Theatre Corner

FULL EPISODE

DB Woodside and Kelly McCreary

Today, we travel up to the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles to speak with actors DB Woodside (Lucifer, 24) and Kelly McCreary (Grey’s Anatomy, Station 19), who are both performing in Dominique Morrisseau’s play, “The Skeleton Crew”. Woodside discusses slipping into a character’s skin, and how he accidentally became an actor. McCreary talks about what consistently draws her back to the stage.

AIRED: August 28, 2020 | 0:26:46
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by UC San Diego.

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announcer: And by The Westgate Hotel,

La Jolla Alcohol Research, Incorporated,

Cygnet Theatre, and viewers like you.

Thank you.

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Michael Taylor: Hi, welcome to "Theatre Corner."

I'm your host, Michael Taylor.

As a lifelong theater enthusiastand a board member for one of

the top theaters in the country,I've seen firsthand the positive

effects that diversity and inclusion could have on the

stage and the theater seats.

This interview series was created as a way to share my

passion for theater and promotediverse voices throughout the

national theater scene.

We sit down with some of the topprofessionals in the

entertainment industry to discuss training, careers,

advice for young actors, and howto make theater matter

to more people.

Today we traveled up to theGeffen Theater in Los Angeles to

speak with actors D.B. Woodside

and Kelly McCreary, whoare both performing in Dominique

Morisseau's play, "The SkeletonCrew."

D.B. Woodside is

best known for his role as God's favorite son,

Amenadiel, in "Lucifer," as wellas his performances in "Suits"

and "24."

We had a great discussion aboutslipping into a character's

skin, his advice for students, and how he accidentally became

an actor.

So, silence your cell phones, folks.

You're entering "Theatre Corner."

Reggie: I'm gonna work hard to get us out of here with

something that we can exhale into.

Just please until I can figure this out.

Faye: All right, babe, fine.

We'll do it your way.

Reggie: Thanks, Faye.

You tough as bricks, you know that?

Nothing can knock you down. Ha, ha.

Michael: Welcome to "Theatre Corner," brother.

D. B. Woodside: Thank you very much, man.

Michael: So very good to have you here.

D.B.: It's great to be here.

Michael: And you're here at the Geffen, performing in

Dominique Morisseau's "The Skeleton Crew."

And you're here playing the character of Reggie.

Could you tell me a little bit about your character?

D.B.: He's a very, what Iwould call a conflicted brother,

you know?

When we first see him, I thinkthere's a lot of stuff going on

with him and we don't--we don'treally know why and, you know,

we slowly start to find out as the play unravels.

But he's in a position, asupervisor position, and I would

probably say he's probably notbuilt for that kind of position.

But he's doing the best that hecan.

He's trying to manage a lotthat's going on right now in the

world of this play.

Michael: This is your first Dominique Morisseau piece to

perform?

D.B.: Very, very first one.

And just brilliant playwright.

You know, I've been doing filmsand TV now for, like, the last

10, 15 years and so I haven'tdone a play in a while but some

people sent me this play.

They told me where it was beingdone and I got a phone call from

them asking if I was interestedin it and I read this play and,

I mean, I'm--the play is amazing.

Her words are amazing.

There's something about her words where it almost comes

across as poetry, as arias, youknow?

It's almost Shakespearian, you know?

But it's absolutely beautiful.

Beautiful words, beautiful story.

Michael: And the fact that it does focus on just

everyday people.

D.B.: Yes, everyday blue-collar people, you know?

And it's also just something really interesting to see, you

know, these blue-collar black folks in Detroit trying to

navigate the world as it is right now.

And there's something about,even though the play takes place

in 2008, the play speaks to alot of what's going on right now

in our country.

Michael: So you, yourself,D.B., I understand if you could

talk a little bit about that,how you just accidentally became

an actor.

D.B.: Oh, well, I was a--Iwas a football player, you know?

I was one of those and footballwas what I wanted to do with my

life, you know?

I wanted to go to the pros, I--it's something that I had

been doing since I was six years old.

When I got to college, I gothurt and I had a really bad back

injury and I was unable to playand so I was kind of lost for a

while, to be honest, and I was hanging outside of the theater

building with a really goodfriend of mine, another football

player who had also been hurt, and, ha, he noticed that the

most beautiful women on campus,true story, were going into

the theater building.

And so we decided to see whatthis building was about and, as

a result, we started to getinto, you know, acting classes.

He quit rather quickly but itstayed with me and I felt like,

when I walked into that world, that I had found my people, as

it were.

