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Get to Know the Casting Director: Des Hamilton

Get to Know the Casting Director: Des Hamilton

The interviewee for this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director cast one of this year’s Best Picture nominees, Jojo RabbitDes Hamilton is known for a number of titles, such as The King, Melancholia and High Life. The busy casting director has many upcoming projects, as well, like Claire Denis’ The Stars at Noon and Top Boy for Netflix. Keep reading for a window into the casting director behind the credits.

When was the moment that you knew that casting was for you?

I always knew that I wanted to work in film. Along the way, I met Lynne Ramsay, and she asked me to help her find some actors for Morvern Callar. Halfway through the process, I realized that I just felt great about what I was doing on a daily basis. I was excited about going into work to read and improvise with actors, so I suppose that’s when I realized it’s what I wanted to do. And it was the first film I worked on, back in 2001.

 

If a film was made about Des Hamilton Casting, which actor would your colleagues cast to play you?

Because of my insufferable use of bad language, I think that film would be barred from distribution on a global level. And if it were distributed, I don’t think it would do very well. That film would go straight to DVD. I can’t say whom they would cast, but I imagine they would have a lot of fun writing the “character description.”

 

You won an Artios Award this year for casting Jojo Rabbit. How did it feel to be selected for this honor by your peers?

I was very flattered to be there and to be nominated in the first place. On a personal level, it was hard to receive the accolade without my four colleagues (Elan JonesJo HarrisSophie Pearson, and Georgia Topley) because they worked as hard on it as I did. It was quite a demanding search, but we loved working with Taika [Waititi] and his producers Chelsea [Winstanley] and Carthew [Neal]. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to thank my colleagues when I received the award, though, and I truly value that ceremony. I think it’s great when casting directors are recognized for the hard work they’ve done.

 

Are there any fun idiosyncrasies about your office? 

We once rescued a dog together. It was a Labrador we found when we were doing a job down in Tunis, Tunisia, and he hadn’t been treated very well. We arranged to get him over here, and we all agreed to share responsibility for him. You know, he lived with me for some periods and then with others. But he loved my main colleague, Elan, the most. We ultimately realized that he needed the routine of being with a regular family, though, not a loving but dysfunctional one like us. We were fortunate that it ended happily because he loves his life and the family he’s with now. And his name is Bobby. 

 

Considering their teamwork in both casting and in the successful rescue and rehoming of a mistreated dog, it may come as no surprise that the members of Des Hamilton Casting are a tight knit group. And there seems to be some sharp wits about the office. When referencing his colleagues, Hamilton adds, “Our WhatsApp group is called ‘The Smiling Moons Over My Gradual Demise.’ That’s how I think of them.” The casting director and his colleagues prove that success does not have to come at the expense of camaraderie. 

 

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A-Listers and Casting Directors Who Are Giving Back and Ways You Can Too

A-Listers and Casting Directors Who Are Giving Back and Ways You Can Too

You may have seen a familiar Mister Rogers quote floating around social media recently, but it bears repeating. Fred Rogers, recently portrayed by Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is known for saying, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” In the midst of a worldwide crisis, people around the globe are helping their neighbors in a number of ways. Here at Casting Networks, we’re going to highlight some A-listers and casting directors who are using their time and resources to give back. And those examples can be applied to actors, specifically, so they can utilize their own abilities to follow suit.

 

A-Listers Giving Back 

Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams partnered with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry to start the #savewithstories initiative. According to its website, the initiative is working to raise money to “keep brains and bellies full,” especially for children who had previously relied on being fed at school. Those who donate to the cause will also be supporting the health and educational needs of children in other countries affected by COVID-19. Garner and Adams can also be seen reading children’s books on the initiative’s Instagram page, giving parents the opportunity to share some education and fun with their children. They’ve recruited a number of other A-listers to read as well, including as Chris Evans, Jeff Goldblum, and Gabrielle Union. 

Patrick Stewart is also utilizing his Instagram page to help people during the pandemic. In response to the warm feedback from followers on the calming effects of his reading of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, the classically-trained actor started posting a new sonnet reading every day. Fans of Stewart and Shakespeare can take a mental break from current events with the soothing sounds of this impeccable pairing. Besides gifting us with their abilities like Stewart, A-listers are donating sizable amounts to charitable organizations, as well. One recent example is the announcement from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds that they’re donating $1 million to be split between Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, which came with the encouragement for others to donate, too.

