Q&A: Deidrie Henry, Lead Actress in 'A Raisin in the Sun'

Culver City Patch caught up with Deidrie Henry, who plays the role of Ruth Younger in the Ebony Repertory Theatre's production of 'A Raisin in the Sun,' directed by Phylicia Rashad at the Kirk Douglas Theater.

Deidrie Henry is a two-time Ovation Award winner. The awards recognize the best work in theatre in Los Angeles. In 2006, Henry won the award for her role in DaelOrlandersmith's Yellowman and again in 2011 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun. She is also a well-recognized face on television having appeared in a recurring role in The Riches. She has also had guest roles over the years on many well-known shows including E.R., Ghost Whisperer, Rizolli & Isles and Bones.

Culver City Patch: You have worked in television, film and theater. Which of the three mediums do you prefer?

Deidrie Henry: Theater, without question. Theater is where the core of the craft comes from. Understanding character, understanding plot and the story itself comes from the theater. I’ve always felt that the story evolves in a much more organic way on the stage simply because you get to do it over and over again. The continuity of the story line and the arc of the character is best experienced when on stage.

Patch: What is it that makes the cast of A Raisin in the Sun work so well together?

Henry: Well, we have Phylicia Rashad at the helm. I mean, she’s Claire Huxtable [from The Cosby Show], first of all! So there is a certain sense of grace, understanding, excellence and pride in craft and work that she brings to the table. And you have to meet that as well. And so we all came together in a very truncated amount of time to bring our best efforts to this incarnation of the play.

We had just two weeks of rehearsal as opposed to a month and we had a new character played by Kim Staunton to bring in and it was about giving Kim everything she needed in order to be as brilliant as she is as Mama.

Patch: What has it personally meant for you to work for an entertainment legend like Rashad?

Henry: I had the good fortune of working with Phylicia back in the 90’s, doing the world premiere of Blues for an Alabama Sky. When I found out she was directing A Raisin in the Sun, I knew then that I had to play the role of Ruth because she's such an incredibly complex character. But I also knew I had to work with Phylicia, so that made it easy.

Patch: Where do you want to be five years from now?

Henry: I think it’s always about following what makes you happy! Acting makes me happy, but there was also a period of time in which I went back to school to study radiology and I came to realize that even though my career was going well, I wanted to expand my horizons in other ways. And so I would look into becoming a therapist. Upon pursuing radiology I learned that I was more interested in where a person's mind was when they received a diagnosis as opposed to giving them the diagnosis.

Patch: Besides Ms. Rashad, what other actors have you personally come to admire?

Henry: Kenneth Albers with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Marco Barricelli, who just did Vigil with Center Theater Group, Chris Butler, who I performed with in Yellowman, and Kevin Carroll whom I’m onstage with now who is an incredible actor.

Patch: Are there any future projects where your fans and our readers can expect to see you?

Henry: Yes! I am actually a recurring character on [the Fox series] Touch. I play Danny Glover’s daughter. The premiere for that show is coming up shortly.

Editor's note: Touch, starring Kiefer Sutherland, begins tonight - Jan. 25 on FOX. to see Patch's short photo story on an episode of Touch, which was recently filmed right here in Culver City.

A Raisin in the Sun runs through Feb. 19 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Click here for information and tickets.

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