Remembering Jas Waters: Writer Behind ‘This Is Us’
By: Mariah Thomas
Earlier this month, fans and peers shared their grief over the passing of Jas Waters, one of the staff writers on NBC’s award-winning drama “This Is Us” and Showtime’s “Kidding.” Nicknamed Jas Fly, the 39-year-old screenwriter and journalist was a force of nature in her industry. Last week, Waters’ cause of death was revealed as suicide.
Born in Evanston, Illinois, and raised by her grandmother in a senior home, Waters started as a journalist in the hip hop industry, writing for Vibe Vixen’s digital column in 2010.
Known as an advocate for pushing black writers in film and television, Waters’ writing credentials include “The Breaks,” a 2017 American Drama on aspiring hip-hop moguls; Comedy Centrals’ “Hood Adjacent,” on comic and writer James Davis’ life growing up in the projects of South Central Los Angeles; and “What Men Want,” a romantic comedy where Taraji Henson’s character can read men’s thoughts.
In a 2018 interview with Shadow and Act, Waters spoke on the weekly trips to the movies with her father on Sundays. Her life perspective was shaped by movies such as “New Jack City” with Wesley Snipes, and “Harlem Nights” with Eddie Murphy — both American crime movies based in New York City.
I'm tired of sheltering in place with my anxiety. Most days is nearly debilitating. Hence, the cooking simply for the calm it brings. So if you're struggling just to keep the fear of the unknown in check, know that you're not alone. I'm with you.— Jas Waters (@JasFly) April 25, 2020
Waters was the personification of a multi-dimensional woman. Along with writing for major film networks, she co-authored “The Art & Science of Respect,” a memoir for Rap-A-Lot Records owner James Prince. She also contributed to “The Missing Piece: Finding The Better Part Of Me: A Love Journey,” a novel by motivational speaker Rob Hill, who hones in on his journey and the lessons learned throughout his life.
Though Waters accomplished many of her career goals, she struggled with depression. Diagnosed at the age of 19, depression became a decades-long struggle throughout her life. The COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders only seemed to contribute to her rising anxiety.
Considered to be the leading cause of death in the U.S., suicide strikes the black community at a higher rate than their white counterparts. From 1999 through 2017, there was a 9 percent increase in suicides among blacks — putting the black community at 11.4 percent of suicides compared to 28.2 percent of whites. Between 2006 to 2016, there was a 114 percent increase in suicide rates for black children aged 13 and under —making this racial age group the highest rate of death by suicide.
Factors such as racism, toxic masculinity, and poverty are contributing factors in the cause of black suicide rates. It’s an issue that can be tied to the racial economic gap in our country. As we continue to experience the anxiety and uncertainty due to the pandemic and social unrest, we stand in remembrance of Waters’ achievements and the mental health issues that are sometimes overlooked.
“Jas was absolutely brilliant and had so many stories still to tell, wrote “This Is Us” creator Dan Fogelman wrote on Twitter. “She made an indelible mark on our show and my heart breaks for her loved ones. RIP @JasFly.”
If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.