How much influence do casting directors have with individual project directors and producers when making casting decisions?

Casting Networks / RAY RICHMOND

How much influence do casting directors have with individual project directors and producers when making casting decisions?

It turns out there is no single answer to that question. It’s contingent on a number of factors – namely, the kind of project it is, the length of time that project has been around, the relationship between the CD and the creative team, and how diplomatic the casting director may be when serving a host of masters simultaneously.

“Every show does it differently,” finds Liz Dean, who has cast shows including FX’s “Nip/Tuck” for Ryan Murphy, “Designated Survivor,” the 2010 feature “The Kids Are All Right” and (currently) “The Good Doctor.”

“Today especially, there are so many cooks in the kitchen. There are some shows where it’s incredibly democratic and everyone puts in their two-cents. It’s my job as the casting director to echo back, ‘OK, so what I’m hearing is, people are leaning toward Actor A for this, but there’s also a lot of support for Actor B.’ So a large part of the job is funneling.”

On other series, Dean will send in actors to audition and the creator will say, “I love so and so” everyone says, “Great, let’s go with so-and-so,” and that’s the end of it.

“But no matter what the project is, in my experience this job is incredibly collaborative,” Dean adds. “Every show is different. It’s a matter of guiding everyone through until we’ve agreed on a choice.”

In Dean’s experience, it’s generally a different process working on films, at least in part because she’s worked primarily on independent features rather than big studio releases.

“For the independent films I’ve done, it’s more about me and a director in a room,” she says.

That was certainly the case when Dean sat down with director Lisa Cholodenko during casting for the 2010 feature “The Kids Are All Right” with Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo.

When Dean brought in Josh Hutcherson to read for a part, Cholodenko said, “I like Josh.”

“And then I answered, ‘OK, what’s the process now?’,” Dean recalls. “And she said, ‘We hire him.’

“I was still in the mindset of working for a studio and a network and worried about all of the other people we had to run this by before something could be signed off on. It was a moment that really crystalized how simple this process can be.”

But it isn’t something a casting director should get too used to, particularly while working in television.

Julie Ashton, a CD whose projects have included “2 Broke Girls,” “Bob’s Burgers,” the reboot of “Will & Grace” and (currently) the forthcoming “High School Musical: The Musical” for Disney’s soon-to-launch streaming service, points to the scads of red tape required to pore through before many casting decisions in TV can be finalized.

“There’s the studio and the network and executives and a million people that you need to go through,” Ashton says, “and it can get shot down at any stage of the process. Fortunately, I generally happen to work for really nice people, studios and networks who are super supportive, so it doesn’t happen very often.”

That said, Ashton notes that it takes a village to cast a show. “We discuss it and make a choice collectively. It’s the same with a film. You pre-read actors first, make your choices, bring in the producers and directors. You make the decision together before submitting to the studio or network for final approval.”

The creative team’s decision is rarely overruled, in Ashton’s experience. There isn’t a lot of pushback because “they generally want to support our vision. And yes, my choice as casting director is given significant weight.”

Jeff Greenberg, a veteran casting director whose sterling resume’ includes the likes of “Cheers,” “Wings,” “Frasier,” “According to Jim” and (the past 10 seasons) “Modern Family,” maintains that he always weighs in with his two cents on final casting decisions.

He believes that the more experienced the showrunner or creator, the greater the consideration that’s accorded his suggestions. On the other extreme, if he’s casting a pilot for a first-time creator, he turns into a guide whose word is closely listened to.

As the gatekeeper for which actors get seen, casting directors like Greenberg in some ways hold all of the cards.

“Some call that power,” he says, “I kind of see it as working off of a guest list, and there are only so many seats at the table. It’s always very frustrating to have to say ‘No’ to people who are so good but just aren’t quite right.”

What can sometimes be exasperating about his job, Greenberg stresses, is the number of masters that a CD must serve.

“Depending on the TV project,” he agrees, “you’re dealing with the writer and director of the episode as well as the creator, the showrunner, all of the network and studio executives and the network’s director of comedy development.

“There are a lot of people you’re trying to make happy, and a lot of diplomacy is needed. You have to prioritize who will best serve the vision of the creators.”

Dean finds that to be true as well.

“A lot of times when you’re dealing with a director of episodic television, that person represents the interests of the creative team,” she believes. “It’s different on a pilot, because you’re creating a vision together as you form the cast. On pilots, I do think casting directors have a tremendous amount of sway in the decision-making process.