And there was something about it, something about being able

to get onstage and disappear into the words of a fantastic

writer and live that life andhopefully uplift an audience or

show them a point of view that they'd never seen or they've

never experienced.

There was something about that world that I just fell in love

with and I continue to love to this day.

Michael: Is slipping intosomeone else's skin part of the

experience?

D.B.: Yes, absolutely, you know?

Because, you know, one of thosethings is, you know, as an actor

also is you get a chance to maybe display certain emotions

that you can't in real life, youknow, because you would be

arrested or, you know, somethinglike that, right?

But you have an opportunity to kind of slip into the skin of

some of these characters and maybe understand from their

point of view things that you were never really able to

understand as D.B.

And it's just something that's always been fascinating to me,

and I feel like with every rolethat I do, I learn something

else about myself, about how Imay respond to things out there

in the world.

And so it's always a teachable moment, you know, with every

role that I'm lucky enough to get.

Michael: So this play is being directed by Patricia

McGregor who's a graduate of Yale School of Drama, but you,

yourself, attended and graduatedfrom Yale School of Drama.

I was wondering what was thatexperience like as a black man?

D.B.: It was very intense and, you know, and I wanna be

clear to say that I really enjoyed my time at Yale.

I mean, it was incredible and itchanged my life and taught me

so much.

I will say at the time that I went, I had a few run-ins with

some of the higher-ups and I'd like to believe it wasn't

necessarily because I was a black man.

It was that I was a specific type of black man.

And so there are certain thingsthat I just didn't feel

comfortable doing and I wasn'tgonna be convinced that I should

be comfortable doing somethingthat I was bothered by, morally,

so I think that maybe caused a few situations that had

to be resolved.

But I still say to this day thatplace taught me more than any

other job I've had outside of Yale.

I mean, you spend three years cocooned with your class and

it's amazing 'cause I think mostYalies would say, as great as

the teachers are, as great as the university is, that you

actually learn the most from your peers.

And it's the people that you'rein class with, it's your other

peers that are the directors andplaywrights and stage managers

and production managers, all ofus going through this intense

program at the same time for three years.

You spend so much time with these people that they become

your family, and they know you better at times than maybe

boyfriends, girlfriends,husbands, wives, because you're

spending so much time with thesepeople and the time is so

concentrated, so intense, so heavy.

And that's where you learn themost, from your own classmates.

Michael: You've got countless film, television, specifically

"Buffy, Vampire Slayer," I mean,you did seven years on that

piece alone and then there's "24" on Fox network and "The

Temptations," you know, whichyou played the brother with the

deep voice.

D.B.: Yes, yeah, Melvin Franklin.

Michael: But what would you say there is about theater,

about standing on that stage,what brings you back to theater?

D.B.: Well, there's justsomething magical about theater

and, as an actor, I mean, and Ithink you'll hear most actors

say this, you know, film and TVis great.

I love television programs.

I love going to see a fantastical movie.

Doing a play, there is just--there's no barrier.

There's no editor, there's nocut, there's no do-over, right?

As an actor, you are on thatstage with other actors and when

it's lights up, that's it, and you're walking that tightrope

with your brothers and sisters and that's all you have and

there is something terrifying about that which is, I think,

why we love it because if you'relucky enough to do it well, if

you're successful, that adrenalin rush, that high, is

unbelievable.

And there is a dynamic that is set up between actor and

audience when you're on thestage that cannot be duplicated

in film and TV.

It's live, it's moment to moment.

You're having an experience withthese other people at the same

time, and that moment can't be duplicated.

Every single night you have a different audience so every

single night you are receiving adifferent type of energy which

is going to inform you and whatyou're doing on stage at that

particular moment.

And it's just incredible.

It's incredible.

Michael: You think yourexperience on TV and film as an

actor perhaps would have beendifferent if your foundation was

not theater?

D.B.: You know, I have some friends who've never done a

play, but I always try toconvince my friends who've never

done a play before that they have to do it just for the

experience because they have toknow what that's like.

I think most of the time if you're an actor that's only

doing film and TV, you're missing out on something.

When you start doing a lot of film and TV, there's a certain

kind of laziness that can fall on actors.

And when you come back to the stage, it's really dusting off

all of that dust, it's clearingthe cobwebs away, and kind of

getting back in touch with why you do what you do, you know?

Like I said, film and TV is fantastic but there just is

nothing like the mysticism ofbeing onstage with an audience.

Michael: We have a lot of up and coming actors that watch

"Theatre Corner."

What kind of advice would youhave for an up and coming actor?

