Felicia Fasano has found her place in Hollywood in comedy, but, more recently, she has carved out a niche by staffing comedic, female-led shows that have shaken up the TV landscape. Through the funny women who work in front of and behind the camera, she’s been able to build grounded casts in realistic series that use some of your favorite comedy names as well as new faces you might not have seen in a major role on TV before. Fasano fell into these jobs by chance, but with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Better things,” and “I’m Sorry,” she’s built up a roster of projects that feel timely, fresh, and much-needed in the TV space. It can change who and how she casts, but so has the new environment in television, and she talked about it all with Backstage.
How do female filmmakers create a different environment or approach to casting?
I think their writing is way more specific than other jobs I’ve done, where character descriptions are really vague. With Andrea [Savage] and Pamela [Adlon], they take things from their lives to some degree so they could include physicalities and specifics to characters. Or there’s just an essence of someone real and that really makes the jobs easier. It also makes them more creative because, within that specificity, you actually find yourself being more creative than if it’s just a blanket woman in her 40s, who could be anybody.
When there’s a female filmmaker in charge of a project, how does that change the experience for you?
Without sounding sexist, it’s a very different experience when I’m working with women who are dealing with things in their lives that I can identify with. Right there, it’s just easier. It’s also something I was interested in because I’m a woman and the women I’ve been blessed to work with have very specific ideas about what they want. They really know what they want, they’ve created it for themselves, and they know the story and who the characters are and it makes it easier when they have a specific vision. I think that the work is really better. I just sort of fell into this with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and I love it. It’s where I thrive.
What kinds of considerations do you have to make when pairing less recognizable actors with the big comedy names who appear in “I’m Sorry”?
We always look at everybody’s demo reels. It’s a lot of bringing people in who I’ve worked with before who I thought did a great job. Then, I always try to find new people. I look at every single submission. I bring in a lot of people and just try different things. That’s all you can really do. It’s just doing my research, but there are still moments. People get on set and who knows what is going to happen? I’m pretty lucky in my career I’ve worked with great people. Occasionally, I get somebody who may be opposite the star who does freak out, but there’s no way to tell that that’s going to happen in advance. On this show, most of the people are a little bit older. We’re not looking for 18-year-olds. They’ve done stuff before.
What makes “I’m Sorry” unique amongst the other comedic, female-focused shows you work on?
Well, for one thing, it’s Andrea, and it’s unique to her. It’s her, her comedy, her story. And what’s really funny is a lot of things that happened to her, happened to other people. They will say, “I just had the same thing happen to me!” The point of view is grounded in reality. They are clearly stories that everyone can identify with.
What were some of the challenges that came with casting the show?
Our first challenge was a girl they used for her daughter in the pilot presentation. Andrea wanted her because it was a small part in that presentation, but it was going to be a bigger part. We brought someone in to be her daughter and that was a challenge in itself to find a five-year-old who’s got a big part in it who really is five. It was really important to her that she didn’t have her teeth in yet, things that were very indicative of that age, so we did go through a big process to find her. We love Olive. She’s funny in her own way for being five. I think the big challenges for us in casting these small budget shows are not creative, but, really, it’s scheduling. You get all these incredible actors, friends of Andrea’s are all working, so it’s trying to get everyone’s schedules to work with our crazy schedule. That’s the biggest challenge of doing the shows. It’s not so much casting because there are great people out there, it’s just making it so we can get who we want and it works with our schedule. There is so much content that everyone is working all of the time.
How has casting changed since you started?
