Musicians Who Were Actors First

It’s always interesting to see how professions in the entertainment industry overlap. This is especially true these days when many celebrities are multi-talented singers/actors/influencers/entrepreneurs. Some of the actors to musician pipeline feel obvious, especially when looking at networks such as Disney Channel or Nickelodeon which often feature shows with music involved in some way. Still, it’s always intriguing to see someone in the limelight who carries many talents or once dabbled in other professions outside of being a musician. The musician-to-actor transition is a bit more common, but there aren’t as many who went into music after being an actor first. This will highlight those who took this path. A couple of them may surprise you.



Before he was a Grammy award-winning rapper, Drake was an actor. He was on the popular 2000s TV show, Degrassi. Before he poured his heart out in music, he was tugging on our heartstrings as the character Jimmy Brooks. Drake dropped out of high school to pursue his acting career when he was 15 after being introduced to a high school friend's father, an acting agent who got him the role on Degrassi. He later got his diploma in 2012. When Drake talks about his early acting career, he’s said, "My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was [from] Canadian TV" (Source). He starred in Degrassi for seven years (2001-2009) appearing in about 100 episodes. His role earn him a Young Artist Award in 2002 for best ensemble in a TV series. Drake also played a leading role in the short film 'Us and Them'. Shot in and around his hometown of Toronto, the film features many iconic places Drake sings about in his recent music including his childhood home. Beyond that, he was in smaller roles in the 2000s before quitting acting to focus on his music career.

Drake as Jimmy on Degrassi. Source:

Drake self-released his debut mixtape, Room for Improvement, in 2006. The mixtape featured Trey Songz and Lupe Fiasco. According to Degrassi series creators Stephen Stohn and Linda Schuyler, Drake regularly arrived late on set after spending nights recording music. To prevent this, Schuyler claimed Drake struck an agreement with the set's security guards to gain entry to the set after recording to be allowed to sleep in a dressing room. In 2009, Drake released his third mixtape So Far Gone which had "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful.” The tracks found mainstream commercial success from the singles and gained gold certification by the RIAA. Drake was the subject of a bidding war between various labels eventually going with Young Money Entertainment. On March 9, 2010, Drake released the debut single "Over", which peaked at number fourteen on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as topping the Rap Songs chart. It also received a nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 53rd Grammy Awards. His second single, "Find Your Love", became an even bigger success. It peaked at number five on the Hot 100, and was certified platinum.

From there, Drake continued to move up in his music career, and now he’s one of the most popular rappers in the industry. Drake placed fourth on Forbes's ranking of highest-paid rappers of 2021, with an estimated pre-tax income of $50 million. On April 16, it was calculated Drake generated more streams in 2021 than every song released prior to 1980 combined; his music accumulated 7.91 billion streams, while songs pre-1980 had generated 6.32 billion. Needless to say, the transition to music was a good move on his part. I always think about the lyrics from his song “0 to 100/The Catch Up” where he says, “All up on TV, I thought it'd make me richer/ Wasn't payin' me enough, I needed somethin' quicker.” And quicker, did he find.

Jared Leto