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.
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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"
We had a great discussion aboutslipping into a character's
skin, his advice for students, and how he accidentally became
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
And it's just incredible.
Michael: You think yourexperience on TV and film as an
actor perhaps would have beendifferent if your foundation was
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
And so, yeah, it's a tremendoushonor to do the work of
Dominique Morisseau and I hope to do it my--throughout
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,
Kelly: I like to describemyself as sort of incrementally
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,
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
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
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