It Is Never Too Late To Be What You Might Have Been: An Interview with Diandra Lyle

by - March 17, 2022

Photo courtesy of Diana Ragland

On March 17, 2009, Diandra Lyle booked her first official acting job in a commercial for McDonald’s. They shot it right along the Chicago River, which had recently been dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day. Just six months prior, the idea of acting professionally was nothing but a distant dream.

Lyle moved to Chicago in 2007, where she was working as a recreational therapist for a psychiatric hospital in suburban Forest Park. It was there that she was told about Second City, Chicago’s comedy club and improvisation school. She enrolled in their year-long improv program and finished just as the 2008 recession hit. That September she was laid off from the hospital.

“The acting thing was sitting in the back of my soul for some years but I hadn't really acted on it,” she said. “When I got laid off, that's when I made the decision to pursue acting full-time because I would have the flexibility.”

It was a high-risk decision for the single mother, who went from working 9-5 Monday through Friday and taking improv classes on Sunday to making the move to Los Angeles and finding stand-in work whenever possible. Fortunately, within a few years she was able to find a manager and agent and watch everything slowly fall into place.

“It's a lot of continuing to put forth the work; investing in yourself, betting on yourself, having faith that it will happen,” Lyle said. “I truly believe what's for you is for you and that's honestly my saving grace in this business.”

She knew that the entertainment industry wasn’t for the faint of heart, so she made sure to take the good and the bad that comes with being an actor. There can be years where they see nothing but success or years where work is few and far between. They are still putting forth the work, but sometimes there isn’t anything to show for it.

Just before booking her latest role as Jess Dunn on Secrets of Sulphur Springs, she was at the point in her career where she wasn’t having fun anymore. She knew she had to acknowledge it, and had made peace with her decision to step away temporarily when she was asked to audition.

Once she booked the role and found herself on set for the first time, she realized that the character was eerily similar to herself. She takes pride in showcasing a successful, single mother who is also a woman of color and a real, relatable person.

With all her hard work that she put into pursuing acting, she also recognizes that it came at a sacrifice. Her daughter, now 19, grew up with a mother who at 30 years old decided to pivot from a profession with a relatively steady income to one that had no guarantee. These sacrifices directly affected her daughter, especially when she spent two years of her childhood living with her father while Lyle got her feet on the ground in Los Angeles.

“I had to invest a lot of my time into learning the craft and taking classes and studying lines, and sometimes that would take away from my time with her,” she said. “I would not have been able to make it this far if it weren't for her resiliency and her strength because she's just been a soldier. She just trucked through it [and] never complained… I hope [and] I pray that it planted some amazing seeds into her to know that there are very few things that we cannot do in this life.”

On March 17, 2022, Diandra Lyle still uses the same quote in her email signature that has been there for years. It is from author Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name George Eliot. “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” She feels incredibly fortunate that at the age of 30 she was able to take a chance on her once upon a dream and give it her best shot. It was a gamble, and still is a gamble, but it is no longer a distant dream.

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