Remembering Screenwriter Jas Waters' Illustrious, Varied Career
June 11, 2020
Screenwriter Jas Waters, known to many of her friends and peers as JasFly (also her Twitter moniker), has unexpectedly passed away. Waters, who wrote on both This is Us and Jim Carrey’s Kidding, was just thirty-nine years old. No cause of death has been released yet at the time of this writing.
Waters had an illustrious career even before delving into the screenwriting world. She started her writing journey in journalism, interviewing everyone from Warren Buffett to Jay-Z, and landed a column in Vibe Magazine after launching her own blog, FlyStyleLife.com.
A great fit for writing on This is Us, Waters told Shadow and Act in 2018 that she grew up in a nursing home raised by her Grandmother, but her father also made sure to take her to the movies every Sunday. She said she viewed herself as a young Roger Ebert, consuming everything from Seinfeld and Martin, to Scarface and Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias and Beaches.
This is Us creators called Waters “a brilliant storyteller” and a “force of nature” in an official statement on Instagram. In another interview with Shadow and Act, Waters stated she pursued everything in her career audaciously. It was no mistake that she went from working on ‘90s hip hop drama to The Breaks to working on a Comedy Central sketch show. “That was helpful in proving my agency,” she said.
Waters did indeed prove herself, even if in recent times she still worked as the only Black woman in the room.
“On Kidding, I’m the only Black writer and the only writer of color, as far as the staffing level. So, it’s my responsibility to write the show along with everyone else and to ideate and track story, but it’s also my responsibility to make sure that like, “Wait a minute. Why is everyone in this scene white?”
Waters was also known for helping upcoming writers with notes and reads, and worked to get people on set whenever she could. Issa Rae said on Twitter of her first interview with Waters, “I could feel her warmth through the phone. Over the years, I got to know and appreciate her even more. She was so generous, and beautiful, and real.”
Waters reveled in the opportunity to put experience on screen while writing for This is Us. “I’ve lived a lot of life,” she told Shadow and Act. “I’ve lost 111 pounds, so I understood weight and weight loss, which is Kate’s story. I have, for better or for worse, been on the inside of fame… I understood—in a very textile way—Kevin’s story. At the time, we knew Randall’s story was going to be about adopting a child. When an adoption counselor described traits of adopted children and what happens as they grow older, it hit so close to home. That's when I learned that I was adopted. So, as we were working on (the show), I was working through things.”
Waters was looking forward to taking on more stories with Black people at the center. “The shows that I create from now until the foreseeable future will probably feature people of color first, because I’m itching to tell our story.”
It is the world’s loss that we won’t have the chance to hear more of her stories in the future. Rest in peace, Jas.
Written by: Lindsay StidhamLindsay holds an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. She has overseen two scripts from script to screen as a writer/ producer. SPOONER, starring Matthew Lillard (SLAMDANCE), and DOUCHEBAG (SUNDANCE) both released theatrically. Most recently Lindsay sold PLAY NICE starring Mary Lynn Rajskub. The series was distributed on Hulu. Recent directing endeavors include the Walla Walla premiering (and best screenplay nominated) TIL DEATH DO US PART, and the music video for Bible Belt’s Tomorrow All Today. Lindsay is currently working on an interactive romcom for the production company Effin' Funny, and a feature film script for Smarty Pants Pictures. Lindsay also currently works as an Adjunct Screenwriting Faculty member at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. You can follow her work here: https://lindsaystidham.onfabrik.com/