How to Get Cast on a Show Like ‘Queenie’

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Photo Source: Latoya Okuneye/Lionsgate

For those who love all things bookish and British, Channel 4 (and Hulu!) have just what you’re looking for with its new drama “Queenie.” With eight episodes slated to debut on the network and streamer in 2024, this page-to-screen adaptation shines a new light on what it’s like to find yourself in your 20s.

In our guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about the “Queenie” casting process, including insight into how the casting director thinks and audition advice from the show’s top talent.

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What is "Queenie" about?

Based on the acclaimed novel by Candice Carty-Williams, “Queenie” follows its 25-year-old title character, a Jamaican British woman living in south London who’s trying to find her place in the world. In the wake of her messy breakup with boyfriend Tom, Queenie finds solace in the arms of all the wrong men. When she finds herself spiraling, Queenie realizes she must come to terms with the past before she can find peace in the future.

Who is in the cast of "Queenie"?

Season 1 of “Queenie” features:

  • Dionne Brown as Queenie Jenkins
  • Samuel Adewunmi as Frank
  • Bellah as Kyazike
  • Jon Pointing as Tom
  • Tilly Keeper as Darcy
  • Laura Whitmore as Dr. Ellison
  • Llewella Gideon as Grandma Veronica
  • Joseph Marcell as Grandad Wilfred
  • Michelle Greenidge as Aunty Maggie
  • Elisha Applebaum as Cassandra
  • Mim Shaikh as Adi Malik
  • Yennis Cheung as Sophie
  • Joseph Ollman as Guy
  • Tom Forbes as Ted
  • Ray BLK as Honey

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Who is the casting director for "Queenie"?

Aisha Bywaters (“We Are Lady Parts,” “County Lines”), of Aisha Bywaters Casting, served as the main CD on “Queenie” Season 1.

While some CDs have a specific vision, doling out directions left and right, Bywaters told us that’s simply not her style. “That might be someone’s style but it’s not really much of a process. You see actors slightly recoil and I don’t know if anyone becomes an actor just to do what you say,” she explained. “I think there’s a person there, who has a voice, who has something to bring to a character. So, allow them to express it. Be open. Ask: ‘How do you see this person?’ Or: ‘What would you do?’ Then you can find something really interesting from your actor. Maybe I’m being romantic, but the best directors I’ve worked with have allowed the actors to bring something,” she said. “Sometimes you’re watching an audition, and you’re like: ‘Oh, my goodness, I would never have thought of that.’ You read a script so many times, but never see that version. And the actor leaves and you’re all like: ‘That is better than anything any of us ever thought.’ So, allow them to do that—allow them to do their jobs.”

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How does the casting process work for "Queenie"?

Carty-Williams serves as both showrunner and executive producer, helping these characters go from page to screen with her original vision intact. “It’s been really tough because I know who she is and what she would do,” she told Royal Television Society of Queenie. 

“I feel like with an adaptation, you’re constantly justifying and fighting for your own story, whereas with an original, you can make up something new,” Carty-Williams said. “I have to be a showrunner, an A&R, do music editorial, and work with producers and musical directors…. It’s hard in a practical sense, but so amazing, this show is going to bang.” With music serving as a sort-of background character, Carty-Williams and her team brought in rapper Ghetts and Ray BLK to develop the right sound—which is how Ray BLK landed the role of Honey.

“She was one of the first people we cast, and no one could have told me that she couldn’t have done that role. I wouldn’t have seen anyone else," Carty-Williams noted. “Whenever we do live vocals and Ray sings, the room goes completely silent.” And since Ray BLK already had some acting experience, it was as if it was meant to be.