D.B.: You know, what I see nowadays and it's unfortunate

and I don't think it's the faultof young actors.

I kind of fault our teaching now.

I think a lot of young actors are always taught to "just be

themself" and I think that'sgreat but you have to understand

that, you know, people aren'tnecessarily paying money to just

come see you be you, you know?

They also wanna see you create acharacter.

Now, that character should be based off a part of you, you

know, so that's your way intothat character but then I think

once you've opened that door, you have to understand the

circumstances of that character,of the world that they're in.

So what I would say to young actors is, you know, make sure

that you get that extra bit of training, you know?

You're now competing with actorsthat are coming from Britain,

actors that are coming from China, actors that are coming

from Australia.

Great actors, great actors coming here.

You have to up your game.

These are powerful actors, actors that we should be

embracing and welcoming becausewhat they do when they come over

is they challenge us and themore that we are challenged, and

the more that we challenge ourself, the better we can

become.

And so I would just say to all young actors, stay in school.

Like, stay in class.

Even if you're doing plays, evenif you're starting to do some

television work, some films,always find the time to go back

to class because you're gonna surprise yourself.

Always keep digging deeper.

There's--there should never be amoment when you feel like

"I've arrived."

No, you haven't.

Keep at the work. Keep working.

Getting a great job does not mean you've arrived.

It means you've gotten a great job.

That job will end.

And you need to keep going, you know?

So there is no--there is no endpoint, you know?

This is a process.

No matter what you've done, no matter how successful you feel

like you've been, it never stops.

It's a process.

Keep working, keep deepening.

You can always be better.

Michael: Also performing in this piece at The Geffen is

Kelly McCreary who is easily recognized from her role as

Dr. Maggie Pierce in "Grey's Anatomy" and "Station 19."

Kelly and I had a great time talking about her education,

investing in your peers, and what draws her back

to the stage.

Shanita: I'm talking work efficiency and ethic.

I don't complain, I got the lease write-up, and--

Reggie: And you fine in a mother.

That make you irreplaceable as hell to me.

Shanita: That's sexual harassment number 5062.

Michael: How are you? Very nice to have you.

Kelly McCreary: I'm great. It's so nice to be here.

Thank you for having me.

Michael: So in this piece, you play Shanita, this

particular character, which will--you'll have a bump also.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, Shanita's pregnant, yeah.

Michael: Ha, ha, ha, tell us a little bit about this

character.

Kelly: Shanita believes in the American Dream, as she has

witnessed it in Detroit.

It's a union town, it's a town where people earned their way

into the middle class in these blue-collar jobs, union jobs,

bought homes for themselves, educated themselves,

started businesses.

And really, we're able torealize this notion that we call

the American Dream, and she's invested in it.

Her family, her community, is all a reflection

of the possibility.

But she is living in a differenttime when the bottom has sort

of--is starting to fall out of the economy in Detroit and

there's--there have been signs of the deterioration of the

industry and so she's reallystruggling with her idealism and

her sense of optimism with the realities of the world that

she's living in.

And so she's a bit of a dreamer,she's a bit of a poet, and she's

a damn hard worker.

And she believes in hard work,you know, getting you somewhere.

Michael: This is not thefirst Dominique Morisseau piece

that you've performed in.

What does it--what does it meanto you to do some of her pieces?

Kelly: Oh gosh, when I firstmet Dominique was as an actress

when Dominique was--Dominique isa terrific actress as well, and

this was years ago.

It must have been, like, early oughts.

We were doing a reading of a Katori Hall play, and I

witnessed Dominique and Katori and some of the other artists

and actresses in that room at that time really struggling to

find a place for themselves in the American theater, to see

their stories represented, heartheir voices represented, and

then I watched them make it happen.

And so, you know, as a peer, I feel tremendous pride and

gratitude for her contributionto the American theatrical canon

and she is also on a mission tosort of correct the record of

the way that black stories are told, the way that audiences

consume us, and, you know, she'sreally an activist in that way.

It makes me feel inspired towork with her and it gives me a

tremendous sense of purpose to use my artistry to serve

her work.

And so, yeah, it's a tremendoushonor to do the work of

Dominique Morisseau and I hope to do it my--throughout

my career.

Michael: I really love theway she gives the everyday black

person a voice, just like the same way August Wilson does

in his pieces.

Kelly: Absolutely, she's absolutely carrying the torch,

picking up the mantle of the writers who've come before her

who have written our storieswithout censorship or apology or

explanation, you know.

