Reprising her role as Billie Holiday in the play Lady Day, the talented performer opened up to actor Alec Baldwin on his Here’s The Thing podcast to discuss her transformation from scared young girl to confident woman. In the interview, McDonald touched on the barriers she faced as a Black woman in the industry and how feeling out of place caused her to almost take her life.
“The combination of being where I wanted to be, in New York City, thinking I’m finally going to realize my dreams, stuck and failing miserably at Julliard,” is what McDonald says was her made her attempt suicide in college. “Not being able to admit to anybody at home what was going on. Not able to go home because I would look like a failure.”
Adding, “the boy was the catalyst… the straw that broke the camel’s back. But it was three years of ‘I’m in the wrong place doing the wrong thing.'”
But the silver lining is where she ended up after cutting her wrists.
“They helped me and took me to a mental hospital,” she admits. “It’s interesting, this mental hospital – still there – Gracie Square Hospital. It’s next door to my OBGYN who delivered my sixth month-old. I had to pass it every week to go to my OBGYN appointment. And every time I passed it there was a part of me, just waddling down the street as pregnant as can be, some 29 years later, I felt such relief and joy. And a sense of yes, I get the big picture now.”
McDonald also touched upon racism in stage acting, with a specific incident tied to her late 1990s role in Annie.
“We were filming Annie and we shot the scene where Daddy Warbucks gives Grace Farrell the ring, and it’s lovely. And then we get word that we have to come in on a Saturday to do reshoots,” she said.
“They took me aside and said ‘It turns out that, Disney might be a little uncomfortable’ – or the powers that be, I don’t know if it was Disney or ABC, I don’t know – ‘there might be some issues with Daddy Warbucks actually marrying Grace.’”
The married mother of two is currently in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill at New York’s Wyndham’s Theatre.
To listent to the full podcast, go here.