ATM: How has teachers in your grade school life molded you into what you are today?
DP: I went to a really great high school. It was a small tiny private school. I was on scholarship while I was there. My high school was small, so we got a lot of attention. It was where I first decided to act. They gave me a lot of opportunities to do several plays and musicals. I had a teacher named Ms. Turk, she was my English teacher, and she contributed a lot to me not only as a writer but also as a performer. Ms. Morrow, who was the Performing Arts teacher also did the same for me. They really allowed me to spread my wings in that program.
ATM: How important do you believe teachers are in this society and school society?
DP: Teachers definitely need to get paid more. They do not get paid enough. I have teachers in my family. A good teacher gives a student hope on how to pursue their dreams and also to work even harder. There are so many great teachers in the world. We must be very thankful for them and pay them. We must make sure they are doing okay and not being overworked. The reality is in a lot of schools these teachers are not just teachers; they work in the lunchrooms, they are also running several after-school activities and more. We have to make sure we put them at the forefront, and we must never forget about our educators.
ATM: I know some teachers who have said they are doing their jobs because they love it. It was not because of a paycheck. You know the question always comes up, “How much do you get paid?” They said, “If it were just for the money, then they would not be teaching.”
Do you believe in a different way a good teacher sets the same foundation of the walks of life like a parent?
DP: I absolutely believe this. I am grateful to have had great teachers and an awesome mother who raised me on her own. I was very fortunate to be able to have been afforded this privilege. As a West Indian, a good education is the first thing that gets taught in the home. In my house, my grandmother would constantly say: “A solid education can provide you with many opportunities and advancements.”
ATM: Do you believe people who have limited mobility to receive the proper education will have a harder time maneuvering throughout the world?
Is there even such a thing to “proper education?”
DP: To be honest, I feel “life” is also a good source of education. You see with a lot of performers who did not go to school, and they too are amazing. You do not have to have a master’s degree or even an undergraduate degree. I can only speak to my own craft. If you want to be a doctor, then that is one thing. You do not HAVE to go to school for acting. You have to be willing to want to learn about this craft and have respect for it. This could be going to the library and picking up a book on your own and doing workshops. If a person wants to master what they are regularly doing, then they must take steps to do this. Personally, I had a raw talent that needed to get cultivated through school and training, but I know so many actors who are amazing that use life as their school.
ATM: Explain the significance of your experience on the set of Teachers. Also, did working on this show add to any of your wisdom at all?
DP: It was amazing being on set with them and improvising. The show reminded me of how much fun improvisation was, and I do miss doing it in Chicago. I am grateful for the opportunity. The women are so talented and working with them was like a comedy Masterclass.
ATM: Through the eyes of Iain Armitage on Young Sheldon, how do you see the world of what a child goes through in their social life?
DP: He is smart in real life. He is one of the best actors I have had the honor to work with. He is so brilliant. These people in Medford, Texas are just simple folk. He is smarter than everyone. This is intimidating to my character Ms. Ingram because she is not used to children talking back to her. He is correcting her in class, in front of everyone. Ms. Ingram is a very high strung person, and this small-town school has to figure out how they are going to deal with Sheldon. With the school’s current resources, how are they going to help Sheldon move further in his education? It is a really funny and fun show to be a part of it. This show was my first recurring guest star. They invited me back for season 2, and I can’t wait to get back on set.
ATM: Do you believe the world should make a place for people who are different rather than make them feel they do not fit in or belong?
DP: I am different. I am a plus sized woman. I am a black woman who is also West Indian. I was in a white school while growing up. I had to make opportunities for myself and find the bravery to make these opportunities happen. For Sheldon, because he is young, it is a great show for anyone who may feel like “the other.”
With people who are different, like me, I really had to start seeing opportunities for myself. Especially, in the industry. Because of my size, many of my roles were occupational driven. I was like, “You know what I am going to do a one-woman show and I’m going to show these casting directors that I can play a greater range of characters.” My one-woman show, Body/Courage, brought me to Los Angeles. It is about believing in ourselves first and being brave enough to narrate our own stories.
ATM: It is about when you see the environment around you, outcast you, rather than let people tell you that, “You are not good enough. You are not light enough. You are not skinny enough. You are too fat. You are too dark skin.” The world portrays thickness as the new form of the best body size, but I think they still see “being skinny” as the standard.
It is about if a person does not want you, then you get ahead and create your path and foundation. You did this. You have to believe and love yourself. You could have stayed in these roles that subjective their talent, but you took the risk. It is all about understanding who you are. Someone will accept you.
On the other hand, it is interesting that this show deals with children. It deals with the younger version of Sheldon, and it adds comedy to it. We get to see the minds of children. When kids get on the school bus or close the door to the car that takes them to school, we do not get to see their social lives. We assume they had a good day a school. When they are at the dinner table, you do not get to see how these children are perceived to others. The comedy adds an intriguing aspect to it. You get to look at all of this and the comedy without offending them.