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Why Audra McDonald Avoided Playing A Slave At An Early Age

"My mom and dad said, 'No. You don’t need to be playing a slave. There are other things that you can do.'"

Posted on September 26, 2017, at 3:26 p.m. ET

Audra McDonald is the winningest Broadway performer ever with six Tonys.

She also has a Louis Vuitton purse named after her.
David M. Benett / Via Getty Images

She also has a Louis Vuitton purse named after her.

It probably helps that McDonald discovered early on in life that the stage was a place she could be herself, as she revealed on BuzzFeed's new Twitter morning show, AM to DM, on Tuesday.

Our 👑 Audra McDonald says she realized young acting made her feel normal, “like me”

@AM2DM / Twitter / Via Twitter: @AM2DM

The actress also divulged another fundamental lesson she learned in her youth — to be specific about the roles she auditioned for.

So excited for y'all to see my conversation with @AudraEqualityMc on this morning's #AM2DM.

@theferocity / Twitter / Via Twitter: @theferocity

McDonald told a story of how when she was young she wanted to audition for the musical Show Boat, but her parents did not let her because the character she was trying out for was a slave.

"I would audition for things I thought that I was right for regardless of whether someone else thought I was right for it, particularly the people who were casting...because when I was younger I wanted to audition for Show Boat once and my mom and dad said, 'No. You don’t need to be playing a slave. There are other things that you can do.' And it was just one of those things, you know, 'Yes, maybe there will be times in your life if you want to do this as a career, but right now we don’t think that’s necessary for you to explore the world of performing to have to play a slave.' They’re like, 'There are other roles you can play.'”
MGM

"I would audition for things I thought that I was right for regardless of whether someone else thought I was right for it, particularly the people who were casting...because when I was younger I wanted to audition for Show Boat once and my mom and dad said, 'No. You don’t need to be playing a slave. There are other things that you can do.' And it was just one of those things, you know, 'Yes, maybe there will be times in your life if you want to do this as a career, but right now we don’t think that’s necessary for you to explore the world of performing to have to play a slave.' They’re like, 'There are other roles you can play.'”

As a result, McDonald learned not to stereotype herself when auditioning for roles.

"I think what my parents were trying to teach me is there’s much more to who you are than just that — not that there’s anything wrong with playing a slave, but we don’t want you stereotyped at 10, 11."
David M. Benett

"I think what my parents were trying to teach me is there’s much more to who you are than just that — not that there’s anything wrong with playing a slave, but we don’t want you stereotyped at 10, 11."

On the subject of Hollywood and Broadway telling more slave stories, McDonald said, "There are stories that need to be told. ... It’s a part of our culture, but that’s not all that we are. We are so much more than that."

McDonald cited the recent reboot of Roots — a miniseries that her sister Alison McDonald wrote for — as an example of a story that needs to be told.
Jerritt Clark / WireImage

McDonald cited the recent reboot of Roots — a miniseries that her sister Alison McDonald wrote for — as an example of a story that needs to be told.

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