Lynette DuPree: The voice behind ‘Black Pearl’

March 8, 2018

By Jacquelyn D. Heath
Special to The Milwaukee Times

Lynette DuPree

There are some kids who grow up struggling to find an interest or talent that they can turn into a career. Lynette DuPree didn’t have that problem. She knew exactly what she wanted to do when she grew up; she wanted to be a performer.

The veteran stage, television and film actress is currently in Milwaukee in the lead role of The Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s production of Black Pearl Sings!, staging now through March 18, 2018 at the Stackner Cabaret.

DuPree has been performing practically from the time she could walk and talk. At age three, she performed in the Sunshine Choir at the church in Niagara Falls, NY, where her father was the pastor. She went on to sing and act in many local productions put on by both her church and school. By age 13, she was able to attend a performing arts development workshop sponsored by gospel great Edwin Hawkins. Under Hawkins’ tutelage, DuPree polished her vocal styling and stage presence.

Then came the hard part; that is, convincing her parents that as a teenager she had found her calling. “At first, they were reluctant to let me go out into the world of performing,” DuPree said. “When they discovered that I really was serious about acting as a career, they supported me in achieving my dream.”

That dream took DuPree to New York City, where she landed starring roles in many off-Broadway productions, such as Generations for Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Jr., and Mama, I Want to Sing. Next came regional theater, and roles in such classic plays as Elmer Gantry and Ain’t Misbehavin’. She considers her “big break” being cast as ‘Effie’, the talented but troubled singer in the national touring company of Dreamgirls. She also landed roles in Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk and Truly Blessed, a play based on the life of gospel legend Mahalia Jackson.

Wanting to expand her repertoire and opportunities as a working actor, DuPree moved to Los Angeles and began doing television, film, and voice-over work, in addition to theater. Her resume includes guest roles in such popular programs as Law and Order, Everybody Hates Chris, Fresh Off The Boat, The Goldbergs, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. Her film credits include Their Eyes Were Watching God and Random Hearts. She currently has a recurring role voicing the character of ‘MaTembo’ the elephant in the Disney series, The Lion Guard, a sequel to The Lion King.

DuPree stated that she finds a common thread among these various performance platforms. For her, “it’s all about touching the audience and moving them emotionally. Whether it’s a guest spot or a recurring role on television, or a part in a theater production, a comedy or a dramatic part, I’m constantly adding elements to bring out the nuances and personality of the character and their role in advancing the story,” she said.

When she’s not acting on the stage or in front of the camera, DuPree still finds time to get back to her roots in music. She leads The Divas of Soul, a group of six Los Angeles-based women from various creative professions who sing together to raise funds for various causes.

DuPree readily describes her life and career as “a blessing.” She also credits her husband, Charles Robinson, as helping to make her “possible.” She and Robinson have known each other since DuPree was four years old, and he now travels with her and manages merchandising activities for her shows.