I SEE U, Episode 91: What It Means To Be OTHERED with ‘The Blackening’ Actress Grace Byers

Growing up in a single-parent home inside the deaf culture, acclaimed actress Grace Byers shares compelling insight on defining one’s identity through multiculturalism and confronting the harmful effects of society’s interest in labeling people when certain parts of a family unit are missing.


Actress Grace Byers


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Renowned actress Grace Byers embraced her leading role in the hit summer comedy horror, The Blackening. "Allison" – an outspoken, no-nonsense character from the film – was very proud of her Black heritage; that role has served as a replicate of who she's become as a proud Black woman of empowerment. Her children's books, "I Am Enough," and "I Believe I Can," remained on the New York Times best-sellers list for months. But for a long time, Byers, who was raised in a multicultural household, struggled with her own sense of identity and the pressures of society trying to define her. Stay tuned as host Eddie Robinson chats unguarded with acclaimed actress and celebrated author, Grace Byers. The new mom shares with I SEE U the challenges of navigating through her journey of being both Black and white; being Caymanian and American; and being of the deaf and hearing cultures. Byers also offers up an intriguing look at how her recent birth has admittedly overwhelmed her mentally and physically – providing moments of candid reflection as she comes to grips with her health all while showing a vulnerable ‘grace' under pressure.

Full Transcript

Eddie Robinson: Critics and fans enjoyed her playing the lead character in the comedy horror film, The Blackening. Now, actress Grace Byers is a new mom, and she’s taking time to reflect on the importance of family and motherhood.

Grace Byers: From a very young age, I think society tries to tell you that you need to have a label.

Grace Byers: And so, when you are, like, when you are a multiple of things, How do you define yourself?

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson and stay tuned as we chat unguarded with acclaimed actress, Grace Byers. She offers up compelling insight into defining one’s identity through multiculturalism. The New York Times bestselling author speaks candidly.

Eddie Robinson: About growing up in the deaf culture and what it takes to raise biracial children in today’s climate. Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson.

Eddie Robinson: She’s an actress and New York Times best selling author, and can be seen in the second season of Prime Video’s critically acclaimed series, Harlem.

Eddie Robinson: Previously, Grace appeared for four seasons as Anika Calhoun in the Fox music industry drama, Empire. Opposite Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.

Eddie Robinson: And on Fox’s Marvel series, The Gifted, created by Matt Nix and Bryan Singer. On the big screen, she’s appeared in the crime thriller, Bent. Starring alongside Sofia Vergara and Andy Garcia. The upcoming film, The Retirement Plan, opposite Nicolas Cage. And most recently, America, especially Black America, has embraced her and her character, Allison, in the Tim Story directed comedy, The Blackening.

Eddie Robinson: Her childrens’ books I am Enough and I Believe I can, we’re both published by HarperCollins and remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for months at a time. She’s joining us virtually from her home in Los Angeles. And, uh, we’re so grateful to welcome her to the show. Acclaimed actress, Grace Byers. Grace, thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U.

Grace Byers: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Eddie Robinson: And you’re calling us from Los Angeles, right?

Grace Byers: Yes.

Eddie Robinson: Okay. All right. I was just making sure, just throwing that. I was like. I didn’t even ask her. I forgot. Um, but I’ve always loved the name Grace, you know, also the name Faith. And if I ever have a child who’s female, I’ll be choosing one of those two names.

Eddie Robinson: It’s so beautiful. I I’m a new dad, actually. You’re new mom. Congratulations there. Yeah, first question. How are you doing? You know, how are you doing grace? Yeah, coming off some incredible energy and love from so many of us who’ve seen the film the blackening over the summer. How are you doing?

Grace Byers: Oh my gosh, normally that question would be like, Oh, I’m great.

Grace Byers: Things are things are great. Now that question is so much more loaded because

Eddie Robinson: Yeah.

Grace Byers: And things are still great, which is wonderful. Things are really, really awesome. But also just navigating this maze of motherhood, which is it, which holds its own challenges, right? And you can only talk for yourself as a new mom, right?

Grace Byers: So I can’t speak for any other mom. I really am a person who, especially when I don’t know what to expect, I’m preparing Okay. So like the nursery is done, like the house is clean, the filters have been changed in my AC.

Eddie Robinson: Wow.

Grace Byers: You know what I’m saying? Like the hospital bag is packed. Like I’m prepared. I’m doing, I’m doing my little exercises, I’m stretching up.

Grace Byers: I’m like, okay, I’m, I’m doing all of this stuff. Getting ready.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah.

Grace Byers: In the best me I can for motherhood. Even with all of that preparation, there was no way to prepare fully. As to what this journey was going to be and there was no way for anyone to prepare you because all people can say is this is what happened to me.

