twinkie byrd*For many people, a good movie or TV show defines their sense of entertainment. With Tracy “Twinkie” Byrd, entertainment is outside the confines of a house or movie theater.

Speaking with EUR’s Lee Bailey, the Los Angeles-based casting director noted that despite being immersed in finding talent for the big and small screen, she is proud to find alternatives to what others lean on for a temporary escape.

“I have to learn, and I am learning, to find my entertainment in other things. What you all consider entertainment is work for me and now I am finding entertainment in other things,” said Byrd, who counts volleyball, bike riding and bowling among her favorite pastimes. “I’ve always loved reading. Reading has been a huge part of my life since I was a very small child. So reading is entertainment for me. I love being outdoors so I run and I walk and I do yoga…I’m about to start taking a pottery class again. I haven’t done pottery since I was in high school so my charge is to find entertainment in other things.

Byrd’s challenge in expanding beyond typical forms of entertainment comes with living and breathing her job 24/7. As a casting director, she has helped bring numerous actors in to the public eye, including Naturi Naughton, Columbus Short and Laz Alonso. Among the films she recruited cast members for are “Stomp the Yard,” “Notorious,” “The Blind Side,” Jumping the Broom” and “Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming.”

Despite her job’s demands, Byrd takes it stride, considering her belief that her career is one that she was destined to pursue.

“I feel as though it’s my passion. I’m walking in my purpose and in my blessing,” the New York native explained while detailing how a natural gift came to the forefront. “I used to lose my job quite a bit, get fired a lot in the early ‘90s and the late ‘80s because I could get a job with no problem. I could type 95 words a minute, but I talk a lot on the phone and attract people. That’s the blessing. I have a gregarious personality.”

“And my parents were always praying. I was always praying, trying to figure out where I belong, where I fit because I have to fit somewhere,” continued Byrd. “God made me for a special purpose. I just didn’t know what it was and this career truly was an answer to prayers. Many, many prayers because I am able to talk on the phone and use this gregarious personality to attract people…I fear no one. I will walk up to anyone and talk to them and find a commonality, a common ground. And once I’ve found that, boy oh boy that conversation is just gonna go on and on and on. Like my cousin says, ‘You don’t know a stranger.’

Byrd’s love for her work stems from her passion for film, narrative and storytelling as well as a childhood filled with parents who frequently read stories to her.

“It really illuminated my imagination and my mind and expanded my mind,” she admitted. So the way I read scripts, the way I see film, the way I see life really is maybe different from the way other people see it,  feel it and do it. Each person is uniquely different in their fabulous, wonderful way and this just happens to be my fabulous, wonderful way.”

Byrd’s way has apparently paid off since cutting her directorial teeth in music videos. Her career shows no sign of slowing down with her casting choices being featured in the highly-anticipated remake of “Sparkle,” the Bishop T.D. Jakes-produced “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day,” the inspirational “A Beautiful Soul” with Deitrick Haddon and “Filly Brown.”   She is currently casting “Being Mary Jane,” a one-hour drama with Gabrielle Union

In addition to enjoying and taking pride in being a casting director, Byrd’s other passion lies in HerShe. The mentoring organization, which Byrd has worked with for four years, works with young women who have aged out of the foster care system. According to Byrd, participants range in age from 13 – to 18-years old.

“They’re exposed to extraordinary women, extraordinary experiences. So they each get a mentor,” said Byrd, who added that HerShe plans to move beyond its current Los Angeles setting and “become more national around the country.”

For more information about HerShe, visit www.HerShegroup.org.