GV alumni leads successful acting career, makes Netflix debut


Courtesy of Scott Watson

Mary Dupuis, News Editor

Grand Valley State University alumni, Scott Watson09, recently made his Netflix debut in the popular real crime docuseries, “Crime Scene.”

Created by award-winning documentary filmmaker, Joe Berlinger, Watson appears in the most recent installment of the series in a three-part show, “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer.”

Watson plays the role of a serial killer, Richard Cottingham, whose crimes were carried out in the 1970s in New York City. 

The show contains interviews and news footage from the time the crimes were committed, as well as reenactments by Watson. 

Watson filmed for about a month in the New York and New Jersey areas for the role. 

He said he has played darker roles before, so when it came time to step into Cottingham’s shoes, he was ready for it.

“There’s no need to go super deep into the dark horribleness of it because basically everybody walks through life as their own protagonist,” Watson said. “So even somebody who is doing bad things probably doesn’t think of themselves as a bad person, if that makes sense. So, a lot of times if you’re playing someone who is an antagonist you kind of have to figure out how they’re justifying what they’re doing to themselves.”

While this is Watson’s first appearance on Netflix, he is no stranger to the spotlight. 

Throughout his career Watson has appeared in plays and numerous commercials, his most memorable being when he was the face of a campaign for Ray-Ban.

He said the commercial took one day to shoot on the beach and that it had a “music video vibe.”

What Watson didn’t know at the time was that this campaign would make its way overseas. 

“I had some friends in Europe and they were like, ‘Did you know you’re on a giant billboard in Milan?’” Watson said. “They had literally made this print campaign where it was me in a red Speedo and I was everywhere in Europe like giant building-tall billboards, subways, everything. That was pretty cool.”

Following Watson’s graduation from GVSU in 2009 he moved to New York to kickstart his career. 

“I paid my first month’s rent and I had $35 when I moved,” Watson said. “I don’t recommend it, but it worked.”

However, he said it was the skills he learned at GVSU that gave him the confidence to take that leap. 

Watson was in 17 productions throughout his college career, the most memorable he said was his role as Bottom in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“We did directing classes where we were student directed, too, so there was just a lot of opportunities to be in shows,” Watson said. “Every show was a learning opportunity. That’s the cool part about college theatre, is it’s a place to experiment and try big things and if they don’t work out, well, that’s why you’re there.”

Watson said it was the Shakespeare Festival that drew him to GVSU. 

“When I went to GVSU’s campus it was so pretty,” Watson said. “I saw the Shakespeare festival and that really drew me in because I’d always been interested in Shakespeare but it was never really something that I thought about chasing after.”

Due to his commitment to, and love of, the festival in 2018 GVSU reached out to Watson to write a play for its 25th anniversary.

“I was really surprised and honored that they would think of me to do it,” Watson said. 

The play Watson wrote was titled, “Defy the Stars” and was inspired by a documentary he had recently watched about a concentration camp that had amenities and arts. 

“What interested me the most about that was that a lot of times the artists were spared from getting sent on because they wanted to have this cultural life at the camp,” Watson said. “So if you were in the orchestra for example a lot of times you stayed, you survived so it was like the arts literally saved peoples’ lives so that was kind of the genesis for the play.”

At the festival Watson and other alumni did a stage reading of the play. He has continued to work on it since. 

Associate professor of theatre, James Bell, said Watson also spoke to students in a conference held at the festival. 

Bell said he is proud of Watson’s continued success in his career and enjoyed having him as a student. 

“I think he’s been able to do in his career what he did at Grand Valley and that’s just take advantage of an array of different opportunities and diligently pursue the things that he wants to do,” Bell said. “Not just take a program for what it is but pursue his own interests and turn it into what he wants to be able to do and I think that’s something all students can do.”

Watson said he encourages students looking to pursue professional acting careers to consider that they may have to relocate for opportunities and to do so as soon as they’re able.

Bell also encourages a willingness to jump on opportunities when they arise. 

“I think where Scott was able to be successful is that he developed a good plan and he went after it and had abilities in multiple areas and he was tenacious,” Bell said. “He went to an area out in New York where he could try doing those things and he’s been diligent in doing so, willing to do anything that came along and that’s paid off for him.”

Watson said he hopes that students spend their time at college learning and enjoying their experiences, not just living for school. He said this mindset is important in the real world as well. 

“Don’t just live audition to audition but build a life you enjoy that can help you to be an actor,” Watson said. “Actors that just audition and think about acting tend to be pretty boring people.”