When you briefly glimpse Calvin Peters in a Verizon commercial during Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, his face might seem familiar.
Maybe you remember him from his performances during the audition stage of “American Idol.” Perhaps you recognize him from guest appearances in television dramas such as “9-1-1” or “Snowfall.” Or possibly he was your doctor during an appointment at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The diverse resume for the former Dallas physician now finds him splitting much of his time between treating patients and auditioning for roles on stage and screen.
“The art caters to my right brain, and the medicine and science is challenging and fostering my left brain,” Peters said. “I love helping people. Every time I look in a patient’s eyes and they’re hurting, that tugs at my heart in a way that nothing else can. But then I love to be on stage and perform.”
Appropriately enough, Peters plays a surgeon in the Verizon spot that will debut Sunday. It’s a continuation of the company’s ongoing campaign saluting first responders and was directed by Hollywood filmmaker Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights).
“He’s a visionary. It was so encouraging and motivating to see this guy work,” Peters said. “I want to continue to grow to where I’m working with all kinds of creative talent.”
Peters developed a passion for medicine and for performing while growing up in the Stop Six neighborhood in Fort Worth. He acted in his first play at age 9, and later graduated from North Side High School.
At Hampton University in Virginia, Peters was involved in musical theater before graduating with a degree in molecular biology in 2006.
He returned to Texas to attend medical school at UT Southwestern, then stayed to complete his residency in 2014, specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
During his residency, he impulsively auditioned for American Idol, eventually making the show in 2013. Later that year, he appeared on an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show” spotlighting the “Most Eligible Doctors.” He was hooked.
“I was still going to work every day, and everybody at the hospital was really supportive, but I still felt empty,” he said.
So Peters took some classes and hired an agent in Dallas, and began acting in local commercials and short films. In 2015, he relocated to Los Angeles and set up his practice primarily as a therapist for nursing home patients, which allowed him to have a flexible schedule.
As his exposure grew, Peters refined his craft with improvisation classes, voice classes, and dance classes. He hired a manager and began booking jobs, including an episode of “Snowfall” that aired in August and a small role on “9-1-1” in November. Peters also plays a waiter in the low-budget romantic comedy What Love Looks Like, which began streaming on Amazon Prime earlier this month.
Juggling his two careers has become more of a challenge. Peters recently had an opportunity to play Harpo in a traveling stage production of The Color Purple, but couldn’t commit to the full year away from his practice.
His circumstances mean Peters isn’t be as desperate as other up-and-coming actors in California, but he said he’s just as driven. He spends 30-40 hours per week reading scripts and rehearsing.
“My bills are all paid. I’m still saving money and have health insurance. I have an assistant. I live in Beverly Hills. My life is not bad,” Peters said. “But when I go into an audition, I’m still going hard. I’m giving it my all. I’m putting my foot in the water just as fast and hard as somebody who’s waiting tables.”
Eventually, he would like to give back to the rough neighborhood in eastern Fort Worth where he was raised, and where his family has been victimized by a pervasive cycle of drugs and violence.
“I’ll always be connected to that community. I’m never going to act like I’m too good for them. Fort Worth will always be in my heart,” he said. “Sometimes it’s so difficult to go be around some of the situations because the energy and the vibes are not right. The way I grew up was not ideal, but I feel so fortunate.”
As his success in show business grows and he plans for the long-term future, Peters said he hasn’t thought about abandoning his career in medicine.
“I don’t think you can ever stop somebody from being a doctor,” Peters said. “I try not to think about that right now, because I don’t have to make that choice yet. If the situation got big enough, I probably wouldn’t be able to go into a hospital and practice, but there’s always a way to stay connected to healthcare.”