“We’re the ones supplying the actors, so it’s like, ‘Here are my selects. I’ve whittled it down from over 2,000 people to about 8 whom I’m sending to you.”

Times have certainly changed for how a TV project often gets cast, however. Dean shares that the casting director, director, producers, writers, showrunners and sometimes president of comedy or drama development will all be copied on a Google Doc where everyone weighs in on casting in the same spot.

“That’s how we do it on ‘The Good Doctor’,” Dean says.

Or, sometimes things can be done the old-fashioned way, where success breeds credibility for a casting director like Greenberg. The success he had with replacing Shelley Long with Kirstie Alley in 1987 on “Cheers” boosted his credentials sufficiently so his casting word became close to golden.

“I’d use that clout if there was a great theatre actor I’d found in New York that they might not have known but I felt would serve a show’s purpose,” he remembers.

While some may still see television as an inferior casting gig to film, Dean isn’t one of them. She sees TV as “the closest thing in this industry to a real steady gig. “Movies come and go, but it’s nice to have TV as my bread-and-butter, and I love it. I love actors. I love the process. 

Being Persistent To Understand Everything About Making Movies Is Important To Your Success!

Tom Cruise-Risky Business

Today's selection -- from Power House by James Andrew Miller.

Tom Cruise gets the role of Joel Goodsen in the movie Risky Business:

"Thomas Cruise Mapother IV was nineteen when he started his movie career as Billy in the 198l film Endless Love, which was followed the same year with a supporting role in Taps and then continued in 1983 with The Outsiders. He turned heads in all three films, but it was his level-jumping first leading role as Joel Goodsen in Risky Business, released in l983, that would bring him national attention, [and] launch his stardom. ...

I wanted to make movies since I was four years old, and I had seen a lot of movies. Suddenly I'm in Taps and I thought, If I never get to make another movie again, I'm going to study how they're made. I was able to go to each department. We had Owen Roizman, who was the cinematographer, and I had known his amazing work from seeing his movies. Harold Becker did a wonderful thing by sharing his movies, and of course I was familiar with Stanley Jaffe's movies. I remember once they knew how interested I was in cinema, Stanley, Harold, and Owen were so generous because they answered all my questions, and I must have asked a million of them. At the time, we had dailies, and they brought me in and showed me rushes of my work and the other actors' work and said, 'Listen. These takes are going to be in the movie. So you've got to try to watch it as though you're the audience and not yourself.' There were all these wonderful lessons about how to prepare films. ...

I had just come to CAA. A lot of the movie stars had outpriced themselves in the marketplace. Studios were getting wind of the youth film market and they were using more and more unknowns, so I got this idea: sign all the young top talented people out there I believed in, put them in the best projects, and make them movie stars.

"There was an actors' strike, and in that period of time Taps got put on hold. I put a few people up for the roles but none were cast. They had done an all-out search across the country, and found a lot of really talented young people. ...

Paula called me and said she desperately wanted to sign Tom and said, 'If he asks about me, would you mind putting in a good word?' I said, 'Of course.' I was happy to do it. I always liked Paula.

Penn goes, 'Come out to L.A. and stay with me,' so I stayed in his guest house for a couple of weeks. I remember he said, 'You've got to check out CAA,' because I wasn't signed with any agent.

Tom came out to L.A. and was staying with Sean Penn, and Sean told him about me. At the time, I was working with the cov­ering agent on Risky Business and was trying to find an actor for it. I met with Tom on top of one of these buildings in Century City, and we had an amazing lunch together. He borrowed a sports jacket -- he didn't own a sports jacket. I remember that he had this very fascinating intensity in his eyes -- and he was warm, polite, and caring. We found common ground -- it's important to find common ground -- when we talked about our families, and he had played Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls in dinner theater in New Jersey, and probably ten years or so earlier I had played Adelaide in Guys and Dolls in the USO tour. We both had also studied with Sandy Meisner.

As I got to know him, I thought, This guy is more than a heartthrob. He's going to have a real career. He's determined, he's focused, and he wants to be a movie star. A lot of the younger people were anti-movie star. They didn't want to be. He definitely wanted to.

I got Sean Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Bad Boys and it was all very exciting. I had so much faith in Sean to do almost any role, and I really cared about him. During this time, I had also had a lunch with Steve Tisch, the producer.