It's sort of a "for us, by us"approach to storytelling, which

gives us an opportunity to investigate the inner lives of

black characters, blackfamilies, black communities in a

way that we don't always get tosee.

Michael: Right, right.

How does a little girl fromWisconsin end up being a big TV

star, you know?

At what point did you figure outacting was what you

wanted to do?

Kelly: I am a product of theMilwaukee public school system.

My parents were really committedto making sure we had the best

education possible and that wasactually possible in public

schools at one time.

And we took classes in all of the arts at the schools

that we went to.

We had, you know, electives.

I don't really think that's thecase in a lot of public schools

these days but, yeah, I really benefited from that.

I was exposed in school to fineart, music, theater, all of it,

from a very young age, and I tried my hand in all of it

and I loved it.

That was my favorite part of going to school, you know.

I'm a huge believer in the artsin education, not just as, like,

a thing to do that you mightwind up doing professionally one

day, but because it helps your brain assimilate all of the

other information that you're getting in school and it

supported my education and I loved it.

I became very passionate.

I played the flute and, you know, I loved to draw.

I did all of it.

But ultimately, I think thatstorytelling and performing was

just the thing that lit me up the most.

Michael: And you worked hard just like your character,

Shanita.

Kelly: I like to describemyself as sort of incrementally

ambitious.

You know, I never really had theaudacity, honestly, to dream

that I would get to be on one ofthe biggest television shows in

history but I just wanted to dogood plays first, and then get

paid to do good plays.

And then, you know, work at someof the best American theaters

and then, okay, maybe inBroadway, and then, okay, maybe

I'll do a commercial, you know,and make some other kind of

money and--to support my theaterhabit really.

And then, you know, so I just sort of gradually started

increasing my expectations formyself and as I sort of checked

off the smaller goals that I made.

But I really stayed focused, Ithink most of all, on community.

You know, the community of artists around me that I was

meeting and working with and working to develop their work

with and I knew that that wouldtake me somewhere, you know?

I thought, like, if we can be this gang of artists working

together, supporting each other,and each going out on our own to

grow our careers individually, and then coming back together,

then, you know, we could have asustainable career

in this industry.

Michael: Right, and a career you certainly do have.

And so I'm wondering what bringsyou back to theater?

You know, what is it about theater that you think is

important or draws you back?

Kelly: Well, I mean, first ofall, it's kind of my home base,

you know?

It was my first passion.

As much as I love working on camera, I didn't start there,

you know, and so there's a realsense of, like, when I come back

to work in a theater, I feel like I come to retrain my

muscles and resharpen my skills:those first skills of

storytelling that I learned, ofcharacter building.

I do try to fully find a way tomake the character's skin

my own.

And sometimes, that meansputting on something, you know,

sort of, I guess, energeticallythat's external to me and

sometimes it means kind of likeblending the two skins together.

And yeah, I think that Maggie--Maggie and I, Maggie

Pierce, my character on "Grey's," and I share a lot of

personality quirks in common sothat--not life experience

by any means.

But like, and then the rest is there in the writing, I think.

It just--they really know how towrite for my voice, my

sensibilities, and so, you know,that really helps to make my job

seem effortless, I think.

Michael: And so with all yoursuccess, theater and television,

what bit of advice would you give to up and coming actors?

Kelly: You know, I would tell young up and coming actors,

artists generally, is to reallylook alongside you, you know.

Look at your peers, invest ineach other, support each other.

You know, you're the ones whoare gonna be growing together in

the professional pursuits that you're into.

Really invest in that community.

I think that there's this ideathat, like, you know, if you're

an actor you've got to get hiredby somebody, you've gotta, you

know, look up a hierarchy inorder to get into the business.

But it's really smart and reallyimportant to look laterally and

invest in the talents and theambitions and the dreams of the

people around you, and make yourown work together.

And I would say, get yourtraining and work your butt off

and don't expect that your career is gonna look like

anybody else's career.

And have patience and faith andlearn how to network.

Networking is tremendously important.

It's a skill that I'm, like, I am still working on myself.

A lot of the training programs,the Conservatory training

programs, are really great atgiving you your artistic toolkit

and sometimes you have to workon developing your own business

person's toolkit and they are equally important, you know.

The networking, the promotion, you know, all of that stuff

is--if you want your work to beseen, you've got to be able to

do that, so.

Michael: Remember, as AugustWilson once said, "Have a belief

in yourself that is bigger thananyone's disbelief."

Thank you for tuning in.

I'm Michael Taylor and we'll seeyou on the next episode of

"Theatre Corner."

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