You’ve streamed it, you’ve binged it—isn’t it about time you auditioned for a Netflix series or movie yourself? The streaming titan behind “Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton,” and David Fincher’s “Mank” not only produces award-winning original content, but often provides a platform for unknown, young, and inexperienced actors to cut their teeth.
And the best part is, you can live anywhere and still land a role on the next binge-worthy Netflix series—just ask Chase Stokes, who plays lead John B on Netflix’s “Outer Banks” “This was a job that was booked in Atlanta,” he says, “so for the people who feel like there’s an obligatory need to come to L.A. and get their career jump-started and they feel like this is the only place that you can do it... don’t question your worth.”
So, are you ready to face the Netflix audition room? In this in-depth guide to getting cast on Netflix, we’ll walk you through how the casting process works for the streaming giant, which Netflix series are currently casting, and audition tips from current stars and casting directors.
Those looking to audition for Netflix should be aware that the popular streaming platform doesn’t conduct auditions in-house. That’s the job of the various production companies hired by Netflix to create their shows, whose casting directors are then sent off to find talent.
That means the casting process for Netflix varies, generally depending on the project and what the showrunners and producers are looking for in order to execute their vision. Whether it’s a comedy, a period drama, a small-scale miniseries, or a sci-fi/horror adventure, the research, casting, and actor selection processes will be different. Sometimes actor lists are compiled—but many CDs have the most fun when projects don’t require “names.”
Take Kelly Valentine Hendry, the U.K.-based CD behind “Bridgerton.” “We had a lot of freedom and could bring in anyone we felt suitable. A mixture of ideas, lists, and in-person casting kicked off the process, and then actors were either chosen by our creatives there,” she says, or, “as the episodes went on and we were down to day players, we used a mixture of self-tape requests or in-person meetings.”
Netflix, in particular, has shown a willingness to bring on new and unfamiliar names and faces. “They didn’t interfere in our creative process, which is the most important thing and the best thing about Netflix,” says CD Jennifer Euston (“Orange Is the New Black,” “GLOW”). “It’s just a straight line from creator to Netflix, there’s nothing to block who we want. They trust the filmmaker, and that is crucial in making anything good.” For “GLOW,” Euston cast a wide net for athletic and comedic personalities—and required everyone to audition for the show, rather than making offers to big-name actors. “I was looking for a really diverse group of women—different ages, body types, and ethnicities,” she explains. “These were supposed to be regular-looking actresses who couldn’t really hack it in Hollywood because they were different in some way. Plus, I always just want all different faces, shapes, sizes, and ages—everything that I can get into a frame.”
For Netflix’s “Locke & Key,” social media played a major role in the casting process. CD April Webster was seeking an actor with an intellectual disability and an actor in a wheelchair, so she put out a digital open call through Twitter and Instagram. “We got submissions from a lot of people that we weren’t expecting, who don’t have agents and who aren’t necessarily actors,” she says. “We use Instagram to see what people look like now.”
The casting directors behind your favorite Netflix shows span various production companies and agencies; most have honed their talent-seeking skills over the course of decades in the industry. Some of the most prolific Netflix CDs include:
- David Rapaport and Lyndsey Baldasare of L.A.-based Rapaport/Baldasare Casting, both of whom cast Netflix series “You” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”
- Barbara Fiorentino, whose eye for talent shaped the cast of “13 Reasons Why”
- Allison Jones, the CD behind “Master of None,” “Space Force,” and the reboot of “Arrested Development”
- Jennifer Euston, who changed the game with her diverse casting of “Orange Is the New Black” and “GLOW”
- Laray Mayfield and Julie Schubert, the successful duo that cast “House of Cards,” “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and “Mindhunter”
From “Stranger Things” to “Cobra Kai,” there are a number of Netflix original series that are actively putting out new seasons—and casting new actors in them, of course. Filming for many Netflix shows is picking back up following pandemic-related delays. Check out our in-depth guides to getting cast on the latest season of:
To audition for Netflix, it’s crucial to know the production companies and CDs behind the show you’re gunning for. You’ll also need to stay on top of upcoming casting calls and production schedules for these projects—all of which can be done through an agent, if you have one, or through Backstage’s regularly-updated roundup of Netflix casting calls.