Grace Byers: This may not happen to you, but this is what happened to me and so I took all of the stories and I’m like chock full of all of these things that could happen may happen. Will this help me be prepared for motherhood? And I’m telling you, it was like, our beautiful baby boy came and it was like, none of that stuff applied. Right?

Eddie Robinson: Wow! Interesting.

Grace Byers: Like little, little, little to none, except when no one can prepare you. I’m like, that, that was probably the best piece of advice.

Eddie Robinson: Interesting.

Grace Byers: And so it has been a navigation for me. It’s been very, very particular for me. Because for me, I, I have, I was actually diagnosed with severe postpartum depression.

Grace Byers: So that was something that I did not anticipate, right? And I said to myself, which is actually really, I, I hadn’t, I wasn’t even planning to chat with you today about it, but I’m going to talk about it because I said to myself that if I ever get a chance to talk about this publicly in a way that makes sense, I’m going to mention it.

Grace Byers: Right? And what I did not know was all the ways in which postpartum depression can show up for you. You hear about it, and you go, oh postpartum depression. Yeah, I, I, I can, I can deal with that because probably means I’ll cry all day or be sad all the time or feel low, but it, it encompasses so much more than that.

Grace Byers: And for me, a big way in which it showed up was extreme exhaustion. And so, for me, I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed in a whole different way, like, the girl who, before pregnancy, Was get it all done, that get it all done mentality became the woman who is like, why can’t I get it all done? Why, why, why does this feel like it’s taking me out?

Grace Byers: What’s going on? You know? And so diving into that journey has been very eye opening and has really taught me already so much about myself.

Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’re chatting with acclaimed actress Grace Byers. Her latest film project was the hilarious dark comedy, The Blackening. She’s here on I SEE U to talk more about her career, the accomplishments, challenges she’s had to endure in this industry, but now we’re learning more about her life as a brand new mom and how she’s been dealing with mommy fatigue, burnout, right?

Eddie Robinson: The struggle is real, folks. I’m a single dad and I have a very young toddler son through surrogacy. I’ve been going through extreme exhaustion, but I can only imagine what a mother has to go through. Grace, it speaks volumes of the strength you’ve had to endure as a mother. Much similar to my own mother.

Eddie Robinson: Where has your source, your inspiration come from? Because, you know, being raised in a home where your parents, one of which was deaf, if I’m, you know, correct.

Grace Byers: Both.

Eddie Robinson: Both parents, both parents, deaf. You’re fluent with sign language, you, you, of course, and what I’ve read also, you were bullied as a child for having, uh, deaf parents.

Eddie Robinson: You’re now this amazing actress, best selling author, you know, the confidence, you know, where has this strength derived from? And here you are a new mother, because some people will see this as a limitation, right? Being biracial, you know, your mother, you know, You know, talking, you know, not talking or, or maybe she is talking, but kind of give us some insight as to, you know, the source, your inspiration of where all of that comes from as a, as a biracial woman of color and as a new mom.

Grace Byers: Yeah. Well, I, I’m definitely still going through the journey and I think mine was compounded by, uh, and I’ll just mention this too for any moms that are listening or people who want to become moms. Um, but, uh, you know, I had a double whammy because I also had what was called DNER and that’s D N E R Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.

Grace Byers: I’d never heard of it, but I knew that anytime I was pumping or nursing, I, I fell into a very deep sadness, um, and I said, what is this? This is very strange. Looked it up. It was actually a real thing. Spoke to my doctor about it, was diagnosed with that as well. And it’s, it’s one of these things where it’s a physiological reflex, um, where at any time you eject milk.

Grace Byers: Your dopamine levels drop low and you’re experiencing these feelings of sadness and depression and all of that. And so I was experiencing DNER, which would catapult me into the postpartum depression and back to the DNER. And so it became this cycle, right? And so I, again, wish I knew about it, wish that someone had spoken about it.

Grace Byers: And so you talked about strength here. And I, and I think. You know, for me, I would, I, strength, when you look at the definition, it depends on what you’re trying to strengthen. So for me, I have a lot of things within my foundation that offers it. I think the thing at the core for me has been my relationship with God, right?

Grace Byers: So my faith, my belief system has been a core part of that foundation to strengthen spirit and, and mind. And heart. I think it’s also very important to reach out for help. That has been hard for me, right? So I was raised by my, by my mom in a single parent household. You mentioned biracial, so my dad is white, my mom is black.

Grace Byers: I was raised by my mom in black culture back home in the Cayman Islands. So seeing my mom as a beacon of strength, seeing her… Being this independent, strong black woman, you know, we, we know what that is all about. Seeing her do it by herself made me go, I, I, I can do all things as well too. And although that was not a lie, that it was very true, I now realize as an adult and as a mother that she did it by herself in so many ways because she had to.