 

Casting Directors Giving Back 

Various casting directors are donating their time by taking to social media to inform and help actors during this period. Sophie Holland Casting is behind the recent smash series The Witcher, and it recently announced on Twitter that casting directors Sophie Holland and Faye Timby were starting a #CastingCrushesCorona initiative. Through it, they will be partnering with WeAudition to connect with actors via video chat for free 15-minute casting sessions, and many other casting directors have followed suit. Casting director Jessica Sherman has cast projects such as Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain and the Oscar-winning short Sleight, and she’s utilizing her wealth of experience to host on her Instagram page live “Coffee with Casting” sessions. During specified times, Sherman goes live for remote interviews with featured actors, during which she both asks and responds to questions. It’s a great way for actors to learn more about the industry and glean insights from a casting director, as well as from a variety of working actors. 

 

Ways Actors Can Give Back 

Your career and social media following might not be on the same level as that of an A-lister, but you can still use your talents to give back. Consider following the example of Garner and Stewart by posting videos of yourself giving voice to literature, whether it be for children or for those who enjoy the classics. Or maybe you have an inspiring monologue in your back pocket that you think could be encouraging for others to view. Get it on tape and put it out there for people to see — you don’t need millions of followers to have an impact with your art. And while you might not have the same resources as Reynolds and Lively, you may be in a spot where you can help others financially. If you still have significant residuals coming in, for example, consider donating to the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s COVID-19 Disaster Fund to help actors who are currently facing financial hardship. You can also follow the example of casting directors who are using their time to help people. Should you be a working actor, consider giving back by offering virtual meetings with less-seasoned actors during which you can offer advice and encouragement. 

 

The novel coronavirus knows no nationality, race or creed. It has caused a pandemic that we’re all facing together, and there’s a sense of unity in our shared crisis. That is to say, we’re all neighbors when it comes down to it. Each of us is adjusting to our own “new normal,” but we still get to choose what role we play in it. Our suggestion at Casting Networks is to emulate these A-listers and casting directors who are giving back and cast yourself as a helper. 

 

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Acting Up – Episode #23: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Actor Lexi Underwood

Acting Up – Episode #23: ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ Actor Lexi Underwood

Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these notable performances to help hone your craft.

For number 23: It’s 16-year-old Lexi Underwood, who stars as the daughter of a free-spirited African American artist who becomes intertwined with a white family in a small, suburban community in the race-fueled drama, Little Fires Everywhere. (Premiere date: Mar. 18, 2020 / New episodes Wednesdays on Hulu)

The Performer:
Lexi Underwood

The Series:
Little Fires Everywhere

The Performance:

Acting Advice Tip #1:
If you’re going to land your first major role as a teenager, do it in a series for a top streamer (Hulu) starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington — who also happen to be executive producers on the project.

Acting Advice Tip #2:
For extra insurance, make sure the series is spawned by great source material like a best-selling novel (of the same name) by Celeste Ng.

Acting Advice Tip #3:
Stand out rather effortlessly in the adaptation, in a way that begs people to start Googling your name feverishly. (Not coronavirus feverish — the other kind, the good kind.)

Lexi Underwood as Pearl Warren and Gavin Lewis as Moody Richardson in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ | Hulu

That’s the enviable situation actress Lexi Underwood found herself in after landing the role of Pearl Warren in Little Fires Everywhere.

In this story that takes place in the late ’90s, Underwood plays the precocious teen daughter of a single mom, Mia Warren (played deftly by Washington) who wanders around from place to place with Pearl before landing in the model small-town community of Shaker Heights, Ohio. Even as Mia and Pearl settle in, you get the impression they won’t be there long. But that’s before they meet the Richardsons, a family of six that Witherspoon’s character (Elena Richardson) is the matriarch of.

Much like in Big Little Lies and The Morning Show, we get to watch another expert performance by Witherspoon as a journalist/mom of four, desperately trying to befriend Mia while renting out a house to her. After a few stumbles, Elena even offers Mia a job — all while fighting her own preconceived notions about race.

