would definitely be something that encourages and inspires humanity — caring for and helping others whenever and wherever possible, helping others at times when they need that help the most, forgetting our selfish interests at times when others need our help. Humanity means extending unconditional love to each and every living being on Earth.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Longtime Hollywood producer Garry Brown — widely known for his work on Prison Break, Walker Texas Ranger, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., among others — has been a big part of how I approve the entertainment industry. We first met at a red carpet event, after which he allowed me to shadow him on sets, casted me in things when I fit, and showed me how to respect the team that is working tirelessly to achieve the goal. I’m absolutely honored to call him a mentor and friend!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.”
Unfortunately, I believed the opposite for a long time. We are programmed to want to help, but yet it’s one of the hardest things to ask for. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my ability to change and ask for help.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’m sure there is, but I’d be afraid of asking the wrong questions. I’m a fan of humble humans. BUT, if I had to choose right now, it would be Clint Eastwood. He has an approachable confidence about him that I have always admired. Plus, he’s made some of my favorite westerns.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Drew Waters On The 5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career in TV and Film was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.