Grace Byers: And if my mother had soft places to land, she might have chosen those soft places. And so seeing my mom do it all and now being in this space where I felt like I needed to do it all, you know, I was reticent to lean on villages. That was something that I was very trepidatious about. I did not want to ask for help.

Grace Byers: Right? I wanted to be able to handle it on my own. But in this season, I had to reach out. And so, a big part of who I reached out to was a therapist.

Eddie Robinson: Absolutely.

Grace Byers: To help strengthen my mind. My emotions. To be able to put things in a perspective. To say, Am I wildin’? Am I bugging? Like, you know, and have her go, Let me break this down for you in a way that makes you understand that not only is this common, but It is, it is an absolutely normal thing.

Grace Byers: It should be more normalized for us to reach out for help, right? So that was a part of my strength system. My husband, of course, a huge part of my strength system, just like holding my hand, walking me through it, being so supportive, so loving, offering an ear, offering a shoulder, offering whatever it is I needed.

Grace Byers: My friends, my family, my husband’s family, like you name it. I was like, where, where, what do I need? And where can I pull on this from? And with all of that, my personal trainer. Like all of these people that I started to bring into my circle to help weave together that fabric of strength that I could hold on to and inherit as, as now my collective strength.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up. We continue our chat with acclaimed actress, Grace Byers, as she offers up her insight on defining one’s identity when you’re multicultural, how does that work and what will it be like for her as a new mom and for me as a new dad as it relates to raising biracial children in a world Where society is desperately trying to label folks in an effort to figure them out.

Eddie Robinson: You do not want to miss this extremely candid conversation about what it means to be othered. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U returns, right after this.

Eddie Robinson: And if you’re enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson, and we’re so excited to have with us a special guest, New York Times, bestselling author, acclaimed actress, and new mom, Grace Byers. So thrilled. She had an opportunity to break away from her son and take a minute or two to conversate with us on I SEE U. Our chat, which we were planning to have a pretty robust conversation about our latest film, The Blackening.

Eddie Robinson: It’s a really crazy horror comedy, which did extremely well in theaters, by the way, and now receiving some great. Love on digital platforms streaming in households across the country. We’ll certainly talk about that film and why it resonated so much with audiences everywhere, regardless of whether you’re Black or white, but earlier in our episode, we couldn’t help, but touch on the impacts of mental health.

Eddie Robinson: And what that means for many of us who are parents for mothers who are raising children. For single fathers like myself, fresh from dealing with an emotional roller coaster of the fertility industry. We’re so grateful to grace for sharing with us her own medical issues and what it’s been like for her the lessons she’s had to learn from her own journey.

Eddie Robinson: Hopefully These kinds of conversations can reach someone who’s also struggling with depression and other symptoms associated with this disease. Again, Grace, thank you for showing grace throughout our chat. She’s calling us virtually from her home in Los Angeles. And you know, Grace, it helps to hear other people’s stories in an, in a sense to help us maneuver through all of these negative voices, right?

Eddie Robinson: These, these whispers that shrink us. On some level, but you were able to plow through all of that and work in progress as well from what I gathered in your earlier comment, you know, right, you know, of where you are today and that, and that really speaks volumes. And I’m under the impression that that’s pretty much what led you into the world of children’s books, right?

Eddie Robinson: And seeing that there weren’t many books that represented, you know, the struggles and the complexities of being biracial and, and our skin tone is different. And, and what was, you know, what was. Your goal in kind of going into that route of, of writing children’s books and making sure that you were able to fulfill that void of representation.

Grace Byers: You just, just the first part of what you just said. So definitely working through it. It’s a process, right? And just here to say, if anybody is still working through your, your, your depression, you’re still working through your postpartum phase. I mean, this is not limited to. Uh, new moms, this is anybody who is dealing with feeling like you’re struggling with something internally.

Grace Byers: Right? Like it’s still a process and, and we are all working through it. So just wanted to definitely encourage listeners in that realm. And then the children’s books thing. So the other day I was walking through Target and I decided to walk through the children’s book section and I was so delighted to see that the majority of the books that were on the shelves were all books of color.

Grace Byers: I, I just never thought I’d see the day. I, I was like, wow. So when, when I started to write I Am Enough many years ago, this was way before that time and If you really think about it, it wasn’t even 10 years ago. So, because I wrote I Am Enough in 2016, and it was published in 2018, then it didn’t become a New York Times bestseller until 2020.

Grace Byers: And so, at that time, when I wrote I Am Enough, I did not see that. You did not see that. When you walked down the aisles of these children’s book sections, you would not see like a multitude of books of color, you just wouldn’t see it. There were a few out, but it wasn’t overwhelmingly beautiful right before your eyes like it is now.

Grace Byers: And so for me, it was so important to write a book that dealt with a bunch of things at once. So, whether it was, I mean of course the over, overarching theme is self love, right? And what does that mean, what does that look like? But if you read I Am Enough and its poetics, you’ll see that there is so much room for the differences that we all hold as human beings, the individualities, the idiosyncrasies.

