Diandra Lyle has recently finished filming Series 3 of Disney’s Secrets of Sulphur Springs, having played Jess Dunn since the series started last year, alongside her on-screen children Kyliegh Curran (as Harper) and Johari Washington (as Topher). In 2020, Diandra worked with Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly and Tim Heidecker, having filmed an episode of Moonbase 8, and the previous year, she played Kim in the TV movie Carole’s Christmas and Nancy in Always a Bridesmaid. Having started her acting career at the age of 30 after being laid off from her job as a therapist, Diandra has worked on numerous projects including American Woman, NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service and Beauty and the Baller. We caught up with Diandra about playing Jess Dunn in Disney’s Secrets of Sulphur Springs, working on Moonbase 8 and her time as Louise in American Woman.
You play the series regular role of Jess Dunn in Secrets of Sulphur Springs, can you tell us about your character and what is she like to play?
Jess Dunn is a widowed mother of two. She is hard-working, determined, independent, protective, loving, and maybe a little feisty at times 😉. She’s been a joy to bring to life, as we have quite a bit in common!
How has it been developing the character over the series and what are you looking forward to most for the upcoming Season 3?
Having three seasons to bring a character to life is a gift. You get to know them – how they act, what they feel, their likes and dislikes, etc… The writers also get a better sense of the character’s ‘voice’ and can start writing for them in a more personal manner. It becomes a wonderful marriage between actor and character, blending in influences from both sides.
As for Season 3, I’m just looking forward to the new adventures in store!
How do you find the experience filming for Disney and is there anything you enjoy most about working with the rest of the cast and being on set?
I’ve grown up watching the magic of Disney, so it’s been a joy to work with them! When it comes to our show, every single person – cast and crew – are the best. They are talented, enthusiastic, friendly, and great team players. We are very lucky to have such a great group!
What’s it like seeing the fan response to the series?
What’s special about our show, is that it’s loved by kids and adults alike. How many shows can say that?! Seriously, I have adult friends – some with no kids – who enjoy the show! And hearing many people say they watch it as a family, is beyond touching. Needless to say, the fan response to the series has been out of this world!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from working on Secrets of Sulphur Springs so far that you can tell us about?
A couple of things come to mind: watching how the special effects are created (on set and in post-production) and the amazingly talented guest stars who’ve joined us. Talk about phenomenal!
How was it filming an episode of Moonbase 8 as Alisha Patterson?
Moonbase 8 was definitely a career highlight. I had no idea who was involved with the project until I booked it, so to work alongside comedic greats such as Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly, and Tim Heidecker, was a privilege and an honour!
Can you tell us about your time working on Carole’s Christmas and what was it like being part of a Christmas film?
Carole’s Christmas was a fun one! Holiday stories are always special and working with Kimberly Elise was everything – both on and off camera.
How much did you know about General Hospital before filming your episode and what was it like on set?
General Hospital has been around for decades, so it holds a lot of respect. Filming on that set was great. Everyone was warm and welcoming.
What was Nancy like to play in the feature film Always a Bridesmaid?
Ahhh Nancy, the mean girl! Ha! It was my first time playing that type of role, so it was a lot of fun. I like to portray different types of characters, so this afforded me a chance to show some range. It was also an honour to be a part of Yvette Nicole Brown’s debut film as a writer.
You played Louise in the 2018 comedy series American Woman, how was this?
Louise is one of my all-time favourites! The show took place in the 70s, so dressing up in all that fun, funky fashion was a blast! On a more serious note, portraying a black woman in 1975 ‘upper-crust’ Los Angeles, was not something I took lightly. Political, racial, and economic undercurrents were most certainly infused with Louise’s character and I found it my responsibility to represent her truthfully and justly.
In NCIS: Naval Criminal Investigative Service, you played the role of Alexandria P.D. Detective Karen Stradivarius in a couple of episodes, what was this like?
NCIS is one of the top-rated shows of all time, so being a part of it was a treat! The cast were extremely welcoming and generous. It was also my first time as a recurring guest star (they called my character back a couple of years after my first appearance), so that made the experience extra special.
What are some of your favourite memories from playing Deena Castle in Beauty and the Baller?
This was one of my first major projects upon moving to LA – and really, as an actor. The cast was truly family and we had a lot of fun. Not only did I work with veteran actors such as the late Tommy Ford, I worked opposite some legends in the music world: Deniece Williams, Karyn White, Sly Stone, Ray Parker Jr, and Cindy Herron (En Vogue). I am forever grateful to the show’s creator, Michael Ajakwe, who saw something in me and took a chance.
Can you tell us about some of your other acting roles over the years, which has seen you work on shows including Pearson, Rosewood, Shameless and Me, You, & Him?
I’ve been fortunate to play a wide array of characters on various shows. Each experience has been great, yet one of my most memorable roles was as Donna Lowell on Code Black. She was the mother of a girl with autism, who was undergoing care for another medical matter. It was an extremely emotional/touching story arc and one I feel honoured to have been entrusted with.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I didn’t go the ‘traditional’ route. I took an acting class my last semester of college just because I had hours to kill, but my focus was on a completely different field (Therapeutic Recreation). It wasn’t until years later when I was laid off from my therapist job, that I decided to pursue acting – at the age of 30! What I’ve always said is ‘acting chose me’, I didn’t choose it 😉. Good thing I love it!
What are some of your favourite films and TV shows to watch?
It’s funny, I don’t watch a lot of TV/film! If I do, it’s usually paranormal or crime docuseries shows, but I do slide in a few other things from time to time… fantasy series like The Witcher and The Wheel of Time… some South African shows (Blood & Water is really good!)… action/martial arts films… and some Bridgerton. Geez – I guess I do watch some stuff!
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
Just having wrapped Season 3 of Secrets of Sulphur Springs (which had me away from home for two-and-a-half months), I am just enjoying being home with my family and dog. I plan to pick back up my pen and work on some scripts, as well as learn more about directing. Travel is definitely on the to-do list too. Lots of world to see, lots of experiences to be had!
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