Tommy Dewey ’01 had every opportunity to have a more “typical” Princeton career. He was a Woodrow Wilson School major, worked for a bank in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., and interned on Capitol Hill. He even signed up for the LSAT three times (although he never actually took it).
Dewey, now a successful actor, writer, and producer, is best known for his roles in movies like 17 Again (2009), Step Up Revolution (2012), and now the lead role in Hulu’s original series Casual. At Princeton, he never intended to act professionally until he was “discovered” while playing a lead role in Noises Off at a campus theater.
“Had it not been for a talent manager seeing a play I did at Theatre Intime my senior year, and saying, ‘Hey I’d like to work with you if you’d like to give this thing a shot,’ I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do it,” Dewey says.
He came to Princeton intending to run track, but he broke his foot while training and turned to theater and comedy. He first got involved with Quipfire!, the campus’ premier improv comedy group.
“I think back on the people and the experiences. And all that stuff sort of seeps into you in a away that’s hard to define,” Dewey says. “In terms of sharpening my beginning comedic instincts, I can’t even put a value on how important that was. My time in Quipfire! was a huge part of it all in terms of making me better at what I do know.”
Although his Princeton experience ended much differently than he intended, Dewey said he does not regret any of it. He remembers the Woodrow Wilson School fondly, having enjoyed the interdisciplinary courses and wide range of classes.
“I tell young actors all the time that I work with that to do it all over again, I would go back and get a liberal arts education at Princeton,” he says. While there are plenty of benefits to attending an acting conservatory, he believes that “ultimately, to survive in this business it’s better to be well rounded.”
Dewey still looks back on his Princeton years as a source of inspiration for his current career: “There’s a deep well of experience to pull from from my time at Princeton. There were so many interesting people from all corners of the world. In terms of storytelling — because I write also — it has such an eclectic student body, and the relationships and getting to know all these different people is something I think about a lot when approaching a role or a new project.”