Oxon Hill native Aaron D. Spears spent most of his youth playing football, but he soon caught another interest in college: acting.
The actor, now appearing on the CBS daytime drama “The Bold and the Beautiful,” was in his senior year at Delaware State University in Dover when the NFL’s New York Jets extended an invitation for him to try out at training camp. However, an elective course in speech gave him a change of heart.
“There was a play production, and the professor was going to give me a B,” said Spears, 41, who wanted an A to try to maintain his 3.5 GPA. “There was no way out of getting a B unless I joined the production. So I did a little part in the play, and I just fell in love with it, and I turned down the Jets.”
Upon graduating, Spears moved to California and worked odd jobs — from selling mattresses at Mattress Discounters to being a substitute teacher — until his acting career took off. Since 2009, he has played the role of Justin Barber on the soap opera “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and recently he had a role in “Being Mary Jane,” a pilot for BET.
Prior to his current gig, Spears has made minor appearances on shows such as “NCIS,” “Castle,” “Bones” and “Boston Legal.” Spears said filming a soap can be hectic, because they film two episodes daily.
“There’s a lot of lines and dialog to focus on [given the filming schedule],” Spears said.
Spears said his upbringing in Oxon Hill and his tight-knit group of friends prepared him for life as an actor and allowed him to be able to compartmentalize his life.
“I always had a regimen, so I’d go to school, come home and do homework, go to [sports] practices, go to bed,” Spears said. “We would compete for everything — who had the best clothes, the best shoes, who was better at sports, and it propelled us to compete for grades as well. We were all trying to get all As.”
Spears, who graduated from Oxon Hill High School, said he tries to come home to his family once per year around the winter holidays, but he had gone three years before returning this year. He said residents often are surprised to find out he grew up in the county.
“They don’t expect to see you around here, so sometimes people will say, ‘You know, you look a lot like that guy,’” Spears said. “I usually respond by saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I get that a lot.’ And if they persist I eventually give in and admit [I’m on television].”
JaJa Harrison, 40, of District Heights has been friends with Spears since he was 8, and insisted he always won the grades competition — although Spears said he thinks he won some of the time.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t think he would really make it,” Harrison said. “But once he booked his first commercial — the first thing we saw him in was a Burger King commercial — everyone was excited and saying, ‘Oh, did you see Aaron’s in a BK ad?’ He had that dream and he chased it.”
Spears said that looking back on his childhood, certain things stand out as influencing him to pursue acting, particularly the go-go band he played in with Harrison in middle school, the Forest Heights Groovies.
“It was that experience of entertaining the crowd,” Spears said. “In middle school, you first got that recognition and that understanding of the power and influence you can have over people when you’re performing.”
Charles Shearod, 41, of Dallas has been friends with Spears since they both were 5. He said he understood Spears’ career choice, despite the opportunity he was given to play for the Jets.
“It’s more about following your heart, rather than just doing something you may be good at,” Shearod said. “He was good at football, but acting was his thing.”
Shearod said he was especially excited to hear Spears had booked a regular stint on “The Bold and the Beautiful,” as he said he’s actually a big fan.
“When I flip a channel and see his face, makes me smile every time,” Shearod said. “But I’m an avid ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ watcher, so it worked for me when he joined.”