Thankfully, CD Bywaters knows what it takes to create the right ensemble and assuage everyone’s fears at the same time. “I’m a part of the process of a film or TV show. I’m here to help, but it’s not my film or TV show,” she told us. “Of course, I hope it ends up being a cast who are all my first choices—but that’s not always how it works. Ultimately, casting is about the story and who facilitates it. If I really think the audience isn’t going to engage with the person a director picks, I’ll try and persuade them. There are occasions where that’s happened and someone comes back to you and goes: ‘You always knew, sorry it took me so long to get there.’ But that’s fine, everyone’s got their process.”

Bywaters continued, “For some directors, actors aren’t ‘their thing.’ That might sound funny, but perhaps they’re more visual or script-led, or they’ve only ever worked with friends.… But for me, it’s about having an open dialogue. It’s saying how you want the project to go ahead because there are many different versions of what it can be. It might be: ‘Bring me what you think is right,’ or they could be looking for something very specific. I can be what I call a recruitment agent when a director says: ‘I want this from that person,’ and I’ll try to make that happen. Or it could be us meeting loads of people, keeping it really open, and seeing where we end up. Often, directors know what they want, even if they might not be able to articulate it. Going through that process, they can find out what they like and what they don’t like. But there has to come a point where you trust yourself. You’ve got to trust your instincts.”

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Where can you find "Queenie" casting calls and auditions?

“Queenie” has not yet been renewed for Season 2, so there are no auditions available at this time. But as you await updates on the show’s fate, we recommend bookmarking our main casting call page to see the latest opportunities. Since “Queenie” also found a stateside home on Hulu, we suggest studying our guide on how to audition for the streamer in preparation.

If you’re looking for more audition advice (particularly when it comes to getting cast in an adaptation), check out our guides:

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What are the best audition tips for landing a role on "Queenie"?

Ignore the noise: During the early stages of Keeper’s acting journey, rejection was the norm. While she kept hearing reasons why she was not right for this part or that role, Keeper continued to pursue her unrelenting dream. “I was having screen tests for really great shows or chemistry reads, and I wasn’t getting them,” she explained to Rolling Stone UK. “It was like, ‘Oh, you’re too tall, too old, too young’—whatever the generic excuses are. I really wanted a job on a show that I really wanted to be on. That was the gut-wrenching thing.”

Now that she’s found success on multiple shows, including “EastEnders” and “You,” she also knows what it’s like to embody a character that fans dislike. From that experience, she’s learned a valuable lesson that extends to every aspect of the casting process: Ignore the noise. “If you listen to the noise, it distracts you from what you’re trying to do. All I want to do is be an entertainer,” she said. “If it gets a conversation going, then that’s great—but I don’t need to hear what that conversation is.”

Challenge yourself: For Whitmore, acting actually became an extension of her entertainment career. The former television host told Image, “You can get too comfortable in life, and I think as soon as you stop challenging yourself, as soon as you don’t have the butterflies, it’s time to think again. I think you should be constantly learning and just kept on your toes.”

Although Whitmore’s not sure where her acting journey will take her, happiness and joy remain her core motivation. “For me, it’s not necessarily about having an end goal, as it is to be happy and enjoy life too. I’ve got friends who hate their jobs who on a Sunday night think, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go into the office on Monday,’ and I just never want to do that,” Whitmore continued, “and I never want to be too bored either. So I’m constantly working on how to challenge myself.”

Raise your voice: Bywaters wants actors to know that auditions are all about finding your own authenticity. “I think actors forget that they have a voice—they forget that it’s a collaborative process. It’s OK to go into a casting and ask: ‘Is there a specific way you see this role?’ And if people say no, you’ve been given the freedom to just play. Most of the time, people want to see what you’re going to do with the material.

“For me, it’s all about finding authenticity. The only way I think you can do that is to base it on something real, your own experience. Watching the best actors, you feel like you know them, it comes from a true place. But the audition scene is usually something simple, like a conversation or emoting a feeling,” she added. “If that’s kept in a place of honesty, usually the performance is really good. And even if it’s not the ‘right’ performance for that piece, we’ll come away knowing you’re a good actor with good instincts.”