ORANGE IN HOLLYWOOD — Going from shy to starring alongside biggest names

Published 12:20 am Saturday, May 27, 2023

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In 1998, shortly after leaving the U.S. Navy, Drew Waters built a house in Sachse, Texas. It was, in his approximation, about one-eighth of a mile from Wylie.

Often he and his daughters would have breakfast in Wylie, where the older generation would occasionally bring up “that murder.” It had been 18 years since Candy Montgomery was accused of murdering her lover’s wife with an axe.

“Now I’m playing the guy that finds the body,” Waters said of the HBO miniseries “Love and Death,” which was released in April. “And I’m working with incredible actors.”

Why not?

How Waters, 49, went from Orange County to Hollywood is seemingly a series of “why not?”

He attended school in Little Cypress-Mauriceville from kindergarten through graduation. He was not active in drama or anything theatrical, short of participating in a talent show his senior year. And acting was something he’d never even considered.

“I was a shy, insecure kid growing up,” he said. “I was a very ADD, dyslexic human being.”

He did play the saxophone until his freshman year, and in eighth grade began playing football, where he found a passion.

“It’s funny because shortly after I got into (acting), I got an opportunity to play a character on ‘Friday Night Lights’ for three seasons where football is key,” he said.

Waters left high school with a scholarship to Rice University, but he didn’t use it.

“I wasn’t ready to go to college,” he said. “I decided that I wanted to get out of the small town, grow up and see the world and serve, so I joined the Navy.”

He credits the military for giving him solid, driven direction. But he wasn’t sure if he was going to make it a full-time career.

“And as luck would have it — a God thing, really — I was sitting in the mess hall with my roommate and we were able to take on part-time employment when things were slow,” Waters said. “Clinton was in office at this time and things were slow, so he got a part-time job as a modeling scout.”

He wished his friend “good luck.” But his friend was insistent on bringing him along.

“He finally bribed me with a couple of beers,” Waters said.

What at the time was Pat Wright Modeling Agency took interest in the Orange County native, immediately, saying she liked his look and wanted to represent him for an event. With nothing to lose, he took a chance and competed with 3,600 other people to emerge the winner. He returned to the Navy, where he still had six months of active duty left, with a $38,000 contract.

“I handed the contract to my (commanding officer) and said, ‘Sir, I may or may not have done something that could possibly get me in trouble this past weekend,’” he said. “I handed him the contract and he said, ‘Is this legit?’ I had no idea, so he said, ‘let’s find out.’”

Two weeks later, his CO called him back in and told him the contract was real. He was advised to take the opportunity.

But instead, he finished his tour, went into reserve, and returned to Beaumont.

Drew Waters grew up in Little-Cypress Mauriceville. (Courtesy photo)

That’s when he got a phone call from a modeling agency saying Italy wanted to fly him over for a little over two months.

“I decided to take the chance,” he said. “That led me into a four-year career of just traveling the world, doing things I never thought I’d do in a million years. It was crazy. I was on billboards in Times Square. I was in or on every magazine cover at one point and had ‘Men’s Fitness’ covers out. People were walking around with my face on the bags of things. It was like something I never expected, and I wasn’t really ready for it. I was still a very shy, insecure human being.”

But he was given an opportunity to shoot a Dell computer commercial in Japan.

“I was spiking a ball into a green screen, and I fell in love with it,” he said. “I fell in love with the inner workings of all the technology.”

Still, due to his dyslexia, he talked himself out of pursuing anything else on screen.

Green screen dreams

Waters moved to Dallas and decided to open a retail store.

“I was going to buy a gym because at that point I had three ‘Men’s Fitness’ covers out, and I was going to use that success to buy a gym,” he said.

But situations in his life changed, and instead he decided to open a spa.

He built it himself.

One day a man walked in and inquired about the builder, as he was looking to build something similar across town.

Learning he was speaking to the man responsible, he offered Waters the opportunity.

“I said, ‘yeah, sure, why not.’ So I opened up a construction company,” he said. “In five years went from one retail store to a full-blow construction company with partners and three retail businesses.”

But something wasn’t right.

“I turned 30. I woke up stressed out of my mind, miserable, had a 2-year-old daughter and all I’m doing is chasing money,” he said. “I’m never home. I looked back on what made me the happiest, and it was that commercial in Tokyo, Japan. And so I asked myself, ‘Can I do it?’ I didn’t know anything about business and that worked out, so I decided to walk in two weeks later, told my partners to buy me out, I’m going to go chase a dream. And I’ve never looked back.”

His first large role was playing Craig Monroe, the husband to Danica McKellar’s Maddie Monroe in the 2006 television show “Inspector Mom.”

After booking it, he was near his trailer when the director came to his door.

“He walked it with me and said, ‘Drew, I’m just going to come out and just tell you — the studios didn’t want you.’”

Waters was blown away. He was literally on his way to shoot a scene.

But the director said, “I fought for you. So let’s go in there and prove to them why I fought for you and why they’re wrong.”

They went on to film multiple seasons.

“I’ve been very lucky and blessed in my career to be able to work with some incredible directors — Oliver Stone, Peter Berg, Michael Bay, the list goes on and on. We’ve built camaraderies and friendships,” Waters said. “I think what made me able to work was I was very guy-next-door go-lucky personality that showed up, did a job, was respectful and I was likable.”

From true crime to Christmas

Among his credits, Waters has appeared in “True Detective, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Bones.”

“Love and Death,” which revolves around the Candy Montgomery crime, debuted on HBO Max in April. Elizabeth Olsen plays Montgomery.

The way she would approach a scene was fascinating to Waters.

“I just sat there and watched her prepare,” he said. “And once she got to a point where I felt like she was comfortable enough, I just walked up to her and said, ‘I’m just going to tell you — watching you prepare is scary as hell.’ The thought process she goes though; it was so intriguing to me. And she’s a master class. She’s unbelievable.”

Currently he is filming “Hysteria!,” which stars Julie Bowen and explores the 80s Satanic Panic.

“Julie is such a wonderful, bubbly person on ‘Modern Family’ and so you’re always wondering if they’re really like that,” Waters said. “And she’s just a lovely human being. We’re there to have fun, work hard and build relationships at the end of the day.” Even though they’re dealing with the current writer’s strike, they have enough material to shoot the first six episodes.

But in addition to acting, Waters owns a production company. He recently produced and directed “Festival of Trees,” which is a romantic holiday comedy.

“Our production company, we don’t do anything with gratuitous content,” he said. “We just like good story telling. I love a lifestyles story. I love true stories, but I love a lifestyles story. So when we tell stories, whether it be romantic or drama or action, it has a real life element to it.”

With four directing and 13 production credits to his name, Waters sees himself eventually turning more towards directing than acting. But either way, his wish for the general public remains the same.

“The viewing audience is what gives us the opportunity to have a life and a job, because without that, we wouldn’t have a need,” he said. “So keep watching. Keep supporting the arts, no matter what it is.”

— Written by Monique Batson