PERRY -- Devin Simpson is by no means a famous actor. People don’t recognize him on the streets of Atlanta and ask for his autograph. A limousine doesn’t pick him up at his front door.
But he can turn on the TV or go to the movies and catch glimpses of himself. He may have to squint to find his face in the crowd. Or he might be in one of those “don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it” scenes.
He plays the strong, silent type. He has no speaking parts, so there are no lines to remember.
At least he is living the dream.
Devin, 26, was an extra in the movie “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” as well as the upcoming two-part “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.”
He can be seen in the background of a crash scene in “Fast & Furious 7.” He was along for the ride on the set of “Ride Along 2” this summer and “Term Life” with Vince Vaughn. He has been called in for a new movie, “Mineral,” which starts filming this week.
On TV’s “The Vampire Diaries,” he has been a stand-in for one of the main characters, Matt Donovan, played by actor Zach Roerig. He also was a stand-in for Klaus Mikaelson, played by actor Joseph Morgan, in “The Originals.” He can be spotted in two other TV shows filmed in Atlanta -- “Drop Dead Diva” and “Being Mary Jane.”
“I’ve been told I have the ‘look,’” Devin said, laughing. “So as long as I have the ‘look,’ I’ll keep doing this as long as I can.”
His parents, Jimmy and Davida Simpson, of Perry, get a thrill whenever they see Devin on the screen. Although he didn’t grow up dreaming of having a star on his dressing room door, they weren’t surprised when he got a casting call.
“He has always been a camera hound,” Jimmy said. “He wanted to be in front of the camera every time I turned it on.”
Of course, there are always risks when you’re an actor. Your character could get “killed off.” You could get written out of the script. Your scene could end up on the cutting room floor.
Devin has had some real-life experience with this.
He almost died.
It wasn’t in a movie.
This month marks the fifth anniversary of Devin’s “Lazarus” moment. It came on a Saturday night: Aug. 29, 2009.
His father was at home watching the Atlanta Braves game on TV. His mother’s cell phone rang. She saw it was a call from Devin. He was at a swimming party at the home of one of the church members at Christ Chapel in Warner Robins.
“Hi, Devin,” she answered.
Only it wasn’t Devin’s voice. A young woman was calling from Devin’s phone. She was frantic.
“She said they had pulled Devin out the pool, and he wasn’t breathing,” said Davida.
A friend had called 911. An ambulance was on the way.
Devin was a certified lifeguard. He had worked summers at Perry Country Club and at the neighborhood pool in the Camelot subdivision in Perry. He was healthy and athletic, with hardly an ounce of fat on him. He played baseball and ran cross country at Perry High School. He had been on the swim team at Darton State College in Albany.
No one at the pool party knew CPR. A policeman was in the neighborhood and responded to the call.
Devin has always been somewhat of a free spirit. His mom got his name “Devin” from a bottle of Aramis cologne. As a child, he never shied away from an adventure. He once drove his pedal car into a swimming pool. When he was 4, he climbed a tree next to the house. When Davida answered the door, it was a girl from the neighborhood. “Your baby is up on the roof,” she said.
“I used to pray all the time, ‘Lord, please protect him,’ ’’ said Davida.
Devin admits he had a bit of show-off in him. When his buddy issued a dare, Devin didn’t back down. “Do something we will be talking about tomorrow,” his friend said.
“I told him I could hold my breath and swim three laps,” Devin said. “And he said. ‘No, do four.’ I touched the wall after the fourth lap and was coming up for air. I blacked out and did a nose dive to the bottom.”
When his parents reached the emergency room at Houston County Medical Center, Davida said she expected a doctor to come out and say, “Whew! That was a close call.”
Instead, the refrain was a parent’s worst nightmare. They were told Devin was on life support. Things looked grim.
“They weren’t expecting him to make it through the night,” Jimmy said. “They shined a light in his eyes and didn’t see any brain activity. If he did survive, they didn’t expect him to be able to function.”
The Simpsons did the only thing they knew. They prayed. The waiting room swelled with people. It was after midnight, in the wee hours of the morning. Family. Friends. Preachers from four churches. Everyone held hands and prayed.
The Simpsons asked to transfer Devin to The Medical Center of Central Georgia. They were told he might not survive the ambulance ride.
“I knew they would have to ‘breathe’ for him,” said Davida. “I went out to the ambulance and told them he was a good kid and to think of him as their own child.”
The rest of the night is a blur. They just remember pulling up to the Medical Center still praying for a miracle.
They got one.
Devin opened his eyes around the time the sun came up. When the Simpsons reached his room, he was sitting in bed. There were tubes and wires in every direction. He asked for a pen and paper.
“I’m so sorry,” he wrote.
Devin looks back at he experience as his “wake up call.” He began sharing his testimony in churches. He started teaching Sunday School at Christ Chapel, as well as participating in a “fitness ministry” and Bible study.
Later, he served as the youth pastor at St. Andrews Christian Church in Macon. This summer, he has been a counselor at a summer camp for Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, a suburb of Atlanta. He posts daily inspirational messages on his Facebook page.
“I don’t take life for granted anymore,’’ he said. “I thought I was invincible. But the reality is that any one of us could die today, tonight or tomorrow. If I had died that night, I am certain I would have gone to heaven. I can say that. But there are some people out there who can’t, and I have a responsibility to tell them about God.”
For about a year after the accident, he was like a “rock star” who had been raised from the dead. He got plenty of attention.
Some folks even seemed surprised to see him. They had been told a different version of the story -- one that didn’t have a happy ending. “They thought I was dead,” he said. “They would say they heard I had drowned. And I would tell them, ‘Yeah, I did. But I lived to tell about it.’ ’’
Contact Gris at 744-4275.