2 Major UK Casting Directors on What Makes a Go-To Actor

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Photo Source: Netflix / Larry Horricks. Pictured – Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes in The Dig

Casting directors Lucy Bevan (The Dig, Beauty and the Beast) and Daniel Hubbard (Captain Phillips, The Bourne Ultimatum) are the people who curate the faces we see on screen. They spoke to us about their experience at the top of the industry and on the qualities they believe actors need in order to become a casting favourite.

What attributes are shared by actors you consistently call in?
Daniel Hubbard:
“A top-notch professional and an easy-going but determined attitude. Passion for what they do – a passion for acting, and jumping into and researching characters at short notice. Obviously, they light up the screen, know what to do, and tend to surprise you every time.”

Lucy Bevan: “Enthusiasm, hardworking, decent, and talented, of course! Always willing to have a go at something different.”

DH: “To succeed these days, you have to have a glass-half-full attitude. Remember – even when you don’t get the role, if you did your best in the room, the right people notice. I often hear from the director, producers, line producer, or ADs whether someone was nice to deal with, so anyone I hear has caused the production or other actors problems I tend not to revisit.”

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Is there anything you feel actors place an unhelpful amount of focus on?
“Possibly, worrying too much about line-learning as opposed to concentration on how they’re going to approach the character in the room or on tape. A lot of the time, casting directors are not given much notice to get auditions together – everything tends to be last- minute for everyone, not just actors.”

LB: “If you feel the role is not right for you, focus on doing the best job you can. The casting director will have many other projects that they are working on – if you do a good audition, they will think of you for something else. This happens all the time."

DH: “I also feel that sometimes, there’s an awful lot of focus on what’s wrong with the industry. Although it’s frustrating to see the same faces showing up time and time again on screen, there are reasons for that: a lot of the time you aren’t going to get a movie financed without bankable names. TV is definitely allowing more access to new faces. A perfect example would be Normal People or It’s A Sin, which had an impressive array of new faces.”

What one piece of advice would you share with every actor?
“Always do the prep. Know the material, and be ready to take notes and make adjustments. It’s hard to do that if you’re not prepared.”

DH: “Hang in there. Things will get better and there’s a tsunami of production that is going to fall upon us. I would use this time to learn and develop new skills that are useful to your acting: accents, languages etc. Watch everything you can to keep up to speed on who is making and who is casting what. Reach out to casting associates and casting assistants, not just casting directors. They are the future of the casting community.”

Could you share a particularly rewarding moment from your career so far?
“This is a hard question – there are quite a few. I suppose my work with Paul Greengrass [director of The Bourne Ultimatum] has always been rewarding, but also, getting to work with directors and producers I have always admired and had a huge desire to work with. Most recently, I have started collaborating with Guy Ritchie.”

LB: “I was very pleased to see how well Archie Barnes did in The Dig. Working with him in his audition was particularly moving in the room, and I’m very happy that this translated to the final piece. Auditions like that are really rewarding.”

DH: “It’s highly rewarding when you get a chance to change an actor or actress’s life or career by giving them a new opportunity or role that could easily be their first real break.”

More industry advice for UK actors? Click here.