Grace Byers: You can see that there is a reference to purpose and to knowing your worth simply because you were born, not because you have to earn it. And so with that. There are many children of color in that book, but it was very much on purpose to put a little Black girl on the front of that cover. You represent me, to represent my family, to represent the household that I grew up in.

Grace Byers: And so that was without question something that we were like, yep, absolutely want to, want to put out there. And so it has been, the response has been so overwhelming. Like it’s, it, my publisher jokes that it’s the book that keeps on giving. Um, but that’s the point, right? It’s, it’s to keep on giving representation, to keep on giving confirmation that you are perfect just the way you are, that you don’t need to change anything about yourself, that you were fearfully and wonderfully made, that you were not an accident, not on purpose, that you, on this earth have so much value that we cannot put a price on it.

Eddie Robinson: And I’m trying to figure out how that was conveyed to you as a child, you know, going back to the upbringing, you know, as a person from a multicultural background, being Caribbean American, originally from the Cayman Islands, your mother is Caymanian. Father American, you know, and they’re, you know, they’re in the deaf culture, but, you know, what was it like for you to be in a world that wasn’t so black and white, so to speak?

Grace Byers: Yes. So, for me, I always knew as a child growing up that I looked differently than my mother, right? My mother is a dark skinned black woman, and I was not dark skinned, and so I was like, mom, like, What’s up, you know, and my mom made it very clear. Hey, you know, your dad is white You know, you have an American white father and that’s a part of who you are.

Grace Byers: But I think as far as the identity journey was harder for me because it’s from a very young age. I think society tries to tell you whether it’s directly or subliminally that you need to have a label, right? And so for me, that was hard because I really lived at that. Center of intersectionality of being white and black, being American and Caymanian, being of deaf culture and of hearing culture.

Grace Byers: And so when you are a multiple of things, how do you define yourself? And what was difficult is as a child growing up, I was constantly accosted with needing to define myself. And when you are still discovering who you are, and you’re still discovering where you’ve come from, and when you’re in that process of learning, it is so hard to answer that question.

Grace Byers: And so you’re left with a non answer. And when that happens enough, you grow up into an adult. Where you’re kind of not sure who you are, right? Because it’s like if you say one thing and someone disagrees with you, then you go, well, at least for me, I, you know, there’d be instances where I would say, oh, I’m this or I’m that, and they’d go, no, you’re not.

Grace Byers: You know, um, you have this or you have that. And I would go, well, maybe, maybe they’re right. Maybe, maybe that is the case. And I started to start it to define myself by what other people thought of me. And so that journey of coming to self and understanding self was a long one. And it wasn’t until I became an adult.

Grace Byers: In my adult years that I finally shut off all of the cacophony and sat with myself and said, okay, who am I right? And laid the facts out, saw the facts and went, okay, great. That’s who I am. And now I walk into rooms and I wish someone would try to tell me who I am. Okay. I would please try, please try. You know what I mean?

Grace Byers: Like, but I had to go through that journey. Right? I had to go through that for myself to know for sure so that when I did step into those rooms It didn’t matter what your opinion of me was. I know for a fact who I am, what my history is I know for a fact the blood that runs in my DNA I know that you can’t take that from me, right?

Grace Byers: And whether you like it or not, whether you see it or not, whether you agree with it or not is actually irrelevant and inconsequential Right? And, and I think that is so important for children to know and I think this goes back to even the children’s books But like it’s so important for children to know that so that they can become adults that know that so that we can really Participate in our purpose in the way that we were always meant to.

Eddie Robinson: Yes. Yes. Ah, this was incredibly helpful I had no idea we were gonna go into this route.

Grace Byers: Me either.

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson and you’re listening to I SEE U. We’re chatting with acclaimed actress, author, Grace Byers. She plays a starring role in the dark comedy film, The Blackening. Her children’s books, I Am Enough and I Believe I Can, were both published by HarperCollins and remained on the New York Times bestsellers list for months at a time.

Eddie Robinson: Interestingly enough, I wanted to, I don’t know why. But, you know, I wanted to mention this story to you, you know, as a gay man, as a single dad, you know, raising a very young son right now, could you perhaps even, you’re a New York Times bestselling children’s book author, offer up some encouragement for yours truly, and especially for this child that I have, who might feel as As he grows up, you know, he may be seen by other kids as different, not only because he’s biracial, but also that he has no physical mother as a part of the family.

Eddie Robinson: And he has this book that he really, really loves from Colin Kaepernick. I color myself different and he absolutely loves the book, but I find myself, as we’re reading it, we flipped through the pages where he.

