Jas Waters, journalist and TV writer for ‘This Is Us’ and ‘Kidding,’ dies at 39
Jas Waters, the late trailblazing TV writer and entertainment journalist, was known for her standout work on series such as NBC’s “This Is Us,” Showtime’s “Kidding” and VH1’s “The Breaks.” She was also known among her industry peers as an uplifting source of support and inspiration.
“I always admired her hustle and her spirit,” said “Hair Love” mastermind Matthew A. Cherry on Tuesday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It was really a joy to see her rise and rise, from how excited she was when she was on ‘This Is Us,’ and then on Jim Carrey’s show, ‘Kidding.’ It just felt like ... she could have been on any show she wanted.”
Cherry praised Waters as not only as “loyal,” “funny” and “smart,” but also “the type of person that supported early,” backing her industry peers from the beginning of their careers.
“She believed in me,” he said. “And a lot of people believed in her too.”
The Oscar-winning director was one of many entertainment luminaries who paid tribute to Waters after she died on June 9 in her Hollywood home at age 39. Her death was ruled a suicide.
“It is with extremely heavy hearts that all of us at RMG mourn the life of our client & friend, Jas Waters,” Waters’ representatives at Rain Management Group said in a statement June 10 as news of her death began to spread. “Jas was a talented & gifted writer, an amazing person, & a sweet soul who will be forever missed. Though she is no longer with us, her impact will be felt for years to come.”
The “This Is Us” writers room also honored Waters on social media, tweeting, “The entire #ThisIsUs family was devastated to learn of Jas Waters passing. In our time together, Jas left her mark on us and ALL over the show.
“She was a brilliant storyteller and a force of nature. We send our deepest sympathies to her loved ones. She was one of us.”
Waters, who went by the nickname Jas Fly, was born on Oct. 21, 1980, in Evanston, Ill., and studied at Evanston Township High School and Columbia College Chicago.
An aspiring director, she spent nine years working in film production and television development on a variety of projects, including the “Spider-Man” and “Barbershop” franchises, “Hardball,” “Save the Last Dance,” “ER” and MTV’s “Real World,” according to her IMDb page.
Her most recent gig was on “Kidding,” as a story editor. She also lent her pen to the 2019 film “What Men Want,” starring Taraji P. Henson and Tracy Morgan, and Comedy Central’s “Hood Adjacent With James Davis.”
In a statement provided to The Times last week, “Kidding” showrunner Dave Holstein saluted Waters as “a one of a kind voice and an integral part” of the series’ writing team.
“This is a devastating loss for those who knew her and lived in her light,” Holstein wrote. “One of my favorite lines of hers is resonating especially loud with me today: Our scars do not mean we are broken. They are proof we are healed.”
Holstein first met Waters at Universal Studios after reading a sample pilot script of hers. She came highly recommended by the Creative Artists Agency, and he knew she possessed an “original voice” and perspective that would suit the dramatic comedy’s “unique” artistic vision.
“I wanted to meet people who shared a similar desire to be creative and weird,” Holstein told The Times on Tuesday. “We sat down and had a nice, long talk, and I was pretty convinced by the end of it that she’d be great for the show.”
In 2018, Waters spoke with Shadow and Act of her unconventional upbringing and road to Hollywood. Raised by her father and grandmother, Waters described herself as “a poor Black kid who grew up in an old folks home” and had “such a grasp on what made a movie good; what made a story good” because of her exposure to a wide range of entertainment from a young age.
“I never had a traditional life; I never had a safe, cookie-cutter, predictable, affirming life,” she told Shadow and Act at the time. “From the moment I got here, the rules didn’t apply to me. If the basic rules of raising a kid didn’t apply to me, then nothing else really applies to me. So I just had to figure it out.”
Waters said she was the only staff writer of color on “Kidding” and felt a dual responsibility to “write the show along with everyone else” and make sure the story was inclusive. She said she purposefully sought projects “that were unexpected and audacious, and that would show that I could do anything,” often exerting her influence as a Black woman creative in predominantly white work spaces.
“I think early on, she decided that the best way through life for her was to be her own copilot and ... carve her own path,” Holstein said. “She was really delightful and confident and and pugnacious. She really fought for things in life, and she really fought for her ideas.
“She was passionate, and it’s not easy to come from where she came from and grow up the way she did and make her mark on this industry. And she did.”
Though they never got the chance to collaborate directly on any projects, Cherry and Waters supported each other’s work and traded artistic advice as two creatives navigating the industry.
He lauded Waters for her openness about the struggles she faced on her way to success — a necessary reminder to those who “think the industry is just all roses.”
Outside of Hollywood, Waters ran a successful entertainment blog, FlyStyleLife.com, for three years and later served as a pop-culture columnist for Vibe magazine. According to her LinkedIn profile, she interviewed the likes of Ava DuVernay, Spike Lee, Jay-Z, Warren Buffett, Joan Rivers, Drake and many more throughout her career.
In the music world, Waters collaborated on videos with Diddy, Jermaine Dupri, Bow Wow, Jagged Edge and Common. She also starred in the VH1 reality program “Gossip Game,” following the lives of women in hip-hop media, and Jump Off TV’s “Debate Lounge” on YouTube.
“I know she inspired a lot of people because I’ve been seeing a lot of people that I know following in those footsteps,” Cherry said. “She was somebody that wore her heart on her sleeve and was very open and shared the whole process — not just the wins ... And I think that’s important.”
If you or someone you know is exhibiting warning signs of suicide, seek help from a professional and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Here’s a sampling of social media tributes from Waters’ industry peers.
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