We went to the Palm for lunch, and he said, 'We can't cast Risky Business' I immediately said, 'Tom Cruise is perfect for it.' He said, 'Yeah, they won't see him. Nobody thinks he's right for it.' It turned out people thought, based on his earlier roles, that Tom was too blue collar to play an upper-middle-class kid from the Midwest. I said, 'Steve, I don't ask favors of you very often, but I'd like one now. Just meet him. He happens to be in town. Don't send him to anyone else. I want you to meet him, then tell me what you think, because I really believe in this guy's talent and I believe he can do this role.' He said, 'Okay, Paula, for you I'll do it.'

I had heard about the project the year before, and remember thinking when I was reading it, Am I ready for this? Can I carry a film? What's it going to be like having a starring role? Interestingly enough, I felt at the time that I was ready.

Of course when he walked into our office at Warner Bros., pretty much all he had to do was smile and then we got it.

So now Steve calls and says, 'I met him, and we're testing him tomorrow for the lead role in Risky Business.' I said, 'Okay, give me the lowdown. Who's he testing with? I don't want him to go in right after lunch; I don't want him to go at the end of the day; I don't want him to be first.' I had a strategy about everything. Steve said, 'It's just going to be him and this young actress Paul wants to see named Rebecca De Mornay.' Tom tested, and boom, the rest is history. ...

I brought him up to the office, had him meet everybody, sold my heart out, and everybody was like, 'Okay, take a shot, let's see what happens.' This was a new thing, signing these new young actors. Tom was nineteen when I signed him. ...

Cruise's name came up late in the game. We had been casting Risky for many months. I can't recall who brought him to our at­tention. He was on location working on The Outsiders. Coppola gave him twenty-four hours' leave to audition for us.

He came to our office at Warners in the afternoon for a read­ing. I was impressed by his confidence. Once he stopped himself in the middle of a scene, chose a different approach, and started again -- a rather bold move for a nineteen-year-old actor. It was apparent to me that Tom had the potential to fulfill two charac­ter requirements: he could play both strong and vulnerable. And he could be both naive and sexual. We had read scores of actors. I had many points of reference. I knew there was something spe­cial here.

Because he was scheduled to fly out the following day, we ar­ranged an early-morning screen test with Tom and Rebecca De Mornay to take place at Steve Tisch's house. Jon Avnet shot the test with his home VHS camera and deck. (Some of the test is included in Risky's twenty-fifth anniversary DVD.)

I drove to pick up Tom at 5:00 A.M. In the dark, I waited out­side a nondescript apartment building in a bleak L.A. neighbor­hood. Nobody came out. I only had the address; no apartment number or phone number (and it was pre-cell phones anyway). By 5:20, I was about to call it quits. Either I had the wrong ad­dress or there was some snafu or the guy was flaky, No way of knowing. I convinced myself to give it five more minutes. At 5:25, I started the engine, thinking about getting some breakfast with Avnet and Tisch. I killed the engine. Five more minutes, I thought. That's it.  

Eventually Tom appeared. I was a little pissed. I thought, This screen test had better be pretty damned good. It was. So it was a really small amount of patience that allowed film history to take its course.

If Paula Wagner hadn't been as persistent and as supportive of Tom, he quite simply wouldn't have been in Risky Business." 

How Do I Bring My Own Take to an Already-Written Character?


By Erin Cronican | Posted Jan. 29, 2018, 8:30 a.m.

Q: What’s the best way to bring your own take to a character that’s already written? Should you stick to the script or try to make it your own? —Mike W.

I firmly believe that what makes an actor stand out is not her talent, training, experiences, or connections. Instead, we get hired because of our unique interpretation of the text, a skill that comes from our years on the planet coupled with our life experiences. The more empathic and curious an actor can be, the more interested she is in learning about others, which will make it easier for her to bring her own take to a character.

When it comes to how to do this, it depends on how the material is being used. There’s some wiggle room when using established text in an audition, because the actor’s job is to take a scene and create an arc as though it’s a stand-alone piece. There are liberties an actor can take with her imagination, answering questions like:

Who is the character talking to? What’s happening in the scene? How does it mirror something that has happened in my life that I can relate to? What problem is the character facing and how can she overcome it? By choosing this piece, what do I want to say about who I am as an artist?

When working an established text as a project, an actor can ask herself similar questions. But then she advances, finding clues and filling in gaps for anything not answered. So in addition to the above questions, an actor can add:

What are the relationships in this piece? How do they mirror relationships I have had in my life, which might be useful for my imagination? What problem is the character walking into each scene with? Which tactics does she use to overcome the problem and get what she wants?