Eddie Robinson: And that was a very sort of interesting knock knock to my instinct to say maybe I should not kind of show him any of this, you know, now, but this past Mother’s Day was very interesting because Xavier was way too young to sort of comprehend what was happening. But when I picked him up from daycare. One of the staffers handed me a photo card of him that they were working on, all the kids in the toddler one, um, uh, class, on the front it said, Happy Mother’s Day.

Eddie Robinson: And I was like, you know, I was, and I tried to play it off, I was playing it very calmly, very cool, and I said to her, As I was picking up Xavier, and he’s running through the doors to greet me and whatnot. I said, oh, we’re gonna have to give this to granny or auntie Dion. And these women now hold that role, right?

Eddie Robinson: His grandmother, his many aunts, my mom’s sisters, they’ve played a role in his life. But yeah, I’m sure I’m at a point, you know, where he’ll ask at some point in the future, what’s going on with mother. What, what, what, what’s that all about? And I’ll have to explain to him about, you know, what, how surrogacy works when he gets to a certain age.

Eddie Robinson: And I wanted to get your thoughts, play like we’ve, we’ve known each other for years and we’re friends, but I wanted to get your insight as to the encouragement aspect of, could I mention or say to him, uh, as a child who is biracial and has, you know, only one parent, who’s the father, one more kind of nugget I sent the principal of the school a text message, and we’ve been exchanging messages, of course, and I think it’s a great thing there, because she mentioned that she, the principal, raised her daughter as a single mom, and she’s like, you know, her daughter turned out really well, and we’ve chatted, we’ve laughed about that, but I was telling her that there’s a different dynamic.

Eddie Robinson: At play, when it comes to raising a boy with no father. The latter, I believe, is more prevalent in society. And that being said, Grace, it’s a real challenge being part of the LGBTQ plus community already, then to add a family unit. So unique, you’re bringing in and ushering in a deeper set of challenges. So the world is changing. And I mentioned this to, you know, the principal, you know, I think, you know, young students being taught in today’s classroom should be prepared, you know, with tools that are necessary for them to navigate through this diverse world.

Eddie Robinson: But your thoughts, what do you think as far as a young child biracial with one parent who’s a father?

Grace Byers: Right. Gosh. Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for sharing that. I, um, as you were talking, the thing that rose up for me inside was that the truth of the matter is, is that we are all an other. Every single one of us is an other.

Grace Byers: The only reason why we can use that terminology in today’s world and we know what that really means is because society has done such a really great job at making it seem like The world should be something otherwise there would be no other right other in comparison to what? You know other up against what it’s the world has created This idea of what they feel is the norm what they think things should be. You know and the reality of it is is that we all are so different in The way that we are first of all. Not one of us has been made the same.

Grace Byers: That’s, that’s what’s so, like, amazing about just the world in general, right? So we were all crafted and created just individually and even if we tried to find somebody who was exactly like us, we would fail with the billions of people that are on this earth. So we are all really an other and, and I think a lot of times when children are met with, or adults, are met with the why questions and the, well, they have this, but I have that.

Grace Byers: They look like this, but I look like that. Their families are like this, but my family is like that. In my opinion, the, the most wonderful, loving, amazing thing we can do is to encourage that the difference is not the anomaly. It’s the norm. The difference is not something that is. So like a rare idea. No, the difference is what is the normal idea?

Grace Byers: We are all absolutely different you you cannot you cannot find someone who is exactly like you so that is actually the norm not the other way around and I had to learn that the hard way because Especially as children, and you’re talking about advice for Xavier and, you know, as he gets older with each passing year, you’ll be able to explain it differently for the cognitive, you know, growth and development, right?

Eddie Robinson: Correct. Correct.

Grace Byers: And I think in these years, until we can have those conversations with our children in depth, I think what they need to feel more than anything, which is what you’ve already been doing, is connection, love, and empathy. That’s it. I think that’s the beginning. Right? Connection, love, and empathy.

Grace Byers: I am lacking nothing with Eddie as my father, right? I am lacking nothing. And so I think that’s first the sphere of, you know, that protection and love and connection. And then as he gets older, then we get a chance to explain why you’re lacking nothing. That although you do not have these things in your family dynamic.

Grace Byers: Or, although you don’t look like this or da da da da da, that it does not mean that you are missing or lacking anything, right? I think that’s probably one of my favorite affirmations right now is I lack nothing. That everything that I need or will ever need, that I have inside of me, that it has been given to me already.

Grace Byers: I was Born with that. Right? So I, I think that that’s the most important thing. Like the details really don’t matter as much. You’ll find that like growing. It’s not until I was an adult till I realized the impact of what it meant to not have my dad around. But growing up, I lacked nothing. My mom was present and loving and there for me.

