BEFORE THE SCENE with Travis Aaron Wade

by Arthur Vandelay on November 14, 2014

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Travis Aaron Wade is an actor from Los Angeles. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Wade’s career as an actor was taking off when he was cast in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, but he broke his nose on the set of The Fix with Robert Patrick the same year. Now after rebuilding his career from the ground up, Wade can next be seen in the CW’s long-running hit show Supernatural, The Forger with John Travolta and Christopher Plummer, and in Criminal Activities with John Travolta, Dan Stevens and Jackie Earle Haley.

What made you want to become an actor?

I was twenty-two and I had gotten out of the Marine Corps. I didn’t really know how to get back into the civilian world. I have the utmost respect for the Marine Corps, but what they have you training to do is inhumane and you have to react a certain way. They have to strip you of all of your emotions. When I got into the military, I didn’t expect those things to happen to me, and when they did, I kinda came out lost. I was in college studying and I was working. I was going through the motions. I was doing everything I was supposed to do, but I just felt null and void. My sister passed away giving birth to her second child. The funeral was very hard on a lot of us, but I was very cold and I didn’t have any emotion. I remember going to my mom and I said “I don’t feel, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” And she said, ‘What is it that makes you feel?” And the only time I can remember feeling was watching movies. She said, “Why don’t you work in the movie business?”

A friend who was an actress said, “Take an acting class and network. Meet some people in the business and maybe you can do some grip work.” Walking into acting class, the first people I saw were Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jessica Biel, Claire Danes, Danny and Chris Masterson. These kids were not famous: they were just TV stars at the time. They were putting up this work on stage that was mind blowing. I was just in awe of what they did. At some point, the teacher said, “Stop auditing and get up there and do it.”

I finally tried to put up a scene with people watching. The minute I tried to perform, I had a nervous breakdown. I started crying. I just went blank. The next thing I know, I got a phone call from the teacher. She said, “You just left! You need to come back to class.” I said, “I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t suppose to cry in the scene. I just lost it and I had a nervous breakdown.” It was the first time I had cried and let all these emotions out that were suppressed for many years. She said, “The class was being audited by Judy Savage. She’s an agent. She wants to sign you.”

What was your biggest fear?

Being thirty-nine years old, not married, no children and wondering how I’m paying rent. The fear was where I’m at today. I’m kinda living it! With the success I had early on doing films like War of the Worlds and being closely connected to Jarhead, I didn’t think that I’d be where I’m at today: hoping that my next job comes. When acting does take over, you are in Vancouver shooting a television series, and it’s very difficult to do anything else. Then, that job is over. The fear is not living it. It’s where I’m at today. It’s not so scary now, because there is light at the end of the tunnel. That was the unknown. But, I’m here at this age and it’s not that bad. If you get into acting thinking it’s a five year or ten year gig, you’re gonna be sorely disappointed. It’s a lifelong journey.

What was your lowest point?

I’ve had a few. I had been cast in a Steven Spielberg film and was on set for two weeks working for Spielberg. When you work with Spielberg, you think, “I made it.” Working with Steven Spielberg was one of my goals. I thought, “This is gonna lead to other things!” During that period of time, the industry was just starting to get to know me. But I decided to take my foot off of the gas and get engaged. Nothing wrong with that but I forgot the person I had already married: the entertainment business. You can’t cheat on her. All of my work ethic went into her. Everything went to her. I thought I was bigger than I was and thought I achieved more success that I had. I was doing the parties and the Sundances. I hadn’t fully earned that right. I thought I was somewhere I wasn’t. I didn’t think I had only a year timeline with my manager.  When he was gone, all this trickle effect started happening. I did a movie called The Fix with Robert Patrick. It won a bunch of awards, and I got my nose taken off of my face in the movie. I broke my nose, broke my finger and was pretty much was knocked out of the acting business. I had reconstructive surgeries on my face. From 2005-07, I was just recovering. I was in a lot of physical pain. I partied pretty hard.

It took me going to a very special place where I have friends at to turn my life around. That was my lowest point. I was ready to quit acting. I would go into auditions saying that I was walking away from the business. Then I booked The Forger.

What kept you from walking away?

I did walk away. I left in 2007 to go teach in Vietnam. I got offered a job from a woman I met on War of the Worlds. She called and said my flight was booked and I have class on Monday. I got on a plane and started working with children from Vietnam. I’m not certified to be a teacher, but I knew what I had been taught, and I knew how to take the best of what I’d been taught and apply it. That’s what I did with these kids. They’ve become like family to me. I’ve been doing it over there going on my seventh year now. Whether I’m successful, famous or rich, it’s the one profession that I will always do.

Who was your closest ally?

John Travolta. AJ Buckley has been an ally. Sean Faris. My best friends are Keith and Richard. Richard is a high school teacher. Keith is a police detective. We’ve been friends since we were ten years old. My family. My mom, my dad, my sister, my step-dad, my brother. The one thing that has helped my career the most is my family and my friends. From the day I said I wanted to be an actor, or I wanted to be in the Marines, or I wanted to play football, no one ever threw doubt at me.

What were you doing before the audition that changed your life?

It was tough. I knew the audition was big. I believed it was already offered to some other actor. It starred Christopher Plummer, Abigail Spencer and they had this one little role. I thought, this is going to be offered to an AJ Buckley. A really good actor my age that will do it for nothing because it’s Chris [Plummer]. I was doing everything I could to just go in and put up an audition for something that I absolutely did not believe I was going to get. I had so many other things to do that day. I went to do the reading and there’s the producer Al Corley. I do this cold reading and I completely thought I bombed it. A couple of weeks later I got a call. On my 38th birthday I was in Nashville watching Zac Brown Band on stage having dinner when a call came in from my agent and manager saying that I booked the lead role in a John Travolta and Christopher Plummer film.

That was September 2013. Since then, I have done five films, two with John Travolta, and the CW’s Supernatural and I haven’t been home in a year.

What were the words that kept you going?

Strength to change. That’s the tattoo on my arm. The change I went through from high school to the marines. And the change I went through from the marines to the civilian world, and from the civilian world to the acting world. It’s not easy. It’s gut wrenching. But we have the ability to change. I’ve gone from not understanding certain people to being enriched and being welcomed to their culture. Think about Vietnam. We went to war there. Now I live there and have people I call my family.

What words do you have to inspire others?

Never give up. That was something that Adam Kane wrote to me on the cover of my script for The Fix. That’s when my face and finger were broken. I apply that to every single thing. Anybody who reaches out and needs help, I will be there to help out. Just never give up.

A partner in Scene Magazine and the president of Louisiana Entertainment Publishers, AJ Buckley has starred for the last eight years on the hit CBS show CSI:NY. Originally from Dublin and raised in Vancouver, he has spent the last twelve years in Los Angeles acting, writing and directing. He recently finished producing and starring in North of Hell, and currently stars in Justified’s fifth season on FX. Find out more on Twitter @AJohnBuckley and at www.ajbuckley.net.

  • Tim Garcia

    Good for you Travis and keep that never say die attitude and keep that strength to change because change is hard. Love u Uncle Tim

  • Dennis Wade

    Another Very Proud Moment In A Dad’s Life…..THANKS Son!