Terence Fletcher is the main antagonist of Whiplash. Fletcher is the villainous maestro of the jazz band in the Shaffer Conservatory.
He was portrayed by J.K Simmons.
After being accepted into the Shaffer Conservatory, 19-year-old jazz drummer named Andrew Neiman practices at night when Terence Fletcher walks into the room. While Fletcher seems unimpressed from Andrew's impromptu audition, he nonetheless accepts the student as his drum alternate. While Fletcher seems courteous to Andrew, it is clear that he knows how to manipulate emotions, as seen when he abuses and harasses several of the band's players. Eventually, he begins to make Andrew his target of abuse by throwing a chair at him for not following the tempo for the Hank Levy song "Whiplash". The rest of the class are silent as Fletcher slaps, shouts and mocks Andrew for not being confused with the tempo.
Andrew becomes obsessed with impressing Fletcher, to the point of spending all of his spare time practicing and breaking up with his girlfriend Nicole. When the main drummer misplaces his sheet music, Fletcher fires him at a local jazz competition and promotes Andrew. This promotion doesn't last for long, however, as Fletcher quickly replaces Andrew with a core drummer from his former class. Fletcher racially and psychologically abuses Andrew to earn the role as main drummer. After a week of excessively vigorous practice, Fletcher tearfully reveals to Andrew's class that a former student of his, Sean Casey, was killed in a car accident the day previously and hailed Sean as a "marvelous musician". After becoming violent with the drummers' inability to follow the tempo correctly, Fletcher decides to let Andrew perform in the upcoming concert, as Andrew auditions the best double-time-swing.
After having trouble with the buses on route to the performance, Andrew rents the car but leaves his drumsticks behind. Fletcher finds out when Andrew arrives late for their rehearsal and kicks him out. While rushing back to the concert after picking up his drumsticks, Andrew's rental car is hit by a truck. Despite being bloody and breaking his left hand, Andrew decides to perform, only to repeatedly drop his drumstick mid-song and pass out due to exhaustion and his injured left hand. Fletcher tells Andrew that he is "done", causing Andrew to tackle and attack him in front of the audience and Andrew is dragged away from the stage swearing and cursing at Fletcher.
A few weeks after Andrew is expelled from Shaffer, his father contacts a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey. There, the lawyer reveals that Sean actually hanged himself after suffering severe anxiety and depression from joining Fletcher's class, most likely due to the abuse Fletcher had caused him. Andrew eventually testifies to the school, which gets Fletcher fired from Shaffer. Months after the incident, Fletcher is performing in a club when he spots Andrew watching the performance. Afterwards, they have a drink and Fletcher explains that he pushes his students beyond what is expected of them, hoping that one of them would become the next great jazz musician. After supposedly explaining his own actions Fletcher reveals that he is conducting at the JVC festival concert and states that his new band are playing a repertoire identical to that of his former Shaffer band. Fletcher then invites Andrew to perform as his main drummer, an offer that Andrew quickly accepts.
In the festival, Andrew goes on stage when Fletcher approaches him and reveals he knew that Andrew was the student got him fired. Having trapped Andrew, Fletcher's band begins to play a song Andrew does not know and was not given the sheet music for. Andrew struggles with the song and plays the beats for "Whiplash" until the end of the performance. Andrew runs offstage humiliated and is comforted by his father before deciding to go back on stage. He interrupts Fletcher's speech by playing "Caravan" from his class and leads the other performers to join him. As the song plays, Fletcher is angered at being interrupted and for being beaten in his own game. Near the end of the song, however, Fletcher realizes that Andrew might have the drive to become one of the greats, the one thing he hoped to find in just one student his entire career. Andrew finishes an extravagant and exhilarating drum solo to see Fletcher nodding and weeping in approval and Andrew returns with a smile, having finally impressed his teacher at last.