Grace Byers: Right? And then, and then when I got older, I was like, Oh, okay. I can see how there are some things that I probably need to work through. Knowing that I was missing my dad or, you know, all those things. But we, as parents and just as a world, we cannot curate the perfect world for our child. Because if we could write it down, it’d be like, Oh, the perfect world would look like this.

Grace Byers: And the family unit would look like this. And then my child would never get hurt. And would never scrape their knee. And would never do all these things. But we, we can’t do that. We cannot protect our child from every single thing that’s in this world. But what we can do is be that safe space for them.

Grace Byers: And so that they will know that no matter what, you will always be loved. You will always have a place that you can be safe in. And I will do everything I can to create that for you and to let you know that you have that in me. That’s the best that we can do, right? So that is that aspect there. And then I think as far as, you know, the world is concerned.

Grace Byers: I, I keep seeing it this way even with my own child, right? Like I know, like, eventually, like, he’s gonna go to school, and he’s gonna be go out in the world, and then he’s gonna come back home, and I’m gonna have to deal with, like, people who have hurt him, or situations that he’s gone through that I’m like, oh, I wish I could shield him from that.

Grace Byers: But all I can do is just keep reminding him of who he actually is, not who the world wants him to be, not who the world is trying to accost him to be, right? Why aren’t you listen? That is not my job. My job is not to satisfy your curiosity. My job is not to fill in the blanks in your mind about me, right?

Grace Byers: My, my job is to fulfill the purpose that I have been given on this earth and to do it with love. That is my job. And you learn that as you get older, but And I think in the younger years, the more, the more important thing is to really cultivate that space of love for them and to know you lack nothing.

Grace Byers: You may not have a mom and you do not lack love in this space with me.

Eddie Robinson: Let’s get some comedy in here. Oh my goodness. The Blackening, The Blackening, The Blackening.

Eddie Robinson: It’s a little too serious and just so explosive in helping me guide through my journey. But, um, this is wonderful. I appreciate that.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up, we wrap up our conversation with renowned actress, Grace Byers. We’ll reminisce about the success of the hit dark comedy film, The Blackening, and how this movie sheds an interesting light on stereotypes of the horror genre, all while celebrating Black culture at the same time. Plus, what kinds of roles can we expect Grace to portray in the future?

Eddie Robinson: And feel free to share your thoughts about stereotypes in horror films. We’d love to hear from you. Follow our show on Instagram or send us an email. Talk at I S E E U show dot org. I’m Eddie Robinson. Our final segment of I SEE U comes your way in just a moment.

Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson:

Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U i’m your host Eddie Robinson We’re here with Grace Byers.

Eddie Robinson: She’s an acclaimed actress Who plays the role, Allison, a very powerful and outspoken character in the horror comedy film, The Blackening. Now available wherever you digitally stream your favorite movies. The Blackening centers around a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway, only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer.

Eddie Robinson: Forced to play by his rules, the friends soon realize that this is not a typical board game. And there’s certainly nothing boring about this film. There are a few screams and shocks here and there. After all, it’s still a horror genre. But it’s hilarious! You can certainly tell the cast in the movie enjoyed themselves while shooting it.

Eddie Robinson: We’ve been chatting with Grace about motherhood, mental illness, and the shape it’s starting to take on people’s lives post pandemic. We’ve even had some interesting conversations around raising children, and the notion of identity and race, when faced with components of multiculturalism and being biracial.

Eddie Robinson: Our final segment ends with this crazy movie called The Blackening. Grace Byers, looking fantastic on camera, chatting with us virtually from her home. Again, with The Blackening, I thought we needed to have this project because all that’s happening and what’s been going on in our world, you know, it’s just been fascinating to have a film that has a moniker of ‘We All Can’t Die First’.

Eddie Robinson: Which really gets at the heart of the stereotype, right, of Black characters in horror films. And historically speaking, are often the first being killed. I’m sure you have been presented other scripts of horror films in the past, but, you know, tell us about, you know, the fun that you all experienced.

Eddie Robinson: Because you can see it on the screen. And perhaps even the challenges that… You had in bringing a character like this on to the screen Because as I understand it you may have been you know provided scripts in the past But you accepted this role and played it brilliantly

Eddie Robinson: How did you feel about playing this character

Grace Byers: I loved every single moment of playing Allison.

Grace Byers: Allison is not a punk, okay? She is in it to win it, but… What I, what I loved and you just said that, right? You said the, the moniker of, you know, ‘We Can’t All Die First’. So like piercing that stereotype, piercing that trope and, and we do that so much in the film.

Grace Byers: And so you’re right with, with this horror films that I have received in the past. It wasn’t easy, like absolutely not. Like, listen, I’m an empath. I’ll be, I’ll be taking this stuff seriously. Okay. You can’t be. You know, no, we ain’t gonna do it. Like, I’m just, whoo, I cannot.

Eddie Robinson: You’ll internalize, yes. Forget it, that’s okay.

