New York City-based actor Nedra McClyde, ’02, decided early on to pursue her passion for performance at the University of Richmond. By spring of her first year, she switched her biology major to theatre and dance.

“My father was a bit afraid and said maybe I should pick up a minor just in case so I'd have something to fall back on,” McClyde says, when describing her decision on majors. “I started a business minor, went to micro econ my first day, looked through the syllabus, listened to the teacher, and didn’t understand a word he said. I never went back.”

By senior year, Columbia University and the Actors Studio Drama School had admitted her for graduate school, but she almost didn't make the move to the Big Apple. She had decided against both offers and was figuring out her next steps when an 11th-hour pep talk from a high school friend sent her packing her suitcases and moving to Actors Studio dorms just a week before classes started. Today she’s still there, getting steady work in a tough profession.

 “I never thought I could make a living out of it,” McClyde says. “I was never really encouraged to go into performing as a profession.”

Her résumé now includes writing and performing for stage, television, and film. Her TV credits span shows from Law and Order: Criminal Intent and Blue Bloods on CBS to 30 Rock on NBC. Last fall, she filmed commercials for Pillsbury and Captain D’s before flying to San Diego for a month-long run of David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony-nominated play Good People at The Old Globe theater.

McClyde remembers her first days as a trial by fire. She went into the field with very little guidance and initially tried representing herself. “It really does take someone else in your corner to get you in the room,” she says. “Usually it’s your manager or agent who gets you the audition. The rest is up to you and the director.”

Her agent helped land the audition for 30 Rock, but her friend, Keith Powell, who plays Toofer on the show, stopped Tina Fey after seeing McClyde on audition reels. His message: Fey should hire McClyde.

McClyde enjoys acting for TV, but her real satisfaction comes from live theater, playing roles that are just a little out of the ordinary and a bit surreal.

“I definitely enjoy stage the best. You spend much more time with your cast and your director,” McClyde says. “You have time to really get into your character’s world and understand what’s happening in a scene. And then, of course, you have the instant gratification of an audience being right there live.”

Originally printed in the Winter 2013 issue of the Richmond Alumni Magazine.