The series really begins to shine in moments when the two families start to intermingle. That’s when Pearl develops a natural bond with their youngest teenage son, Moody (played by Gavin Lewis). In one revealing scene, the two teenagers get high at Pearl’s place and start talking about their parents.

That’s when we get an inkling of what Pearl thinks of her mom after Moody praises her for being more “chill” than his mom. That’s when Pearl confesses in a seemingly honest moment, “She hides stuff just like everybody else… why she does what she does, why we go where we go. Who she sleeps with.”

After the “three-episode” premiere, it’s evident that the intersection of the Richardson and Warren families is laying the groundwork for something more combustible. Especially after Mia takes a job at the Richardson home as a “House Manager,” which leads Pearl to get more enamored with the Richardson family  — ultimately, leading her to accept things that make her mother uncomfortable.

Underwood does a remarkable job embodying Pearl’s plight, trapped between her ambitions to grow and her mom’s overbearing ways. Amid the turmoil, “little fires” get set by Mia that threaten their new reality. Throughout it all, it’s a joy to watch the young actress do her thing, even as Pearl’s heart breaks time and again.

A great testament to the nuanced performance she strings together to play Pearl. 

 

Kerry Washington as Mia Warren and Lexi Underwood as Pearl Warren in ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ | Hulu

The Career:
When it comes to kickstarting a Hollywood career, there are many paths to success. For some, it can take years and many bartending jobs to get there.

For Underwood, it all began in 2014 when she was 10. That’s when she landed a part on stage in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater in D.C. She then got to play Young Nala in The Lion King National Tour (Gazelle Company) in 2015. Along the way, she tested TV’s waters with small roles in CBS dramas Person of Interest (2014) and Code Black (2016).

With her future bright, the D.C.-born actress landed in “the future” for a dream role in the Amazon Original pilot, Will vs. The Future (2017). Despite her learning martial arts for the role, the show didn’t get picked up. But that didn’t discourage Underwood from plugging away that same year, eventually landing guest stars on Disney’s Raven’s Home and Walk the Prank and Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger, three shows a tween can tell you all about. After a guest star on the ABC drama The Good Doctor (2018) as a patient with heart trouble, Underwood eventually returned to CBS for the FBI crime drama Criminal Minds (2020).

That’s when the all-female production team behind Little Fires lit the spark that would ignite the young actress’ career after a couple of auditions. Now, thanks to her eight-episode arc on the Hulu show, Underwood’s future looks brighter than ever. But is that enough to keep the homeschooled singer/dancer busy? No way.

She’s also taken to starting her own production company, Ultimate Dreamer Productions, where she’s set on developing her projects such as a documentary she directed called We, The Voices Of Gen Z. Underwood also hopes to secure music rights to do an Aaliyah biopic, according to this interview with Regina King.

Based on all she’s got going on, it would seem that the Little Fires star is ready to explode onto the scene.

 

________________________________________

 

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.

 

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3 Films That Will Make You Feel Better About Social Distancing — and the Performances to Watch 

3 Films That Will Make You Feel Better About Social Distancing — and the Performances to Watch 

Feeling the constraints of social distancing? Casting Networks is here for you with three films that feature protagonists who find themselves completely alone and up against some incredible odds. Our curated list of isolation movies will not only make you feel better about your circumstances, but they also can be seen as master classes in acting. It’s a commonly shared idea that reacting is at the heart of acting. Actors portraying isolated characters don’t have the benefit of playing off of a scene partner, so the performances noted in these three films are made that much more impressive. It may come as no surprise, therefore, that they all feature leads who gave Oscar-nominated performances. So whether you’re a thespian looking to study great performances or you just want to feel better about the struggles of social distancing, keep reading. 

 

The Martian

Ridley Scott’s 2015 feature, based on Andy Weir’s novel, follows astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon), who is presumed dead and left behind by his crew after their mission to Mars is compromised. Watney is left to survive on the planet, where he’ll have to find a way to make contact with Earth again if he hopes to leave it. We won’t spoil the ending, but you can surmise that the protagonist’s isolated circumstances come with an extraordinary set of challenges. While IMDb categorizes the film as sci-fi, its galactic premise does put our current circumstances in perspective. Social distancing measures may feel like they’re drastically changing our daily routines, but unlike Mark, we’re not fighting to survive on a distant planet while figuring out a new normal. So it’s all relative. Damon’s performance as the stranded astronaut earned him a 2016 Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and he was just one of the big names in an all-star cast that included Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover. 

