Tracy ‘Twinkie’ Byrd’s a casting director extraordinaire

By RYCH McCAIN in L.A.

She is a fun and lively sistah to talk to but, at the same time, is serious as a pack of nails when it comes to the business of casting and actors. Tracy Byrd, known affectionately as “Twinkie”, is a veteran Hollywood casting director and owner of the “In the Twink of an Eye” casting agency.

Her expertise and experience spans over 20 years in casting, working with the who’s who of Hollywood. In film, she has cast Notorious, Stomp the Yard, King’s Ransom and Three Can Play That Game, among others. She has cast for MTV, UPN, BET and a host of other networks and shows. Byrd also has cast a plethora of commercials for clients such as McDonald’s, Pepsi, Reebok and a ton of videos for several artists, including Madonna, Elton John, Paul Simon, P. Diddy and 50 Cent.

Her work even includes selecting choreographers and dancers for videos and concert tours, such as Rapper Eve’s last tour (choreographer and dancers) and Britney Spears’ 2003 world tour (dancers).

Byrd also conducts workshops and participates in industry events to network, meet and help those who are serious and putting in the actual grunt work needed to make it in show business.

We caught up with her at the recent Hollywood Black Film Festival in Beverly Hills, where she was a guest panelist for the actors’ boot camp workshop.

Needless to say, Byrd does not bite her tongue when it comes to telling it like it is in Hollywood. When asked what is one of the concepts that actors (new and old) need to embrace she says: “The concept of ‘packaging vs. casting'”. (Packaging means placing a known star in a role to draw on their fan base for box office profits. Platinum music stars such as rappers and singers get these types of breaks. Casting is an actor who can really act being placed with the package star.)

“It’s important for an actor to embrace the packaging and stop trying to work against it, because those people who they package to put in films gets the butts in the seats so they can see you. So the one thing that you have to do when you come up against a certain type of adversity, or what you think is adversity, is embrace it and flip it to your advantage.”

How does an actor approach Byrd? First, he or she better have their skills, head and attitude together.

“It’s one thing to want to be an actor and actually do your work, and it’s another thing to want to be made. And let’s be clear, a lot of these young people feel as though they want to be made. No one is going to come to your home, wake you up to go to an audition and make you a superstar.

“There are a lot of fallacies out there as to what fame really is and what show business is and the work. They need to be clear on that first. And then study. Study is incredibly important. You don’t just roll up to me and say make me a this or a that. That’s not my job. My job is to cast a person who is ready for this or that and the part of ready comes from study.”

What is the best way to submit to Byrd?

“I take electronic submissions. They should have a reel of work that they have done. They should have their own website and no, I don’t want to see plays nor do I want to see something shot in your house. I want to see something well produced with good lighting so I can see you and good audio so I can hear you and no overly dramatic acting scenes.”

If Byrd’s words sound harsh, it is because she is deeply concerned about the actors she casts regardless of their ethnicity, age or background. Rather than sugar coat things for popularity and likeability that will come back to bite them in reality, she prepares them with the uncompromising truth.

Photo by DimitryL@dimitryl.com

Make-up by Valerie Noble

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