You know that indescribable quality that defines a “star”? Sometimes it is labeled as charisma or sex appeal and other times you just can’t put your finger why someone is extraordinary. Well, if you spend any amount of time with Deborah S. Craig you’ll get a sense of what I am talking about plus you’ll probably laugh your ass off.
“I started acting because people fed me,” says Craig. “I love cupcakes and pizza and you get a lot of those when you’re a minister’s daughter who sings.” A Korean-American adoptee, Craig grew up in central Florida and began performing at her father’s Lutheran church at the age of four. “From a pretty early age, I knew I enjoyed making people laugh and my father recognized that so he encouraged me to really go for it.”
Craig fostered her talent at local community theatres in Florida where she developed a love for musical theatre. “Being a classically trained pianist I always thought of life as a musical composition with peaks, valleys and colors so when I began auditioning for musicals it all made a lot of sense,” says Craig. “But it wasn’t until I was given the opportunity to play Cinderella at this little theatre near Lakeland that I thought that I could really do this as a career.” Playing Cinderella opened Craig’s eyes to the roles Asian-American women could play and that sparked the confidence she needed to pursue a professional career in the theatre.
Within a few short years, Craig’s mission was clear. She was Broadway bound. “I moved to New York when I was twenty-one and the moment I landed I knew I was doing the right thing with my life,” says Craig. “I loved New York’s energy, the hustle and being independently me.” Craig bounced around for years doing Off-Off Broadway shows, little TV gigs, commercials and working side jobs to stay afloat. “New York is amazing because one day you’re working at a bar in Union Square and then the next day you’re working at another bar in Union Square,” says Craig with a smirk and a giggle. “No, I served a lot of drinks but I also did a lot of shows which laid the groundwork for what was to come. It always pays to be a busy bee.”
Craig’s infectious humor, talent and spirit made her a top choice for a special workshop of a new musical, which would eventually become The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. “We spent two weeks together developing our characters and writing music with William Finn,” says Craig. “It was a dream come true creating with such gifted artists. We knew we were creating something special but we didn’t know how quickly it would take off.”
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was a major success and put Craig on the map alongside her fellow castmates Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Dan Fogler and Josh Gad. The show was nominated for six Tony Awards, enjoyed critical
acclaim and received the Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble. “The show was amazing but it was bittersweet,” says Craig. “My father died of cancer right before we opened so it was hard to enjoy all the success. Looking back on it, I know he would have been proud of me and all the hard work I put into our show. He did always say I’d make it to Broadway.”
Since then, Craig has moved to Los Angeles where she has worked with all the big theatre guns in town well as being an active member of IAMA Theatre Company, the newly formed Ammunition Theatre Company and supporting the “I LOVE 99” movement. Craig has also enjoyed a very fruitful film and television career playing a wide spectrum of roles. Last year, Craig recurred on NBC’s The Blacklist, the Golden Globe winning comedy Transparent, and Disney’s Dog With a Blog. “I have been blessed in my career thus far with such amazing roles, the caliber of work and the people in which I have crossed paths”, says Craig. “I am excited to keep growing as an artist and seeing how this little Asian-American girl from Lakeland might continue the conversation.”
Later this month, Craig and the entire original Broadway cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be celebrating their tenth anniversary with a one-night-only event to benefit The Actors Fund’s Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative. The benefit is being held in memory of Andrea “Spook” Testani Gordon, the beloved production stage manager of the original Broadway and off-Broadway production, who passed away on November 30, 2014 following a battle with cancer. For more information on Deborah S. Craig visit: www.deborahscraig.com.