My most recent internship was in the casting department of the ABC show "Body of Proof"starring Dana Delaney that premieres Tuesday, March 29th. I was in my last week as a stitcher intern at Glimmerglass Opera when I applied. By that Monday I was trying to find my way to Queensborough Community College for my first day on a gig my former professor had gotten me when I called Mia and scheduled an interview for that Wednesday like she had asked in an e-mail a couple of days earlier. The first chance I got after that, I went online and looked her up like a creep. Turns out she had gone to FIT and somehow made her way into casting. I thought, “That’s awesome!” because I had always thought of trying to do the same thing.
So Wednesday rolled around and I went to the ABC offices on 67th (where the casting director and Mia were being housed since the show shot on Rhode Island and there wasn’t a production office in the city) to meet Mia for my interview. She was wearing a white dress with either ladybugs or flowers on it (I can’t remember which) and a pink cardigan. Very cute! The interview was short but I remember there being a lot of laughing. I left, thinking I wasn’t going to get it because I had interviewed for a few other casting internships while still in college, because I wanted to see what it was like, without any luck. But obviously, I got this internship.
One of the coolest but most annoying things about this internship, though, was that since I wasn’t technically an “employee” of ABC, I couldn’t be given a badge. Instead, I had to be buzzed into the building every morning and given a visitor pass. No matter how many times a door man/woman had already seen me, it always took some explaining as to who I was and then a phone call up to Mia to see if they could send me up. Sometimes she wouldn’t be at her desk and they would have to leave a voicemail. While they left her those messages, I got to watch as they struggled through pronouncing her last name. (It’s really not that hard, it’s just a few more letters than most last names.) But it was nice because I started to collect those visitor passes and stick them in a journal with a note about what happened that day written on them. (If nothing interesting happened that day, I would leave it blank. I guess nothing interesting happened on September 28th.)
I don’t remember what day this was because I didn’t write anything down about it on any of my passes, but there was one time where Mia had to step away from her desk for a little while and asked me to sit there and man the phones. A little while after she left, a couple of actors showed up in the doorway with their headshots. It was like Halloween, except instead of me knocking on a stranger’s door asking for candy, a couple of strangers were in my doorway, giving me headshots, asking for jobs. It was Mia’s reactions to things like this that cracked me up. When she got back, I told her about it and she said, “How’d they get in? They don’t even let you in!”
I responded with, “Hahaha! Wait…That’s a good point.”
But overall it was a good learning experience. The best part about it was that they actually asked for and cared about my opinion about auditions sometimes. I feel bad for the guy who had to work with me as his reader my first time ever doing such a thing, though. I was pretty horrendous. But oh well. I went on to intern with Mia and Rosalie, the casting director, from August 2010 until December 2010. In October, I got a job wardrobe supervising a show called Middletown at the Vineyard Theatre on E. 15th Street. Mia was nice enough to work around my schedule from then until the internship ended in December so that I could continue to ruin her actor’s auditions as their reader. Just kidding. I eventually sort of got the hang of reading lines to actors in auditions but it made me want to be an actor even less than I already did, which was pretty low to being with, and appreciate what they do even more.
Here’s my interview with Mia. Some of my questions could have been worded better, but I resisted the urge to edit them out because Mia answered them so well:
How did you get into casting?
I started interning at ABC when I was in college and loved the casting process. I studied fashion and followed that career when I began working. After a few years in fashion, I found that the industry did not suit me well, and ABC was looking for a temp and asked me if I would be interested in working with them again. I fell in love with casting and have been doing it ever since.
How did you know that casting was for you?
I don't know other than to say I just felt like there was nothing I would rather be doing.
What is your first step in finding your actors after you read the script?
The first step is to breakdown the script and see what we need. Once a breakdown goes out we then make lists for some of the roles. We select actors based on both our knowledge of their work and from photos that we feel fit the profile of the character.
Who's easier to deal with? Actors or agents?
I don't know if that is a fair question. Actors are in the very beginning of their careers and more like students who eventually become colleagues and agents are from the very beginning, your colleague. So I think there is more of a situational answer that is depending.
What's the most unconventional thing you've ever done to find somebody for a role you were casting?
I don't know how unconventional this is, but, we were searching for a somewhat high profile personality for my show and there was literally no contact information for her. I decided to contact her record label and talk to someone there who put me in touch with her personal managers number and I was able to get her in to audition and she ended winning the role.
Is casting a show like "Sherri" a lot different from casting a more serious show like "Body of Proof?"
Really the only difference is the amount of time we have. You get much more time on a 1 hour drama. But I will say that finding comedic talent is a lot harder and not as large of a talent pool to choose.
How does casting for film differ from casting for television? Which do you prefer?
Time, again is the biggest difference for me. The speed in which episodic is done is without question, very stressful, but also quite fun. I love television and love doing episodic. Movies are also just a whole different experience, you may have 3 to 4 times the amount of roles to cast, but you also have that much more time. I think that on a movie you have much more time to connect to the roles, whereas on tv... they are there and gone from week to week.
Do you usually look at the same pool of actors for different projects? How do you expand your knowledge of who's out there?
There will always be a list of actors that are not only talented, but that are seasoned in this business.Those will always make a list that you will always refer to when casting roles. However, that does not mean we don't search high and low for fresh new talent that is waiting to be discovered.
What is it like collaborating with directors and producers? Is it a challenge to get them to cast your top choice sometimes?
At the end of the day we all have the same goal and that goal is to have the very best cast. That said... if there are 10 people able to give an opinion... chances are there will be 10 different opinions. This part of the industry is very subjective and no two people will ever love the same person for the same reasons. So, yes sometimes, you don't always get your first pick, but you will likely be happy the the final choice.
Is there anybody out there that you'd like to take credit for "discovering"?
No, not yet.
What advice do you have for those trying to break into casting themselves?
Just make sure this is what you want and fight to get it. This is a tough tough business and you need to love it to fight for it.
Thanks to Mia for all of her great answers!
Thanks to Mia for all of her great answers!