Enjoy the ride! Sometimes I tend to focus on the end or the payoff when I should enjoy the moments on the way. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and work for incredible companies, and it’s important to remind yourself to live in the moment and enjoy the journey. This attitude has allowed me to live a rich life of travel and friends.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Derek Theler — Actor, Spokesperson for SANDD™ and Educator on Juvenile Diabetes.
Derek Theler is an American actor and model, best-known for starring in ABC’s family comedy, Baby Daddy. Derek’s role on the hit series landed him multiple Teen Choice Award nominations including “Breakout Star” and “Best Liplock.”
Since landing Baby Daddy, Derek has appeared in multiple films including Brotherly Love, How Sarah Got Her Wings, Chicago Sanitation and Shark Killer. Currently, Derek is starring in Paramount Network’s forthcoming scripted comedic drama series 68 Whiskey, a Ron Howard directed dark comedic hour that follows a mix of men and women deployed as Army medics to “The Orphanage” — a forward operating base in Afghanistan. 68 Whiskey will premier globally January 2020.
At 3 years old, Derek was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, or Juvenile Diabetes. In the hopes to combat this deadly disease, Derek became the official spokesperson for Sharps and Needle Destruction Devices (SANDD™), which provide diabetics with safe and environmentally friendly disposal of needles. This year, he will star in a campaign to educate audiences about the chronic autoimmune disease and raise awareness towards safe needle disposal for those who self-inject at home. The SANDD mini™ is the only FDA-approved portable, battery-operated needle destruction device that eliminates the use of sharps containers for disposal in both clinical and home settings.
An Alaskan native, Derek grew up playing sports, loved riding motorcycles and graduated from Colorado State with a degree in Pre medicine. He appeared as a model in commercials for Nike, Coke Zero, Kayak, Arby’s, State Farm and Verizon.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this career path?
Iwas born in Alaska, but grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I loved films growing up but never seriously thought of acting as a career direction. I was diagnosed with Type One diabetes when I was three years old and that greatly influenced my life. I went to college at Colorado State University and got my degree in sports medicine and nutrition with hopes of building a career in the medical field. During my senior year of college, I took a vacation to Los Angeles and met some producers and actors in the entertainment business. They encouraged me to come to LA and get into acting and I realized that I wanted to give it a shot.
I moved to Los Angeles after I graduated with little money and no contacts in the city. My first year I wanted to hit the ground running because I felt that I had arrived late to the party. I took as many acting classes and meetings for representation as possible. Luckily, I booked several national commercials the first year I was in Los Angeles and didn’t have to get a regular job. About a year later I booked a lead role on ABC’s hit sitcom, ‘Baby Daddy’. The show ran for 100 episodes and I worked on several films and TV shows in between. Currently, I have a new show on Paramount Network called, ’68 Whiskey’ that airs on Wednesday nights.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or takeaway that you took out of that story?
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that when I was starting my career the first year I basically took ANY acting job I was offered. I worked for Conan O’Brien on the Tonight Show and The Late Show. I did numerous random sketches for the show including being Conan‘s butt double, his avatar assistant, and the God, Thor. I arrested Conan as a bike cop, got to be an NBA All Star, and I was a model for ‘mom’ jeans. The take away is that I had to start small and be thankful for all of those small opportunities and learn from them in order to break into the next step in a career in acting. I learned a lot.
It’s since been my goal to be a guest star on Conan’s show and be able to relive and talk about those sketches I did years ago, along with promoting a big new project. Maybe that’s a goal you could help me with? Conan, you reading?
What would you advise to a young person who wants to emulate your success?
The first thing I would say is that I still have a long way to go. I have found some great success but I’m driven to reach that next big goal and it’s important that the hunger is always there. I get asked quite often about starting a career in acting in Hollywood and the first piece of advice I always tell anyone is you need to move to where the work is. Anybody who’s trying to be an actor or an entertainer that doesn’t live in New York or Hollywood isn’t taking it seriously.
Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?
My TV mother, Mellissa Peterman (Bonnie Wheeler). I booked Baby Daddy without even knowing what a live audience sitcom was. Growing up I didn’t watch Friends or Seinfeld, I was more into action movies. I also had absolutely no live theater experience. So when I booked a lead in a sitcom I didn’t have any idea what I was in for. Mellissa helped me understand the Multi cam world, how to play to an audience (she is hilarious and always on), and also the technical aspects of the job. She also always treated the crew with so much love and respect. I’ll always remember that no matter what project I’m on, it’s important to gain the crews’ respect. Melissa and I remain close friends.
How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?
When I decided to pursue a career in acting it was always very important to me to use my platform to spread awareness and knowledge about Type One diabetes.
