How to Get Cast on a Series Like Netflix’s ‘Painkiller’

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Photo Source: Keri Anderson/Netflix

Drawing from Barry Meier’s 2018 nonfiction book “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic” and Patrick Radden Keefe’s New Yorker article “The Family That Built the Empire of Pain,” Netflix’s “Painkiller” is a fictionalized take on the origins of the opioid crisis. Created by Emmy nominee Micah Fitzerman-Blue (“A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” “Transparent”), the six-episode miniseries features a star-studded cast that includes Matthew Broderick and Uzo Aduba. 

“Painkiller” premiered on Aug. 10 and has already wrapped filming; but it’s just one of many Netflix limited series that have helped launch up-and-coming actors’ careers. Here, we share everything you need to know about the casting process for the series, including audition advice from its stars and CDs.


What is “Painkiller” about?

Director and producer Peter Berg told us that the series will “make you think a little bit more about what your doctors are prescribing you and the intentions of Big Pharma,” examining “how we got here.” The show specifically digs into the origins of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, from its development in 1996 to its devastating impact on society.

The show takes a look at figures from all sides of the early opioid crisis, including then-Purdue Pharma president Richard Sackler (Broderick); criminal investigator Edie Flowers (Aduba); pharmaceutical rep Shannon Schaeffer (West Duchovny); and Glen Kryger (Taylor Kitsch), who becomes addicted to Oxy after his doctor prescribes it. Along the way, “Painkiller” dives deep into the origins and aftermath of OxyContin’s proliferation and the role that capitalism played in corrupting the American medical system.

Who’s in the cast of “Painkiller”?

The series features an array of familiar names and faces, including:

  • Uzo Aduba as Edie Flowers
  • Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler
  • Taylor Kitsch as Glen Kryger
  • Dina Shihabi as Britt Hufford
  • West Duchovny as Shannon Schaeffer
  • Sam Anderson as Raymond Sackler
  • Jack Mulhern as Tyler Kryger
  • Ana Cruz Kayne as Brianna Ortiz
  • Carolina Bartczak as Lily Kryger
  • John Rothman as Mortimer Sackler
  • Brian Markinson as Howard Udell
  • John Ales as Dr. Gregory Fitzgibbons
  • Clark Gregg as Arthur Sackler Sr.
  • Tyler Ritter as John Brownlee


Who are the casting directors for “Painkiller”?

Rachel Tenner (“Severance,” “Maid”) is the primary CD, working alongside Stephanie Gorin (“Fargo,” “Zombies”) and casting associate Rick Messina (“High Desert,” “The Tender Bar”). 

If you find yourself in Tenner’s audition room, she told us that it’s a good idea to come in with a “real, specific point of view…. Whether it’s the right point of view is one thing, but that’s why we’re there, right? That’s what we do—because I’ve read the whole script, and you haven’t. 

“I can help you with the tone; I can help you understand the character a little bit more and guide you to what I think is the right place to ultimately land. But I think it always comes from somebody making these really specific choices and letting me react to that, then trying to find it in the room, in the moment.”

Matthew Broderick on “Painkiller”

How does the casting process work for Netflix limited series?

Tenner told Daily Actor that she explores many avenues in her search for new talent. “You certainly have your list of people that you’ve read before and loved before from watching things. And if they’re available, absolutely get them to go on tape,” she said. 

“And then on top of it, you also do have agents, and you have managers pitching. So, it’s, like, a mix of everything…. And then it’s the work we do as an office, trying to stay on top of seeing theater and things that are happening—and then just trying to keep lists of…people we’ve loved watching.”

When casting the role of Richard Sackler, the real-life villain of the opioid crisis, on “Painkiller,” Berg said that he wanted to find an actor who could bring a sense of humanity to the character. 

“People who engage in bad behavior rarely think of themselves as the bad guy,” the director explained. “[Sackler] was a capitalist and a believer in the idea that helping people manage pain was a good thing.” Berg turned to Broderick, a performer whose “inherent likability and empathy” added nuance to the role.

The director said he looked to his frequent collaborator Kitsch (the two worked together on “Friday Night Lights,” “Battleship,” and “Lone Survivor”) because of his “personal connection to the opioid crisis.”

Uzo Aduba on “Painkiller”

Where can you find casting calls for similar series?

Check out these gigs that are looking for talent now. You can also explore our guide on how to audition for Netflix for more advice. 


What are the best audition tips for landing a role on a show like “Painkiller”?

Tyler Ritter, who plays John Brownlee, told ET Online that the best piece of advice he’s gotten came from his father, the late John Ritter. “My dad would always say to me, ‘Ask me how many times I’ve been late to work or an audition.’ I, of course, knew the answer every time, because it never changed. 

“And I’d say, ‘OK, dad—how many times have you been late?’ and he would hold up a zero. That's what it’s about: If you’re not early, you’re late. You have to put in the time. It looks like a lot of fun, but you only get to have fun when you put in the work and you’re prepared.”

Similarly, Aduba turned to the wisdom of her mother. “The best life advice that’s ever been given to me…was given to me by my mom when I was first moving to New York,” she told us. “She dropped me off to go down to the city [on] the train. 

“And she turned off the car, and she was like, ‘Uzo, I need you to work hard.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ And she was like, ‘No, no. I want you to work hard. I’ve never heard of nothing coming from hard work. I don’t know what will come, I don’t know when it will come, but something will come.’ That was a guiding principle for me, and [it still is].”

Broderick, however, says a lot of it comes down to chance. “You have to be good to get any work, really,” he told us. “But beyond that, it’s a lot of luck, and it’s a lot about what roles you happen to be in the right place at the right time for. It’s kind of a domino effect, and I don’t think you can control that so well.”

The veteran actor says that getting an acting education can also open doors. “I think going to school is a good idea, because even if you don’t learn anything, you will meet people who will be doing plays or films. You have to get with a group of people who might work, and then you can kind of hook into that,” he said. 

“So if you want to start being an actor, I would definitely recommend a school, a theater company—some kind of group…. Don’t just be on your own sending out photos. There are too many people doing that, and that won’t work.”