Thankfully, there’s a push for seeing different faces and shapes and sizes, which is something we have been pushing for as CDs for a long time, but was virtually ignored by creators, so that’s a great thing. Stories are being told and people are interested in knowing about different peoples’ lives. The technology has changed completely. I used to have to deliver scripts to actors houses and make them audition via phone call and type up every contract on the typewriter. When we first started taping auditions, it was with the big tapes. Now, people watch auditions on their phones while they location scout. Also, basically every show I work on, they’re paying scale. There are no bumps to everyone’s pay any more, there’s no more asking quote. No matter what you made before, this is all we have. That’s unfortunate. It’s happening to actors and to all of us—CDs are cutting our quotes and fees and asking us to work longer, do more preparation. I really don’t like seeing it. It breaks my heart every time I have to tell them it’s to scale because I want actors to make a living. A really great character actor could live a really great life before, working on a couple of movies, some recurring guest stars, but that world is gone. The movie world of doing those, run of the show, run of the picture, being a supporting actor, there are so few actors who are doing that because they’re not shooting them here [in L.A.]. so they’re not going to fly you over. They’re going to find somebody in Prague who speaks English. And then they can pay that guy whatever they want.
Do you think that is a result of how much content is out there?
Oh, definitely. But it’s also a great thing because more people are getting to tell their story.
What advice do you have for actors?
Just keep doing it. Create your own content and do shows everywhere you can. Do all of your webisodes and all of those things. We do watch it! My friend just sent me something recently about a girl from Twitter she loved. She’s a UCB girl out of New York and she told me to check out all of her stuff on Twitter. She has no reps. I’m obsessed and I sent her to all my management friends and they all want to meet her and she just did all this stuff with her friends.
What shouldn’t actors do in your audition room?
I saw this a lot on a pilot I did recently with a lot of really great people who are basically their own worst enemies. There are a million excuses: I’m running late, my car broke down, traffic. Just don’t talk too much. I always tell everyone don’t just be focused, be prepared, and don’t get thrown off if you walk in a room and all of a sudden there’s a celebrity in the room who happens to be a producer or happens to sit in that day. Engage as much as is asked of you, but I think it does sort of turn people off when an actor comes in and takes it to a conversational place that where the acting becomes secondary or a chore almost. Then you’ve taken their focus away by yourself. It’s their own defense mechanism, then they can say nobody likes me. Every single person says this all the time, but we want you to do great. We’re there, we hope you are going to be it. We don’t want to see a thousand people for this part, but,you’re the only one who can do it. Don’t worry about who’s in the waiting room. Don’t worry about who you saw or what you heard, just do the job that you can do, the best you can do, that’s it. Don’t worry about anything else.
But also, know what you’re going in for and know the tone. If it’s a show that’s on the air, watch the show so you have an idea of the tone. I can’t tell you how many times they’ll come in and have no idea, and that’s not right. You had time, you could have checked out 15 minutes of the show to get an idea of the tone. It’s just interesting how actors can be their own worst enemy. It’s very easy to blame it on everybody else why you didn’t get something. And again, if you were the best person and you came in and were amazing and you still didn’t get it, there are extenuating reasons why. You don’t know why and you can’t think about it, you have to just move on. Throw your sides out the second you walk out and just go to the next one.
What can an actor do to make themselves memorable to you in an audition?
It happens all the time where someone comes in for something and you’re like they’re not right for this but I’d love to see them for another part or project. Be prepared. If you’re special, you’re going to be special whether you’re right for it or not. Sometimes we say we’ll change your role for you, sometimes we’ll have another role in mind for you already.
What don’t actors know about what you do?
I don’t think they realize that we do our research and, for the most part, we have an idea of what they directors, producers, and/or showrunners want. If we tell you something then you should do it and don’t question us because there’s a reason why. Like we always say, we’re on your side. They don’t know we actually look at every single submission, that we’re there, we’re on call 24/7. I think that some CDs have a poker face, but I don’t. Right away if I love you, I’ll say that’s great or even if I tell them I hate that and to do something else and you’re going to get the job, then do it. Basically, I just told you how to get the job. Listen to us because we are there to help you get the job. I’m not there to teach you how to be an actor or how to audition, you need to know that, I’m only there to help you get the job. I’m happy to help you figure it out together. Sometimes, I’m trying to figure it out with you. Something will come up and I’ll ask you to try it some way, or maybe another way, you never know. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
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