 

127 Hours

Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is based on the true events from Aron Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and it’s a story that will most definitely put things in perspective. The film follows Ralston’s journey as a mountain climber whose arm becomes pinned beneath a fallen boulder while he’s alone in an isolated canyon. Ralston spends the next five days reflecting on his life and coming up with a plan, as well as the courage, to attempt to extricate himself via excruciating measures. So if the walls are starting to feel like they’re closing in on you at home, keep in mind that you’re not pinned inside a canyon, like Ralston, miles from civilization. And should your wine selection be running low during this time, remember that the film’s protagonist had to drink his own urine at one point to survive. James Franco brings both the depth and levity required for the character of Ralston, and his performance garnered him an Oscar nomination in 2011 for Best Actor. Should you add 127 Hours to your watch list, keep an eye out for other names like Treat Williams, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara. 

 

Cast Away 

When you think of films that feature isolated characters, this 2000 adventure drama from Robert Zemeckis might be top of mind. It follows a FedEx executive named Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) who survives a plane crash and is left struggling to survive on a deserted island. Just one viewing of Cast Away will give you 143 minutes’ worth of reasons why your circumstances are easier than Chuck’s. Firstly, should your cozy little apartment feel a bit chilly, chances are you have a number of clothing and blanket options to choose from in order to get warm. You won’t have to resort to starting a fire with the most rudimentary of tools, like Chuck. And should you start to feel lonely, there is the advantage of having technology at your fingertips. A friend or family member is just one video or phone call away. No volleyballs with blood-drawn faces on them will be necessary. Hanks lost a drastic amount of weight for the role and received an Oscar nod in 2001 for his performance, which involved carrying roughly two-thirds of the film by himself. Helen Hunt’s portrayal of the fiancée that Chuck left behind is also one to watch. 

 

The above-listed films can not only put the strain of our social distancing in perspective, but they can also inspire us with characters who persist to overcome the challenges of their environments. And the actors who play them can offer encouragement to us as well, even in the midst of their own struggles with isolation. Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson recently tested positive for COVID-19 and isolated themselves accordingly, but the actor continues to use his Instagram account to put out positive messages for his followers. He captioned a recent post, “Thanks to the helpers. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.” The call to action reminds us that in times like these, we’re not stuck on a deserted island or on a different planet. We can still support and be supported by our communities. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti summed it up best with just one hashtag: #DistancingNotDistant.

 

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Health and Safety Tips for Commercial Actors

Health and Safety Tips for Commercial Actors

If it feels like the industry has come to a screeching halt over the COVID-19 situation, it has. We are collectively hunkering down and pushing pause for the greater good of our communities because it’s the right thing to do. Classes are on hold, commercial shoots are being pushed, self tapes are being requested to some extent, but live auditions are a no go, certainly in Los Angeles. I hear, however, that voiceover actors are in business. Go VO! Your agents are definitely negotiating renewals. YES! We know this pause won’t last forever, and it may be worth thinking ahead to your next commercial audition — what may be different, and what you can do to keep yourself and others around you safe, with anxiety in check.

 

Commercial actors should never be unprepared for safety in their next audition.

 

It is my hope and belief casting directors and studios will take action to increase our safety and sanitation needs for upcoming commercial auditions. However, we are all in this together, and it will take 100% participation to keep our environment safe. It takes a village, right? So, let’s think ahead to be sure you are ready to do your part.

When you walk into the sometimes-packed commercial casting studio, don’t be surprised if it isn’t flooded with actors. There’s already talk of giving more space between audition appointments, which would be a change for the commercial industry. Don’t let this throw you; instead, find comfort in it! If there are plenty of actors, keep your space. Put hugs and handshakes between friends and fellow actors on hold for now. It’s never been cool to shake hands with the casting staff, and it’s even more true now.

 

First thing: Head straight to the bathroom and wash your hands. Have hand sanitizer and have disinfectant wipes. You get it, make sure your hands are clean.

