In all of his appearances, Drayton is an antagonist. A mentally unstable and murderous cannibal, Drayton, along with his family of fellow cannibals and serial killers, lives in the backwoods of Texas, preying upon travelers, whom he and his relatives capture and devour, selling some of their meat to unwary people in chili at his restaurant/gas station. He also gets mad at Leatherface for ruining his door. Drayton's name wasn't mentioned until the second film, the first simply referred to him as Cook and Old Man. Like his brother Nubbins, Drayton seems to be suffering from a mental disorder, probably schizophrenia or multiple personalities, as he is seen enjoying the torture of his family's victims, but at one point he flips personalities and is disgusted by the torment as his more empathic side surfaces. His personality disorder has been discussed by Tobe Hooper several times, like on the audio commentary for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Drayton often bickers with the rest of his brothers and is abusive towards them, and though he appears to be the head of the household, his brothers often mock and antagonize him and his authority.
Drayton Sawyer makes his debut appearance in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, in which he first appears as the proprietor of the Last Chance Gas Station, a gas station and barbecue (with an unnamed car door window washer as an employee), where a group of teenagers stop while passing through the area. Drayton's malevolent nature is revealed later in the film, when he beats Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) unconscious and captures her after she approaches him seeking help when her friends disappear and her brother Franklin (Paul A. Partain) gets killed by Leatherface. Having been chased by Leatherface previously, she is highly hysterical after her shocking experience. Taking Sally to his home, Drayton torments her alongside his siblings, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) and Nubbins the Hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), before deciding to let the family patriarch, Grandpa (John Dugan), kill her. When Grandpa proves too decrepit to kill Sally with a hammer, Drayton, the Hitchhiker and Leatherface attempt to aid him, but only succeed in losing grasp on Sally, who flees out a window, he is the only one of the three brothers who does not pursue her choosing instead to stay behind with Grandpa. The more humane side of Drayton is revealed when he states "I just can't take no pleasure in killing" after Hitchhiker accuses him of doing nothing but cooking while he and Leatherface do all the killing.
In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Drayton reappears, now living in an abandoned amusement park in Dallas (called Texas Battle Land), due to the intense police investigation sparked by the events of the first film, with what remains of his family, Leatherface (Bill Johnson), Chop Top (Bill Moseley) and Grandpa (Ken Evert). Now a two time award-winning chili cook selling his meat at a Cook-off (dismissing the bones and teeth as peppercorns), Drayton appears far more unhinged than in the previous film, happily joining in on his family's murderous frenzies, which previously disturbed him somewhat. In public, Drayton adopts a folksy personality. Drayton dies, off-screen, at the end of the film, when, during the fight between Leatherface and Lieutenant "Lefty" Enright (Dennis Hopper), he is accidentally struck by Leatherface and the hand grenade he is holding (planning to commit suicide and destroy the hideout with) explodes prematurely. In this film, Drayton also rambles about the plight of the small business man and how crooks, politicians and movie stars don't pay taxes, yet he and his poor family have to. The only reference of Drayton made in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 was when Sawyer brother Tinker gives a large chromed chainsaw he crafted to Leatherface as a gift, on the saw's blade he engraved a quote of Drayton's from the second film ("The saw is family"). Drayton was originally set to be the grandfather in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4 , but when Jim Siedow turned down the role, director Kim Henkel replaced Drayton as the grandfather and turned the character into Grandpa from the earlier films, though the character is still referred to as "Grandfather".
In Topps Comics' 1995 comic miniseries Jason vs. Leatherface, Drayton, only identified by the name Cook Slaughter, appears as a main character. After Leatherface and the Hitchhiker bring Jason Voorhees, the main antagonist of the Friday the 13th franchise home, Drayton befriends him and inducts him in as an unofficial member of the Sawyer family.
The comics expand on Drayton's back story, revealing that, though he aspires to gain fame and fortune using his culinary skills in the city, he stays in the Texan backwoods due to a vow he made to his younger sister Velma on her deathbed, promising he would always look after her children, the Hitchhiker and Leatherface. The comics imply that he is both their father and uncle and they were merely adopted and treated by him as brothers: they suggest that Leatherface and Hitchhiker were born of incest between Drayton and Velma Sawyer as they refer to Velma as having been both there sister and mother. The comics also portray Drayton as much more apathetic and lax towards his relatives murdering of people, with him, at one point, stating that he wishes the Hitchhiker and Jason, who had just delivered to him a freshly killed couple, had brought him some children as well ("their meat's so much more tender..."). At one point in the comics Drayton even attacks Jason with a meat cleaver and helps dispose of his body, which the Sawyer brothers dump into a lake. Drayton is also seen wearing an apron which reads "Kiss the Cook" throughout the series.
A character very similar to Drayton, in both appearance and mannerisms, appears in the Wildstorm comics continuation of the remake series, though his specialty is not chili, but ribs. He is referred to as The Cook (real name unknown), and is one of the modern members of the Hewitt family. He lives in the Hewitt household in Travis County with Leatherface and an unnamed butcher. As his title suggests, he specializes in food preparation and often attends the annual "Meatfest" event. At Meatfest, the Cook offers guests a sampling of his "Texas beef ribs", which are presumably made from people, not cattle. In the comic "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Cut!", which took place in 2007, the Cook met an amateur film maker named Mike who wanted to make a movie based on the famous Hewitt murders of 1974. The Cook invited Mike and his three colleagues to the Hewitt house though they were unaware that he was actually one of the cannibal family members. The Cook's family members, the Butcher and Leatherface killed the four film enthusiasts whereupon they were taken into the family slaughter room. The Cook was last seen attending Meatfest '08, once again serving up his special ribs.