Backstage has hosted a number of Netflix casting calls over the years. In Sept. 2020, “Stranger Things” producers and CD Heather Taylor sought background actors for the upcoming fourth season. In 2017, a post for “You” extras casting was published, calling for a range of character types. And background work can lead to bigger things—just ask Richard Ellis, the co-lead of Netflix’s comedy-drama “I Am Not Okay With This.” “My first day of extra work, I had just moved to New York,” he says. “Backstage was the thing I used all the time, Backstage is where I got my start on everything. [Backstage is where I got] my first extra gig, on ‘Divorce,’ the HBO series.”
As is the case for most serious acting gigs, in order to audition for Netflix speaking roles (lead, supporting, or recurring), you’ll likely need to go through an agent rather than a public casting call. If you need help finding an agent, here’s how to get one.
But a lack of representation isn’t necessarily the end of the road for an aspiring actor. “The concern for that person [without an agent] and for my office is where do we find you?” says Avy Kaufman, the Emmy-winning casting director of Netflix’s “Maniac.” “To knock on the door isn’t useful, but where do we find you? You can still send in pictures and résumés, which is great. We use social media a lot now, which is such a big change in this world.”
With that in mind, you should:
- Have a website, where you can showcase your updated headshots, acting résumé, and demo reel.
- Establish yourself across social media, which is slowly but surely becoming a new go-to avenue for discovering talent for many CDs. (But do it the right way!)
The best way to get on a CD’s radar is by email, but it’s crucial to take the right approach when getting in touch. You don’t need to write a covering letter with an email,” says “Sex Education” CD Lauren Evans. “Just be brief, clear, concise. Something like: ‘This is my name, this is where I’m from, and this is what I’d like to show you, please do keep me in mind…’ I think when your email starts to become a life story, then it’s all a bit much.”
And remember: Good preparation books roles. Aisha Coley, who mined a wide range of talent for “When They See Us,” directed by Ava DuVernay, says the key to a memorable audition is “getting into the role, being prepared, and that they walk into the room feeling like getting the job is a possibility. I really appreciate when an actor comes in prepared. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Need an extra boost of inspiration before stepping into the Netflix audition room? Check out these tips from the platform’s leading actors—and the casting directors that found them.
Bring something different. CDs sift through countless hours of auditions over the course of a day, and it’s a good idea to liven things up with a different approach if you can find one. Avy Kaufman encourages it: “It is so much fun when an actor brings something in that I didn’t think of and that the creative team probably didn’t think of, most likely. It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, you just nailed it.’ the thing is, I want people to be great, so when they surprise us and do something that wows us, it’s very exciting.”
Your life experiences help. “Locke and Key” CD April Webster urged auditioning actors to “have a rich and full life. What you bring to the table are the experiences you have had. It’s what makes you unique.”
Casting directors are rooting for you. Carmen Cuba, whose instincts for actors shaped pop culture with “Stranger Things,” wants actors to feel comfortable and at-ease in the audition room: “I think we are all just doing our best, and when our paths cross it is with the shared objective of success on both our parts of getting the role cast. That is all they need to know, really: that I’m definitely taking the time to be in the room with them because I think they have a shot at either the thing they are auditioning for or something in the future that they don’t know about.”
Kaufman feels the same way: “It means a lot to us to make it a place to feel comfortable because to walk into anyone’s home or office, even if you’re overly confident as a person, there’s something that [makes it] an unexpected place. You can expect to be treated wonderfully. We’re sensitive to the audition process.”
“I’m definitely taking the time to be in the room with them because I think they have a shot at either the thing they are auditioning for or something in the future that they don’t know about.”
Prepare, prepare, prepare. In addition to the advice above, “House of Cards” CD Julie Schubert considers preparation to be audition rule number one. She explains: “What being prepared means is knowing your material, knowing the choices that you’re making. Listen to the direction and take the direction in and bring it into the scene if you’re doing it a second time. Make sure that you have all the things you need to be able to present yourself as someone who knows what you’re doing.”
You’re never auditioning for just one role. Kurt Yue ended up auditioning for “Cobra Kai” three different times before finally landing the role of George in Season 1. But his previous read-throughs with CDs weren’t for that part. They just remembered him down the line. “Now this is a really important lesson for people that are newer to acting, or new to the industry...every single time that you audition, you’re never just auditioning for that one part. You are auditioning for future auditions. You may not fit the character that you initially auditioned for, but if you do a great job, even if you don’t book that role, the casting director will remember you and will try to find more roles for you and bring you back for more auditions.
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