I’ve lived with Type One for over 30 years and when I was a kid nobody in the entertainment business (actors or athletes) were talking openly about it. When I was young I felt like there was no one I could relate to and it’s an isolating disease. I wanted to change that. I also wanted people to know the treatment options they had available to them with the new technologies.
And lastly, most importantly, I want Type One diabetics to believe they can live an extraordinary life with or without the diabetes. Now, thank to my acting career, I’m able to work with amazing companies that are making diabetics’ lives better. I work with the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), I work with Dexcom (continuous glucose monitoring system) and I work with Redhawk Medical (SANDD device).
Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?
The Sharps and Needle Destruction Device (SANDD™), is a new partnership that I’m particularly excited about because it makes our world a safer place for everyone. The device incinerates and destroys used needles which have become a growing problem all over the world. SANDD™ helps the environment, cuts down costs for sharps containers, and improves safety by eliminating accidental needle sticks. This is especially useful for medical professionals and people in law-enforcement.
For every unit SANDD™-Mini sold, SANDD™ will donate $10 to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation
Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
I have so many stories of people reaching out to me on social media and people that I’ve met at events. My favorite moments are when I get to meet young Type One diabetics who are open and willing to talk about their diabetes and are looking forward to their future.
When I was young I remember being rather pessimistic about my future. Last year, I went to Washington DC with the JDRF and had the opportunity to speak with the Senate and Congress men and women about the special diabetes act.
This is a bill that gives $150 million of government money to diabetes research. I got to meet Type One diabetic children from all over the country. One of my proudest moments was when I got to see their attitudes and faces when I talked about living my dream of becoming an actor. They especially loved that I played Thor on American Gods, a real superhero who needs to take insulin to survive, just like them.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
I think it’s important for individuals to be educated on the problems in the world today. We need to be informed and up-to-date with the latest information. As a society I think it’s important that we collectively want to improve our situation. We need to be positive and excepting about other ideas and influences.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.
The first thing I would tell myself is to enjoy the ride. Sometimes I tend to focus on the end or the payoff when I should enjoy the moments on the way. I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world and work for incredible companies thanks to my work, and it’s important to remind yourself to live in the moment and enjoy the journey. This attitude has allowed me to live a rich life of travel and friends.
You’re not going to book the first big job. This career is a journey, and it’s full of rejection. There have been several opportunities that I have put a lot of time and energy into; roles that would change my life, that I knew I was right for but didn’t get. There are times when I’ve tested and signed a contract, but in the end some of those roles didn’t go my way. It just means I’ve got to work harder to book the next big thing.
Find real friends who have your best interests at heart. I’m lucky to have a great group of friends here that I can always trust. There are people out there looking to gain from you instead of helping you succeed.
In a city like LA it’s easy to get wrapped up in things that will not benefit your future, so stay focused. I see people putting their time and energy into partying, money, and going out and being seen. I stay focused on becoming a better actor so I would be prepared for those big opportunities.
Get a dog. It took me six years in LA to get my first dog, Neptune. He is a 100 pound polar lab and he is the best! I’ve spent lots of time training him and he’s been on almost every set I’ve worked on since I got him. We have done six commercials together for products like Milkbone, Petco, Dexcom, and Nature’s Recipe Dog Food. When I’m in between jobs I love working commercials with Neptune. I’m very proud of him and he is a good boy, especially since he can pay his rent!
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
I think I’ve found one of my life missions in educating about diabetes. I’m so close to the disease, my sister is a Type One diabetic, and I’m interacting constantly with other diabetics. As I stated earlier, one of my overall goals is to bring more awareness to diabetes, show people the new technological advances to help treat diabetes and, most importantly, let people know that they can have extraordinarily full lives while maintaining their diabetes until we find the cure.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?
The quote I always think about is “Attitude is everything.” It’s a powerful quote if you believe it. No matter what your circumstances, if you keep a positive attitude you can get through anything. Having the mindset that there will be problems, there will be obstacles, but if you stay positive and see the goal, you will achieve it.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US 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 🙂
Conan? You still there?
Haha, honestly I have a few heros when I think of this question. I love Keanu Reeves, from all of my favorite movies growing up (Speed, Matrix, etc.) The consensus is that he is a really humble and giving person even with all of his success which is something that resonates with me. I’d love to sit down and talk with him about his attitude toward life.
Another hero of mine is Dwayne Johnson. His attitude and determination are contagious. I’ve been a big fan of his since he wrestled. To see him build his career in the best way and become an influential movie star is inspiring. Also, he’s doing the type of films that I want to be a part of someday soon.
For more information about Derek’s partnership with SANDD™ click here.
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