You might think that answering these questions means the actor is giving in to the writer’s wants and not her own, but the act of answering them gives the actor great power in blending her perspective with the writer’s story, which is a beautiful artistic collaboration.


Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays, and musicals (NYC, LA, regionally.) She also produces and directs with The Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit, indie company in NYC. Passionate about sharing her knowledge with other actors, Erin is the lead coach and founder of The Actors' Enterprise, one-on-one coaching service that provides affordable career coaching to actors who want to feel more fulfilled and in control of their careers. She helps actors set goals, design their materials, organize their business, and create a plan of action with easy tools that can take them to the next level with an emphasis on feeling empowered and working smarter, not harder. The first consultation is always free. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and like her on Facebook.

Truthful Words Told To Actors By Actors

Humans who aspire to achieve great things seem to always welcome encouraging words, set to bring truth, inspiration and to keep their “head in the game.”

As a talent agent in Nashville, TN. it is important that every creative professional I work with here in Music City, USA understand at least this one truth: They hold the future successes of their careers in their very own hands.  

The entertainment business is not for everyone. Many talented individual never progress or see success because they refuse to commit 110%.  Obtaining a career in entertainment is no different than any other career, skill or trade.  We all start at the bottom and... well...that means there IS a ladder to climb if we want to reach the top.

I have selected a few of the most truthful revelations, spoken by the well known actors themselves that have climbed the same ladder.  The following words will certainly encourage some, but may they ignite a spark in all! 

Because without a spark no one will ever experience a flame. 


"Play the moment not the story." - Sanford Mesiner


_The camera can film my face but until it captures my soul you don't have a movie._ - Al Pacino (1).png

"The camera can film my face but until it captures my soul you don't have a movie." - Al Pacino

_It's the actors that are prepared to make a fool of themselves who are usually the ones who come to mean something to the audience._ - Christian Bale.png

"It's the actors that are prepared to make a fool of themselves who are usually the ones who come to mean something to the audience." - Christian Bale

'Talent and passion are essential elements in an actors life. Training is the glue that holds it all together._ Denise Simon.png

"Talent and passion are essential in an actors life.  Training is the glue that holds it all together."  - Denise Simon

_Play the moment not the story,_ -Mesiner (2).png

"Study, find all the good teachers and study with them, get involved in acting to act, not to be famous or for the money. Do plays. It's not worth it if you are just in it for the money.  You have to love it." - Phillip Seymour Hoffman


"Wanting to be good a good actor is just not enough.  You must want to be a great actor.  You just have to have that." - Gary Oldman

_Acting is not about dressing up, its about stripping bare. The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant._ - Glenda Jacksono.png

"Acting is not about dressing up but stripping bare.  The whole essence of learning lines is to forget them so you can make them sound like you thought of them that instant." -Glenda Jackson

This article was written by Jenn David, President of J.L. David Talent, located in Nashville, TNJ.L David Talent is one of Nashville's top talent agencies

One Audition Can Change Everything

One Audition Can Change Everything

Working to make it as an actor, and by "make it" I literally just mean booking enough jobs consistently to actually be able to pay bills, can seem like quite the challenge for those learning how to become an actor.  

How To Write A Talent Resume The Right Way

How To Write A Talent Resume The Right Way

Having a talent resume is one, of three, CRUCIAL steps for any talent to get started in the business.  You will staple your resume directly to the back of your 8x10 head shot when attending castings, auditions and/or mailing submissions to agencies and managers.

What Does Your Agent Do?

What Does Your Agent Do?

Your talent agent is spending the majority of their time on the phone or contacting employers and potential clients online. Talent agents are constantly trying to come up with new and innovative ways to accomplish their goals and the goals of the talent they represent.   

Four Things Talent Should Understand From The Beginning.

 Four Things Talent Should Understand From The Beginning.

Would you trust anyone to be your doctor simply because they watch a lot of hospital dramas on television,  have just always dreamed of being a doctor, and therefore believe themselves to be just as qualified as a real doctor? Would you trust adorable young kiddos to give you that amazing new haircut currently trending on Pinterest that you have been wanting and have even created your own private board for last week?  If I were to guess the answer.... I would have to guess....No. and WHY???????  BECAUSE:  Due to lack of training, qualification and experience!  Did I get it?  Do you agree?  (#iamnotwrong)

To work as a professional creative artist in the entertainment industry, whether as an actor, dancer, singer, musician, all of the above, and really any entertainment professional for that matter, the rule still applies.