Magazine article Variety

Byrd Feathers Casting Nest with Challenge of Diversity

Magazine article Variety

Byrd Feathers Casting Nest with Challenge of Diversity

Article excerpt

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It was a baby who convinced Tracy "Twinkie" Byrd that she wanted to become a casting director.

While working at the Manhattan offices of advertising agency DMB&B, where Byrd was a legal secretary with a self-described outsized personality, a baby came in to audition for a Pampers spot and wouldn't leave her lap; she was asked to hold the child for the casting session. Enchanted by what she saw, she enlisted the casting director as a mentor.

Now, the former casting assistant for TV shows like "Moesha" and casting director for films like "Stomp the Yard" and "Notorious" will see the latest pic on which she worked, the Warner Bros, remake of "Sparkle," hit theaters Aug. 17. A musical drama about the travails of a Supremes-like '60s vocal trio starring former "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks, Byrd says that being an African American gave her an insight into the film.

"In the script, there are certain terms and phrases that are used in the AfricanAmerican community that some other people wouldn't know or understand necessarily," says Byrd, such as "red" (for black people with red hair or a light complexion and freckles) and "blue" (for the very dark-skinned).

But she admists that there were many aspects completely alien to her experience.

"I've never had to share my room," recalls Byrd, seated in a cafe near her Studio City home. "My parents have been married for 51 years. I grew up in a house with two cars and a dog," in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood in Sheepshead Bay, New York. "But I do know about overcoming adversity."

The problem, she says, was not skin color, but her dominant personality.

"It was too much for most of my (early) jobs, so I always got fired," says Byrd. Working as a legal secretary, she says she had no problem getting a job, because she could type 95 words a minute. "But I talked too much on the phone and I'd draw people in, so everybody would want to be at my desk."

As a casting director, however, personality can pay dividends.

Over the next few years, Byrd interned for casting agencies at night while holding down day jobs with Essence Magazine and publicist Tenie Williams. Eventually, she established herself in musicvideo and commercial casting, working with directors such as Brett Ratner, Mary Lambert and Tim Story, but it wasn't enough - she wanted to work in film and TV. …

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