Like many things in life, success is a concept that is not easy to define. For some, success is fame, fortune, and the top spot in his or her career. For others, it’s having the courage to get out of bed each morning.
But to work day in and day out in your passion? To me this might be the highest form of success, and it’s the category Andy McDermott fits into quite comfortably.
He’s not a huge movie star (yet), but he and his family have been in Hollywood for three years, successfully outliving the statistics.
“Around 300,000 people arrive and leave LA every year,” McDermott shared during our interview. “To still be in the industry three years later and not just be another statistic is gratifying. And I get to do what I love.”
But this is far from where McDermott’s story begins, and is just the latest in a string of smaller personal successes that have led him here today.
“I grew up loving movies and action TV shows. I took a couple of acting classes in college, but it wasn’t the right time to pursue that dream.”
This was because after an impressive university soccer career at Northwestern University, McDermott was signed to the Chicago Stingers, a USIS: D-3 Pro League. Seven years in the big leagues—and a few league championships and game winning goals under his belt—he turned his professional attention to what he referred to as “a real job.”
After a visit to Phoenix, Arizona, McDermott and his wife fell in love with the climate. The family moved so that he could pursue a new career—a member of the tactical response unit for the local police department for eight years.
“I always say I’m ‘Forrest Gumping’ my way through life. I’ve had the best of luck with falling into careers that clicked for me.”
While working as a police officer, McDermott also spent some time modeling, keeping an eye on opportunities to bring his love of acting back into his life again.
The feature film Everything Must Go, starring Will Ferrell, was filmed locally in Arizona. During the time of filming, the casting director was looking for someone to play the part of a cop, and McDermott got the role.
“I showed up to the audition in my uniform, not because I had planned for the part but because I had to go to work right after. The casting director didn’t believe I was an actual cop, but thought the uniform was spot on.”
He got the part and shot his scenes, getting a big hug from Will Ferrell on his last day saying he wanted to see more from him in acting. And that was the only push McDermott needed.
He began taking his acting classes seriously and planned with his family to make the move to L.A. With six months of savings and a growing family they made the leap, and haven’t fallen yet.
A major component of McDermott’s life throughout these events and successes has been his relentless commitment to fitness.
“I started playing soccer when I was four or five, before it became a big kid’s sport in the U.S. I was an active, energetic kid. And then when I got to high school I was introduced to the weight room and something just clicked—it was the perfect way to channel all of my energy into something constructive.”
With his years playing professional soccer his workouts only intensified. Since then, he’s become the head fitness instructor for police departments in Arizona, and has won the Gold Medal in the Toughest Competitor Alive event at the U.S. Police and Fire Championships.
He has worked out in some capacity everyday for over 20 years, and now works out mostly for fun, and to make sure the younger generation can’t take a part away from him solely because of physical fitness.
“You never know what the next audition is going to ask of you. If I have to take my shirt off for something, I want to go into the audition confident. And I’m constantly going against 20-somethings, so I’m already at a disadvantage.”
As the accomplishments keep rolling in—McDermott has a successful commercial and print ad career, and is most recently the cover and main character in the Call of Duty: Black Ops III Activision game—he’s steady for the course. With his family by his side, and a drive to meet his goals and pursue his passions, success will continue to be sweet. But he’ll never forget to be humble.
“The humility and character you learn through going through the audition process as an actor can’t be replicated anywhere else. For some, it’s too much to take, and for others, it only makes you stronger.”
Andy McDermott on…
“I was never the best player on the team, but I am very proud that for all of the time I played soccer, I was captain of the team. I’d rather help my teammates, be an example to them, and help them excel than anything else.
“My kids will choose their own passions, but I want all of them to experience team sports to learn to fight for their teammates and to work together.”
“I have four kids, which we homeschool. I audition every day. I exercise at least once a day. We might be launching a new brand in the new year. The key is to focus on what your passionate about, and then follow through. I’ve never been the type of guy that likes to sit around and watch TV. I’m motivated to do the best for myself and my family.”
The Best Advice He Ever Received
“Lead by pulling, not by pushing.”