People to Know 2014: Derek Theler
If Derek Theler has his way, he’ll one day be a superhero. This has nothing to do with Derek’s origin story: He’s had type 1 diabetes for 25 years and has wrangled his blood glucose into submission using special gadgets and sheer determination. No, this is about superpowers. And super-suits. And action—lots of action.
Supersized ambitions are why Derek went into acting in the first place: to star in action movies and flicks created after the comic books he loves reading. That may be his end game, but his current gig isn’t too bad either. The 28-year-old actor stars in the ABC Family comedy Baby Daddy, where he plays Danny Wheeler, the loveable yet dimwitted older brother of the show’s main character.
The real Derek Theler is as charming as his alter ego, but with a keen intelligence behind his words. His smarts served him well in college as he pursued a degree in sports medicine, a step toward a career that he hoped would contribute to research for a diabetes cure. That plan was diverted as Derek pursued acting, but the knowledge is still useful as he manages his diabetes.
His understanding of the human body also helps him stay in optimum shape, an important aspect of a job that requires frequent shirtless scenes. That poses its own challenge—namely, where to insert his insulin pump infusion set and his continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensor so they won’t appear on screen. By now, he has a system down and only removes his pump and CGM when he’s filming for long periods in water. For the scenes he recently filmed for a yet-unnamed action comedy about shark hunters, he used insulin pens.
While Derek needs to hide his diabetes devices during filming, he’s open about type 1 when the camera stops rolling. As soon as he arrives on a new set, he tells the director and assistant director about his diabetes, and the entire crew knows he may need soda or candy should he start flubbing or forgetting lines—signs of a low. He also connects with fans on Twitter, where he’s candid about his diabetes. “I want people toknow you can have the job I have and have diabetes and be healthy,” he says.
Tracey Neithercott is Diabetes Forecast’s senior editor. Like Derek, she’s always aspired to superhero-dom.