Breaking Through
MEN 'S FOLIO Singapore|November 2020
Star of 13 Reasons Why Ross Butler addresses pressing matters of teenage issues and stereotypes as well as what a non-conformist is.
Asaph Low

There is a commonality between the likes of Ben Affleck, Mel Gibson, and John Krasinski. Apart from being established actors, they have taken up directing roles behind the camera lens of movies such as Argo, Hacksaw Ridge, and A Quiet Place. Incidentally, it is an area that has piqued the interest of our latest cover star, actor Ross Butler of 13 Reasons Why fame. Though Butler has not cut his teeth in production just yet, who knows what the future holds for him given his recent meteoric rise.

The narrative does not get any different from enforced lockdowns happening across the globe — especially when people are forced to retreat inwards physically, mentally, and psychologically. Some escape into the virtual world that video games offer while others embark on a fitness journey or deep dive into the science of sourdough bread making. Butler on the other hand decided to pick up two rather unconventional quarantine hobbies — learning Arabic and getting a grasp on the production side of the entertainment industry.

“My days are varied when I’m not on a production schedule,” shares Butler. “I’m always picking up new hobbies or learning something new instead of doing the same thing for a long time.” His inquisitive nature has seen him pick up a host of hobbies prior that include wood carving, capoeira, and playing the classical guitar. You can certainly include acting to the list which he has successfully managed to craft a career out of.

Born in Singapore and raised in the American state of Virginia, acting came to Butler in the form of a birthday present from his friend. His enrollment at Ohio State University left him rather disgruntled with life as he could not find a connection with what he wanted to make his career out of.

“I didn’t know I wanted to act until my friend bought me an acting class for my 21st birthday. [Acting] was creative which was the opposite of everything I was raised to believe could be a career and it was the first thing that felt fulfilling.”

Though he found his calling in life, what ensued was bittersweet for the young actor. His relationship with his mother soured as he faced resistance from her as well as his friends. “My mother had an idea of what she wanted for my career, but perhaps she did not consider my happiness,” he says. “As a result, we didn’t talk for quite a while. My friends supported me — albeit reluctantly — but I knew I wasn’t happy with what I was doing prior.”

“It’s hard to imagine what my occupation would’ve been had I not become an actor. I hope for my happiness it was something creative.”

Butler’s newfound passion fueled his courage to leave university to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. Since 2012, Butler has enjoyed a steady stream of acting roles including Disney’s K.C. Undercover, Teen Wolf, Riverdale, and his latest project, an upcoming appearance in Swimming with Sharks.

The Quibi series takes the same name as the 1994 classic film directed by George Huang that tells the story of a Hollywood executive who is an assistant to an abusive and abrasive movie producer. “I wouldn’t say there is pressure because [the Quibi series] has been modernized,” says Butler who is cast alongside Diane Kruger and Kiernan Shipka.

“The original was a great film and a staple about our industry, but this retelling is its own entity. You run into trouble when you are trying to be creative and then start comparing yourself to other people’s work so I tend to avoid it.”

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