Where Do Hollywood’s A-List CDs Look for New Talent?

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Part of a casting director's job is to keep an eye out for talent anywhere and everywhere, whether it’s for an ongoing project or just to build out their database. So, in the lead-up to the Casting Society of America’s Artios Awards—the annual ceremony that will honor and highlight CDs’ finest work from 2018—we asked this year’s nominees: Where do you look for new actors?

“Everywhere. We are going to colleges—we’ve been interrupting higher education for a while. My colleagues are dogged about exploring the training programs and the internet. We’re going to plays and open calls. That’s an exciting thing about casting right now: all the different ways there are to explore talent. I’m getting to discover tapes and all that.” Tara Rubin (“Prince of Broadway,” “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical,” “Jersey Boys”)

“Each job is its own animal. I go to theater a lot and I also go to National Theatre Live, where you can go and see tapings of plays that are currently onstage in the U.K., so I see as many of those as I can just so I know that talent base. What’s made the job a little bit more difficult is that there’s now so much direction in trying to stay on top of who’s in what and what [I’ve] seen. It’s a process to try and learn as many actors and to stay as on top of that as I can without getting overwhelmed. The good news is everything stays in my database; I can go back and see people from the last 10 years or more. I think a lot of actors’ misconception is that we operate from main lists with only big names, and that’s so not the case.” —Cami Patton (“Parenthood,” “The Americans”)

“In New York, I think our first responsibility is seeing as much theater as we can. When we’re looking for younger actors, we will always reach out to training programs starting down at St. Ann’s and LaGuardia all the way up through the master’s programs. We’ll cast the net as wide as we need to find what we’re looking for. If we’re looking for something very specific, like native Russian speakers (and that was the case on ‘The Americans’), we might dig deeper into those very specific communities and the theater community within those demographics. It’s going where the rabbit hole leads us to find whatever it is that we need.” Rori Bergman (“The Americans,” “Private Life”)

“I go to the theater a lot, and I see people in mainstream theater and weird small-scale fringe theater. I go to drama schools and drama groups a lot, as well. I’m looking in all sorts of different places for people, trying to see people actually doing some acting.” Nina Gold (“The Crown,” “Game of Thrones”)

“I look at TV and go to movies. If I’m not in New York, I read reviews of plays that are happening and take notice of the cast lists and who’s getting good reviews. I hear about actors from friends or other CDs. It’s the full range of theater, movie, TV, and referrals. I’m just trying to keep up to speed with what’s going on out there, not just with actors, but with music. We cast YouTube stars on ‘Insecure.’ That show has been great in alternative avenues of casting. We have so many one-liners, it’s like, ‘What about that guy who was on YouTube?’ They might have one line, but they pop and they have a personality that can handle that.” —Victoria Thomas (“Django Unchained,” “Hidden Figures”)

“Everywhere. I go to theater, I go to concerts—it’s just everyday living when you’re a CD. I could be at lunch, I could be walking down the street. Years ago, I was looking for a Bob Marley movie; the CD had gone around the world and I was in the Beverly Center with my family and I saw this young kid on the escalator who looked like Bob Marley. I was going down the escalator and he was coming up. I literally ran behind him and just said, ‘I’m not a crazy woman, but we’re doing a movie about Bob Marley. You look just like him, please call me.’ It’s everywhere. You just never know; it’s like we’re always on. I’m constantly thinking about what project I’m working on. I think it’s just something that’s embedded in us as CDs. We’re always thinking about the next role.” —Kim Coleman (“Dear White People,” “BlacKkKlansman”)

“We’re being supportive of all the schools, tracking those who are graduating, whether it’s the musical theater program or the drama program. For young talent, it’s YouTube and the internet because there are a lot of performers who put themselves on YouTube, whether it be singers or specific comedians or acts. Part of my reason for having a bigger office was so we could cover more ground and see more actors, so that we could then know them even if we’re not individually experiencing them all the time. We go to shows, whether it’s a showcase or an Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway or Broadway. We have to see the talent and the people’s work to be able to know them and then remember to bring them in and not just rely on an agent submitting them. It’s really about seeing the work and trying to read up. I feel like you can never catch up. Every day, there are hundreds of actors I’m hearing about for the first time, whether they be stars or unknowns.” Bernie Telsey (“This Is Us,” “The Greatest Showman”)

“I go to the theater and almost always end up casting someone I’ve seen live within six months. I’m very susceptible to seeing a performer live who I’m not actively trying out for one of my own projects. I have a network of people who work with unsigned theater actors who I reach out to on almost every project. I have friends who know my taste who send me names of actors they’ve seen in obscure things, and I keep track of them. And I watch film and television and weird stuff online and track people down on my own. I read and do a lot of research and find myself going down rabbit holes that inevitably lead me to someone interesting that sparks me to an idea I can use. I also have my own favorite directors and casting directors whose work I love, and I am not ashamed to admit that I am often tracking down actors who they’ve used in their projects. When I’m watching projects I love, I often end up falling in love with the actors in them.” —Carmen Cuba (“Stranger Things,” “Magic Mike”)

“It depends on what we’re working on. I just did ‘Pose,’ which is largely transgender actors in the lead roles, so traditional, mainstream agents were not going to be where I was going to find them. I also just finished casting the leads in a series called ‘Chambers,’ and the lead is a 17-year-old Native American actor, so that’s completely different. What’s fun about this is that I have to use my brain and my education and my resourcefulness to figure out the best way to locate this community. It’s going to be different depending on what I’m working on. I love the challenge of figuring that out. It’s really fun.” —Alexa Fogel (“Atlanta,” “The Deuce,” “Pose”)

“Everybody is on social media, so everything can go viral very quickly if people are interested. If I put out something with Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg on it, people will pay attention, and that’s fantastic. I use social media all the time now. I never would be on social media myself if I wasn’t a casting director, so if I put something on social media, whoever asks to be my friend, I just say yes because I know the more friends I have, the more people will see the things I post. It goes viral depending on the interest level of the project. Then I watch every single audition myself with my office.” —Cindy Tolan (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”)

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