 

Next: Sign in using your own pen. Yes, the pen/pencil provided with the sign-in sheet has possibly been handled by countless people. Want to be a good citizen? Sanitize the pen with the disinfectant wipe you have in your hand. Give the table a swipe while you are at it.

Have a seat and wait to be called in. Remember the door handles have likely had a bunch of hands on them as well. In the last several casting sessions I held, my session director got the door for everyone entering and leaving the room. That way his (clean) hands were the only ones touching the door on a regular basis. If that isn’t happening at your audition, don’t sweat it; use the wipe you have in your hand. And no, I don’t have stock in Lysol or Handi-Wipes. But they are nice things to have on hand at the studio.

When you head into the room for your audition, feel free to wipe down your chair or any props you may be handling. If you are handling the prop, you can be sure your hands aren’t the first hands. Give it another wipe-down for the actor coming in after you. Remember, we are all in this together.

Issues with social distancing my come up in your commercial audition if you have a group audition or even just a partner. My typical phrase in group commercial auditions is, “Stand uncomfortably close to each other, and pretend like you like each other.” Huh. We may need to rethink how we set up our commercial auditions for a while, and make some adjustments. Use common sense and speak up if you are uncomfortable. You might even want to talk to your agent about your comfort level with group auditions, if you know this is anxiety-inducing. I don’t have an answer here, but it’s something to consider.

 

Last: After leaving the room, wash your hands again! It’s not overdoing it, it’s just smart. Wave and send your best to the casting staff and fellow actors in the lobby. Your good example will encourage and enlighten others.

Also, if you aren’t feeling well, cancel your audition. Obviously, the sooner the better, but if you wake up the day of your audition feeling ill, for the good of your community, give your agent a call. They will let us know so we can make the appropriate adjustments to our schedule. This leaves a possibility of seeing you as a first call to callback, if the throat tickle was just that, a tickle. When you simply don’t show, we lose the opportunity to fill the slot and the communication lines are down. 

 

I don’t know exactly how COVID-19 will impact the commercial casting community, nor for how long. But there may be some changes as we get back to it. Let’s communicate with each other, and be vigilant in protecting our own health as well as the health of the actors and casting professionals around you. Again, we are all in this together. Let’s look out for each other.

 

________________________________________

 

Laurie Records (Casting Director, CCDA) has been working in the commercial realm since 2004. In 2009, Laurie launched her own company. While she casts all types of commercials, she has broadened her horizons to include casting web content for network television, television hosts, industrials, and she dabbles in film from time to time. Recent commercial jobs include: Clorox, Toyota, Frito-Lay, DIRECTV, Smithfield and Google. She also cast the new mini Movie Surfers for seasons 16-18, as well as online content for The Muppets. Laurie teaches a 4-week commercial class almost every month and attends Los Angeles theatre regularly.

 

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Talent Search Launched for Netflix Film Starring Adam Sandler

Talent Search Launched for Netflix Film Starring Adam Sandler

Kim Coleman Casting (BlacKkKlansmanSpace Jam 2Night School, Little) has launched a talent search for a role in the upcoming Netflix feature film Hustle, starring Adam Sandler.

Casting is seeking one male basketball player between 17-25 years old for the role of Bo. The actor must be between 6’0 and 6’9 in height, from Spain or of Spanish descent, and fluent in Spanish.

The deadline to submit is April 3rd, 2020, by 11:59 pm PDT. For more information and to submit, click here.

 

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3 Animated Disney Shows Begging to Be Rebooted as Live-Action Series 

3 Animated Disney Shows Begging to Be Rebooted as Live-Action Series 

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and while it’s important to stay abreast of updates, sometimes you need a break. And what better way to take a little mental reset than by exploring animated Disney shows from the past that are just begging to be rebooted as live-action series. The Lion King (2019), Lady and the Tramp (2019) and Beauty and the Beast (2017) are just a few of the films that Disney has recently remade with the live-action treatment. We’ve got the upcoming release of Mulan (2020) on the horizon to look forward to as well. But what about bringing animated series to life? Keep reading for three throwback animated Disney shows that we’d like to see rebooted, as well as our top casting choices for them.

