Drew Nelson: Today’s Notable Young Professional

Today’s Notable Young Professional is actor Drew Nelson, who, if you haven’t come across his work before, you’ll be able to see in the series premiere of Guillermo del Toro’s new show “The Strain” on FX coming this summer…

Elevator Pitch:
I’m an actor/writer and soon to be director.

What was the inspiration for this career route?
A woman named Monica Gretton, fresh out of a New York drama school, was brought into our high school to substitute for our original drama teacher who was on maternity leave. She ended up teaching us real acting technique stuff that she learned in New York and based on what she saw me do in class, cast me in the lead role for the school play that year. Things just started to snowball from there, and 15 some odd years later, here we are. 

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’m so fortunate to be in a career that I don’t even consider “work.” In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever used that term before when it comes to acting. How many people are able to say that? The gaps between jobs can be frustrating at times, however the freedom is put to good use lately, as I get to concentrate on the projects I’m currently developing. The most challenging part? 

The unpredictability that goes along with the career can be incredibly difficult to manage. There are so many ups and downs, and unknowns that are out of your control. It takes a lot of resilience to stay with it. The lifestyle is definitely not for everyone, but it’s been really good to me over the years so I’m grateful for that.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Healthy, living in either LA or New York, and continuing to make a living as an actor and creator of my own projects. 

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Like I said, this career has been good to me. Of course, I’ve had my moments of scrounging cash together doing whatever “Joe job” I’ve had to do to make ends meet, but I’ve been very fortunate to have made a consistent living from it over the years. I guess a real challenge I’ve faced is making the choice to take the reins on my career. You hit an age where some of the friends you grew up with are now secure with successful jobs, supporting a wife and kids, driving luxury cars, and you have a moment of “what the hell am I still doing this for?” and “how much longer will I last in this biz?” For me, I was an advocate of chasing the work. In 2007 all the work went to Vancouver, so I moved there. It took that big transition to realize that, at a base level, l wasn’t happy and fulfilled enough to just “chase” the work anymore. So in 2010, I made it a point to move back home, band with like-minded people, and develop projects that I could have control over creatively and ultimately “make” my break happen, rather than wait for it to happen. Funny how the universe works, ‘cause as soon as I started working towards that the on-camera opportunities started to take off again.

What does success look like to you?
Good health, a happy family, having the freedom to travel. In terms of career, having your work respected by your fellow peers and some financial security wouldn’t hurt! 

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
I’d have to say the first night of production on The Strain pilot. It was the first night of shooting on this brand new series, and here I was in the middle of the biggest film shoot of my career with this huge crane towering over a busy Adelaide St., and about a hundred cars, trucks and buses creating the atmosphere of a congested New York street. To top it all off there was Corey Stoll, freakin’ Russo from House of Cards, acting across from me, and the one and only Guillermo del Toro at the helm watching everything go down. It was definitely a surreal experience and one I’ll never forget. 

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Took me a while to actually learn it, but the ONLY key to major success in any career is hard work. My dad always told me: “The harder you work, the luckier you get” – and he’s dead right. 

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
I really love Mexican food, so I’m a big fan of Grand Electric. Great food, good crowd and service, and the 90s hip-hop is always blaring –  so what else could you ask for? I’m also a big brunch guy, so my go-to spot lately is Mitzis in Parkdale.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I’m a very independent person and enjoy having my alone time. It could be as simple as trying a new restaurant for lunch, followed by a walk through different neighbourhoods taking in the city. I’m a big fan of photography, so I enjoy zipping in and out of alleyways and uncovering some hidden artwork that other people would normally miss. I have this penchant for urban decay and abandoned, forgotten places.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I went to Cape Town, South Africa a couple years ago and would go back in a heartbeat. It was absolute paradise. Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve EVER laid my eyes on.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Had a tough time with this one… I guess the “Cheers” theme song would be it. It’s a fun, catchy tune that instantly puts you in a good mood. (I know, cheesy answer).

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I think being a rock star would be pretty awesome! Unfortunately I don’t play any instruments, so I guess that’s out. I’ve always loved graffiti, so being an artist sponsored by paint and clothing companies and travelling the world would be an ideal life for me.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you? 
I’ve been volunteering my time at this really great organization called Story Planet, a non-profit that offers free workshops to support children and youth in becoming creative and effective communicators. They’ve just added a filmmaking course to their itinerary, so I’ve been helping with that lately. The other organization I stand behind is the Toronto-based The Remix Project, a non-profit that helps youth from disadvantaged, marginalized, and under served communities. 

What to you is notable?
Integrity, living moment-to-moment, a great sense of humour, passion for what you do, taking risks.

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