Driven to succeed in film, Blythewood voice-over actor Drew Bates pursues the story

Drew Bates surrounded by his animated characters.

In 2001, Blythewood’s Drew Bates had wrapped up his study of theater at the University of South Carlina and stuck out on his own in pursuit of an acting career in Los Angeles. During the next six years he studied acting, sold tickets at Universal Studios and earned membership in the Screen Actors Guild as a featured actor in background parts in movies like Jim Carey’s The Majestic and Seabiscuit.

Bates also did voice-over for features on The History Channel and for TV commercials.

“I felt like I was on my way to where I wanted to be–in front of the camera, in the story,” Bates recalled recently at his home in Blythewood where he lives with his dad, Andy.

But on January 13, 2007, on a road trip through Texas on his way home to South Carolina,  Bates’ car hit a patch of ice and was struck by an oncoming semi truck. The force of the accident crushed his C5/C6 vertebrae, leaving Bates a quadriplegic.

While his life was spun out of control–for Bates, it was only a temporary setback.

Undaunted and driven to succeed in his dream to be an actor, Bates immersed himself in his recovery. But only six months into that recovery, his mom and caretaker, Jan Bates, was diagnosed with stage four cancer. She died last year. Bates admits that her illness and death left him bereft at times. But, again, he forged on.

Today, Bates says his future is brighter than ever.

He is now an independent writer, producer and voice-over actor specializing in cartoon characters and commercials.

During the last three years he has produced his own 22-minute animated cartoon, called Red Neck Ninjas, that he has recently had the opportunity to pitch to a number of studios in Los Angeles including Disney, MTV network and The Cartoon Network. While there, he also attended the Emmy’s, and with the help of friends in high places, made the rounds of the MTV and Warner Brothers studios.

“Ironically,” Bates said, “my biggest breaks came after the accident. A previous contact in Los Angeles, John Shaffner, who has twice been CEO and Chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and an Emmy award winning set designer, reached out to me, encouraged me in my endeavors and opened the right doors for me once I had my animation package ready to shop around.”

While no network has yet picked up the cartoon, Bates said he’s not discouraged.

“It takes a while, maybe several years for a studio to bite. But they will. I’m confident.”

Red Neck Ninjas is an action/comedy series for tweens 9-14 and adults 18-34. It’s about the loud, proud, country-to-the-core Knech family. As the world passes by with adventure, urbanized-outsiders and pink flamingo lawn ornaments, these country-fried, kung fu warriors under Granny’s tutelage, serve as the resident heroes in the town of Folksville.

Bates said creating animation is expensive and can run up to $10,000 per minute. He said couldn’t have created the animation for his cartoon without the help of financial benefactors as well. Family friend Joyce Hampton of Blythewood, who shared the love of all things equestrienne with Bates’ mother, Jan,  is one of those benefactors.

In the fall, Bates will unveil a computer game (free  download) based on his Red Neck Ninja cartoon.

“I’m trying to move the Red Neck Ninjas from a developmental concept to a recognized brand,” Bates explained.

He said the computer game takes it to the next level. “The more content I create for my brand, the better my chances are of selling it.”

In the meantime, Bates is frequently in front of cameras right here in Blythewood as several local TV stations have featured him on news programs and tell his story.

Whether featured on a local news program or creating voice over for his cartoon production, he’s obviously in his element–in front of the camera, in the story.

For more information about Bates and his animation production, go to

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