Grace Byers: Forget it. Forget it. It’s too dark for me. I need to stay in the light. I want that. So, so I easily said no. And so much to the point where, when I finally got this script, my team already prefaced it. They were like, okay, Grace, we know you gonna say no.

Eddie Robinson: Wow.

Grace Byers: Because you always do. And we know that this is not your, your, your realm.

Grace Byers: However, Tim Story is directing this one and Tracy Oliver, who you have worked with on Harlem, had co- wrote it. So just, just wanted to, just if you’re interested, just take a look. And I said, okay, well, love and know both of those names. So let me, let me take a look. Read the script and to my delight, I saw that it was the film version of that sketch that we had all seen that went viral a few years before.

Grace Byers: With Dwayne Perkins and his, um, improv group, 3Pete. And I went, oh my gosh, this is the film version of that amazing… funny sketch that we all saw like years ago that we were hollering. Like no one watched that once. Everyone like watched it again and again, passed it to their friends, cracked up. Read the script and just thought it was so hilarious, so smart, loved the way in which I, cause, cause really when you watch the film, it is really, I mean, it’s just. It’s really funny and the things that we’re dealing with the characters in the script take very seriously. Okay. We’re the only ones not laughing.

Eddie Robinson: Okay.

Grace Byers: All while we’re laughing, but the characters do not find this funny. We mean, we mean business.

Eddie Robinson: We’re trying to survive.

Grace Byers: Right, we’re trying to, this is life or death. So with all of that, I, I think it was so wonderful to see the comedy rooted in so much truth and humor and proclivities and the, uh, Black culture inside jokes and all the things that make us ask, like, you, you look at this film and you’re like, that’s my friend group or that’s my family.

Grace Byers: Oh yeah, we do that when we play spades or we certainly do that when we hear a noise or, you know, there’s all these things that. We understand so intrinsically as people of color that specifically Black people that we can say like, wow, like I feel seen in this moment. And so reading it, I was just like, I couldn’t stop laughing.

Grace Byers: And when we actually auditioned for it, got the part.

Eddie Robinson: Wow.

Grace Byers: And when we shot it, it was if I don’t know if you would ever believe this, but it was. Even more fun to shoot than it was to read. Like everyone was just so funny and we just kept improv-ing. I mean, I’m telling you, the producers were sick of us.

Grace Byers: Okay. They were like, if y’all want to go, y’all doggone job. Okay. Like they were, they were really sick of us. Like we, we just had a ball. We had a ball and the challenges too. Your point. I think it was difficult to because that that that adrenaline, right? So again, I spoke about it I’m an empath and so my body did not know the difference and even if you weren’t an empath I don’t think your body would know the difference between whether or not you’re really running for your life And so those adrenaline and cortisol spikes that roller coaster was hard. And so I was exhausted, but I was just as filled as I was, you know, physically depleted, you know, and so it was a joy.

Grace Byers: It really was a joy to shoot this.

Eddie Robinson: And it seems that it was also informational edutainment because there was a sense of, to me, it was a new realm, a new route of filmmaking for horror films. But yet it was, it was somewhat of an edutainment attached to it because. There’s commentary there when you’re asking someone who’s the blackest, right?

Eddie Robinson: I mean, just put aside the comic relief for a split second. And when you ask who is the blackest on the surface, on some level, it could be pretty offensive, but there’s commentary there. There’s conversation that needs to take place there. And yeah, I’m curious with that being said, Grace, do you feel that people outside of the Black community should be invited into these kinds of conversations about how Black someone is.

Grace Byers: I don’t think unless you black, I don’t think that, that you need to add your voice to that conversation, but I do feel that even though that’s a conversation that is had in the film, that it is, it does not exclude non black audiences from seeing the film. Right. Does that make sense?

Eddie Robinson: Yes. Makes sense.

Grace Byers: And the reason, the reason why I say that is because I think in the black community, we have kind of been trying to quantify blackness for a very long time.

Eddie Robinson: Right.

Grace Byers: And I think it’s futile. I do because. We, we say all the time, we say, being Black is, is not a monolith, right?

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Grace Byers: Blackness.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Grace Byers: Is not monolithic. What do we mean by that? What we mean is, is that as, and this is what I would venture to say, is that when we say that blackness, being Black is not a monolith.

Grace Byers: We are not monolithic as Black people. What we mean is, is that we talk, we all talk differently. We look differently. We have different experiences. All of which can be under that umbrella of blackness, right? And so when we try to quantify that, we will always find ourselves exactly where that group found themselves in the blackening, right?

Grace Byers: Like, we eventually, there’s a conclusion to that, uh, conversation. And, you know, and it’s, it’s really. It’s subjective, you know, when you look at it, so I think that that’s why I don’t think anybody else should be invited to that conversation But the humor in that conversation in the film lies in the fact that we all know that we have done that before We’ve been like, well you ain’t Black or you ain’t Black enough or you blackity Black.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah, let me take your black card away from you.

