I first found out about Debra Ann Byrd through an article in the Guardian titled “Black Shakespeare champion working to change views on color blind casting.” She was just starting a residency at Stratford upon Avon, and this article talked about one of Debra's college professors who discouraged her from getting into classical theater. That story alone piqued my interest, so I reached out to her and the conversation that we ended up with certainly had many more stories than that one instance.
Most actors can talk about how they got into theater and then trained and grew from there. But for Debra it was definitely a start-and-stop journey that veered off course several times throughout her life due to personal, medical, and racial issues that she had to face and deal with. Her story has so many interesting twists and turns that I just couldn’t fit it into one single episode.
So we start off Part One with a unique story of who Debra looked up to as a child. But as we continue our conversation you’ll hear an array of hardships and challenges that would cause any of us to question ourselves and wonder what to do next. But listen carefully, and you’ll also hear an inner strength and a hope infused into each one of those struggles. It is certainly inspiring and a true testament to the strength of Debra’s character and spirit.