In 1982, Tom competed with actors such as Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon to land the role of Bobby in David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, American Buffalo. Kurt Russell and John Carpenter saw Tom's performance and cast him as Windows in the film The Thing (1982). Tom was cast in the Broadway premier of Trafford Tanzi, a musical where Tom sang with Deborah Harry of Blondie fame. Next was Pastorale, the Obie Award-winning play by Debra Eisenberg starring Judith Ivey and Christine Estabrook, playing the character of Steve.
It was during this time that Tom met his namesake and singer Tom Waits, who generously taught Tom the song "Jersey Girl" on the guitar. Out of deference to the musician Tom Waits, this is when Tom added the G. to his professional name to offset any confusion between the two talented artists. Tom Waits even played the base drum on a demo tape of Thomas G. Waites' music. Tom G. Waites began writing music and formed a band called The Pushups, playing gigs around NYC in clubs such as CBGB's, Limelight, Traxs, The Bitter End and even opening for The Smithereens.
Next came one of the highlights of Tom's career working with Geraldine Page in Clifford Odets' Paradise Lost, in the role of Kewpie, originated by Elia Kazan. This was Off-Broadway at St. Peter's Church.
The reviews from this show and a recommendation by Al Pacino got Tom the lead, Ralph in Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! and Sing on Broadway with the great actress Frances McDormand and actor Harry Hamlin. Tom was then cast in the lead role of Broud in The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) with Daryl Hannah and James Remar. Terrible critical notices and a cold reception from the public combined to make Clan of the Cave Bear a less than career-building move. It was at this point that he met his future wife, Lisa Greenberg, with whom he has two children: Samuel Jackson Waites and Michaela Kate Waites. Tom next played Otis the baby-stealer in ABC's All My Children for approximately 9 months, while performing Israel Horovitz's North Shore Fish at the WPA Theater in NYC alongside John Pankow, Christine Estabrook, Wendie Malick and Laura San Giacomo. Tom also made guest appearances in such popular television shows as Kojak (with Telly Savalas), Miami Vice and two episodes of The Equalizer. Tom played the role of Rob in Howard Korder's Search and Destroy on Broadway alongside Griffin Dunne. Tom appeared as Smittie in the film Light of Day (1987) opposite Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett, and was then cast as Al Capone, competing with actors like Harvey Keitel, for the film Gangland (1987) with Scott Glenn.
Waites moved to Iowa City, Iowa, to pursue a career as a playwright. While in Iowa, Tom wrote a play called Dark Laughter, based on the lives of William Faulkner and Dylan Thomas. The play was picked up by producer Barry Kemp, creator of the hit television series Coach. The play was moved to the Marin Theatre Center in Mill Valley, California.
Tom next relocated to Los Angeles where he started the theatre company, TomCats. This is where he began his directing career. After two guest star appearances on NYPD Blue and some minor roles in small independent films and television shows, including a guest star in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mike Hammer, Private Eye with Stacy Keach and Slither. At this time, Tom established himself as a top acting teacher. He opened the TGW Acting Studio in 2000 and his school continues to thrive today. He has coached such actors as Alfred Molina, Vinnie Pastore, Vinessa Shaw, Tim Guinee, Oliver Hudson and Jamie Harris. TGW Acting Studio was named the top school to study acting in New York City by Backstage in 2015. Tom directs and produces Off-Off-Broadway plays at his studio. Upon returning to New York, he directed the Off-Broadway hit Six Goumbas and a Wannabe, starring Annie McGovern and Kathrine Narducci. He also directed Golden Ladder (with Amy Redford) and numerous other Off and Off-Off-Broadway productions.
Since returning to New York City he has landed guest roles in Law & Order (four times), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (two times) and starred in the soap opera One Life to Live as Decker. Waites played Henry Stanton in Oz for four seasons.
Tom directed Joe Mantegna and Frances Fisher in a short film, Pandora's Box for which he won Best Director in the Atlantic City Film Festival.