WEDDINGTON – Twelve years ago, Derek Krantz was living out his passion for acting in front of his peers at Weddington High School. Now, he’s living it out in front of the nation as a recurring character on the popular television show, “Nashville.”
Krantz was drawn to acting from an early age because he loved its storytelling aspect. When he began his freshman year at Weddington, Krantz was new to the area, so enrolling in a drama class became a way to meet fellow students and make friends.
“The community that surrounds theater was a really good way of meeting people. It’s always an inviting and welcoming atmosphere,” Krantz said.
By the time he reached the end of his sophomore year, Krantz was heavily involved in theater projects at school and in the Charlotte region. Wanting to eventually act professionally, Krantz decided to devote his junior and senior years to studying drama and musical theater and enrolled in the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem.
“I knew how competitive it was to get into some of these (acting) programs, so I wanted to step into another place where I could really focus my energy (on acting),” he said.
Krantz’s time at the N.C. School of the Arts not only strengthened his acting skills; it prepared him for the cutthroat business of the industry, he said. So when he enrolled in an undergraduate program at the University of Michigan, he was better trained to handle all aspects of the world of performing arts.
“I think everything (I learned) pushed me toward both artistically focusing on (acting) and the business of it, as well,” Krantz said.
Krantz studied musical theater, acting and music at Michigan and minored in filmmaking. After graduating with a bachelor of fine arts, he landed guest spots on “As the World Turns,” “Guiding Light,” “The Young and the Restless” and 11 episodes of “Days of Our Lives.”
“Even though they were daytime shows, I got to be a part of big productions,” Krantz said.
Krantz did several theater productions before relocating to Los Angeles to focus on film and television. He also completed work on several independent films and wrote, directed and produced his own 27-part online series before landing a spot on “Nashville” – the popular ABC primetime TV show following the lives of several recording artists and the record label they’re involved with.
“It all started with an audition tape,” Krantz said. “As actors, you do a lot of these tapes and never hear back.”
But Krantz did, in fact, hear back from the producers. They wanted him for the part of Brent, a “marketing and branding guru” for the biggest record label in Nashville – a character who also has a romantic history with one of the label’s artists.
“There’s a little bit of conflict with business and personal relationships,” Krantz said.
The character was introduced in the finale of the show’s first season, which aired in May, and Krantz recently filmed his seventh episode. Krantz isn’t contracted for a specific number of episodes; his character and storyline are episode-by-episode.
“I’ll be around as long as they keep me,” he said. “At this point, I’m pretty deep into it. If they wanted to wrap up my character, they could do it in two to three episodes, or I could be around all season.”
Though he doesn’t know exactly where his storyline is going or how long he’ll be around, Krantz said that’s the exciting part of being on the show.
“Something that’s a little bit different with TV than a film or play or stage production is (a TV show) is a living, breathing organism,” he said. “Sometimes creators have an idea where a storyline is going, but it’s always subject to change. TV kind of reflects life because sometimes you don’t know where life is going or where your relationships are going.”
Aside from getting to hang out and work with “some of the coolest people,” Krantz is learning a lot from his stint on “Nashville” – particularly about producing and directing. His goal is to eventually follow in the footsteps of actors like George Clooney and Ben Affleck, who’ve begun wearing multiple hats.
“There are more actors taking the helm of telling their own stories,” Krantz said. “That’s something I’ve always been drawn to. As much as I want to do content creation, it’s definitely a benefit to watch everyone work behind the scenes.”
When he’s not filming scenes for “Nashville” – shot on location in Nashville – Krantz is traveling to Los Angeles and working on other projects such as independent films. He also plays competitive soccer and softball, and enjoys live music, camping and hiking.
“Obviously, California has a lot of great geological regions. I’ve been taking advantage of that,” Krantz said. “It’s such a huge perk of living out here, for sure.”
Season two of “Nashville” premiered Wednesday, Sept. 25, and airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC. Find more information at www.abc.go.com/shows/Nashville.