Grace Byers: Black card revokes For all these different reasons. And so I, I think that that’s, that’s definitely part of the humor there.

Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson here chatting with Grace Byers, the actress from the film, The Blackening. She can also be seen in the second season of Prime videos, critically acclaimed series, Harlem.

Eddie Robinson: You know, what kinds of characters do you enjoy and do you enjoy playing? Do you try to seek out roles that allow the character to take on some form of. I don’t know, self awareness or some sort of discovery, a truth that helps them overcome the obstacles that they’ve had to face or confront in their own lives.

Eddie Robinson: I mean, you do a fantastic job again in Harlem and we see your character and the layers in and of itself. But, um, yeah, I mean, what, what, what characters you tend to enjoy portraying the most?

Grace Byers: I love any character that I can flesh out in a multi dimensional way. I hope that doesn’t sound too general. But. I, I can always say to myself, Oh, I’d love to play this character, that character, this kind of character, but whenever I do get a script, what I always look for in scripts are what’s the overarching message.

Grace Byers: So what’s, what’s the overall narrative, right? That, that I’m adding my voice to, can I get on board with that? And then the, the specifics of the character are, can I flesh this person out to be. A living, breathing human being, because the one thing that you will never find me doing, and I think it’s because if I were to do it, I I couldn’t play the character, in a way, is judge my character.

Grace Byers: Like, even if the character is doing horrible things, although I will not agree. With the things that they may be doing or saying, can I understand why someone would say or do those things? Because we’re human, right? And for any human being, all you need are certain things to put, be put into place for you.

Grace Byers: And this could be a possibility for you, right? Like, let’s be real. If this was a life that you lived as a child, or if this is what happened to you and you were abused, or this is what if like all these things, like, can I lend my understanding to this character in a way where I can get why they would do something like that?

Grace Byers: And, and that’s going to be a lot of it’s going to be in the script. And a lot of it is going to be something that, you know, I would add to the script internally to see if I could. Fully flesh this person together, but what I don’t want to play are people who don’t have that 360 degree length that that’s what I don’t want to play So if it’s not in the script, can I add it and if I can’t add it then maybe this isn’t for me. Because then the then the character becomes a part of an agenda as opposed to a part of a narrative And that’s something I don’t want to play.

Grace Byers: I don’t want to play people who are part of an agenda. You know, like you’re not interested in the person. You’re just interested in what this person will do for the story.

Eddie Robinson: Absolutely. Is there anything that we should be on the lookout for as it relates to the gross buyer’s experience?

Grace Byers: Listen, um, we, we talked about Harlem, fingers crossed that there’ll be a season three.

Grace Byers: We talked about The Blackening, fingers crossed that there’ll be a sequel to that. Okay. Um, but I am in the process of writing a third children’s book. Excellent. And, you know, I’m excited about that. And so we’ll see when that one kind of gets off the ground.

Eddie Robinson: Our last and final question that we ask to all of our I SEE U guests, of all the accomplishments, Grace, and the challenges that you’ve had to endure as an acclaimed actress, as a mother, as a wife, and as an amazing woman of color, what lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

Grace Byers: That I am enough just as I am, and that I am wholly and deeply deserving. Of grace, I think that that that pretty much encompasses it, you know, being named grace and having so much grace for so many other people. I have begun to understand. My name and the meaning of my name in, in relationship with me in a whole new way.

Grace Byers: And I think that everything that I’ve entered in, any, any job, any role in my own personal life, whether it’s wife or mother. Um, that as much as I want to be able to do it all and sometimes want to see my worth and value in what it is I do or how I show up or present or perform, that I go back to the basics of even what I was inspired to write.

Grace Byers: And I Am Enough and knowing that I am valuable and worthy just as I am. And I deserve so much grace for me as I continue to grow, learn, and, and evolve as a human being.

Eddie Robinson: New York Times, bestselling author and acclaimed actress, brilliant actress, Grace Byers. Grace, thank you so much for being a guest and thank you for being vulnerable on I SEE U.

Grace Byers: Oh, thank you. Thank you for having me, Eddie.

Eddie Robinson: Our team includes technical director, Todd Hulslander, producer, Laura Walker, editors, Mark DiClaudio, and Jonmitchell Goode. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our podcasts wherever you listen and download your favorite shows. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson, and I feel you, we hear you, I SEE U.

Eddie Robinson: Thanks so much for listening until next time.


This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson

Executive Producer & Host, I SEE U

A native of Mississippi, Eddie started his radio career as a 10th grader, working as a music jock for a 100,000-Watt (Pop) FM station and a Country AM station simultaneously. While Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus had nominated him for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991, Eddie had an extreme passion...

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