 

Disney’s Doug 

We understand that Doug started on Nickelodeon and that when Disney took over the series, not everyone was on board for the changes it made. But the heart of the show remained the same — viewers still got to watch the young Doug Funnie utilize his journal and imagination to help navigate the various challenges of growing up in Bluffington. The series deserves a live-action reboot for the number of Quailman Halloween costumes it would inspire in the next generation alone. More importantly, bringing Disney’s Doug to life would provide a wonderful opportunity for representation. The show’s animators displayed some beautiful creativity and color in depicting different members of Doug’s family and friends, which opens up the casting for a live-action reboot. Our top pick to play the titular character in a live-action reboot of Disney’s Doug is Ethan William Childress. The young star of Mixed-ish has proven his comedy chops on the ABC sitcom and is the perfect age to play Doug Funnie. 

 

Recess 

No matter how old you are, the animated series can bring on a big case of nostalgia for the simplicity of fourth-grade life. But in many ways, the children’s show works as a microcosm for greater human society and its hierarchies. In Recess, the students at Third Street Elementary School formed their own class system and government, one that was ruled by a stern sixth-grader known as King Bob. Within this premise, the show was able to sneak in some valuable life lessons while viewers laughed at the various antics of T.J., Vince, Mikey, Spinelli, Gretchen, and Gus. Who doesn’t want to see that brought to life? Our top casting pick is for Spinelli, a character who derived great pleasure from breaking gender norms of the time. We’d love to see the role taken on by Soni Bringas. Her work on Fuller House as Ramona displays Bringas’ ability with strong young characters, and she’d already be familiar with the family-friendly genre should Recess come back as a live-action series.

 

Gargoyles 

Stick with us on this one. Just as The Lion King (2019) live-action remake relied on ample voice acting, so would the reboot of a series that centers on mythological creatures. But just think of what today’s special effects could do with a show about gargoyle statues that come to life at night. You could watch Goliath and company fight to protect humankind against the beautiful backdrop of New York in all its living color. We’d absolutely need Keith David to get on board and reprise his voice-acting role for a digitally-created “live-action” Goliath. Our top choice for Elisa Maza, one of the few human characters in the show, might be a longshot, though. You see, we understand that Meghan Markle technically retired from acting when she gained a royal title, but her real-life strength under scrutiny and courage in her convictions make it hard to imagine another actor playing the resilient and principled NYPD detective.

 

Both animated and live-action series can provide a temporary respite when the world’s realities feel a bit overwhelming. Viewers are able to forget their problems for a while when they use their imaginations to buy into the suspension of disbelief that the shows provide. So why not take a break from the news cycle with a little creative exercise? Let us know which actors you would cast in live-action reboots of the animated Disney series that made our list. Comment your choices below, as well as any other animated shows you think should be brought to life.

 

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What You Might Not Know About Casting Children’s Series

What You Might Not Know About Casting Children’s Series

If you’re a child actor reading this because you like to perform research on your craft, we tip our hat to you. Although maybe a better salute would be a slow clap, or perhaps a dab. Whatever it is you kids are doing these days, kudos to you for investing time in your career at an early age. But this article is for actors over the age of 18, too, even though many hold the notion that they’re not right for children’s series. According to Krisha Bullock and Jamie Snow of Bullock & Snow Casting, though, that’s not the case. Their office is known for casting projects such as the Nickelodeon series Henry Danger and Game Shakers. The two have a number of upcoming projects that include the new Nickelodeon series Danger Force and Side Hustle. The dynamic duo took time from their busy schedules to answer questions as a team about what goes into casting children’s series. Actors of all ages, take note. 

 

How do adult actors factor into children’s series? 

One of the main misconceptions about casting a children’s series is the number of adults we cast. On average, we cast more adults than children per episode during a season. Outside of our series regulars, we need a lot of adults to populate the world around them, such as teachers, parents, store clerks, etc. We love casting adults and do our best to champion the kids by casting well-trained, supportive adults who will fit into our kid-friendly world.

 

What tips do you have for actors auditioning for children’s series? 

The shows we cast are generally shot in a multi-camera format. In multi-camera, there is a heightened sense of reality. We typically ask for additional volume, a quicker pace and increased energy in the performances. Sometimes actors think we are looking for “over the top” or more of a sketch type of comedy, but we prefer a real, grounded performance with increased volume, energy and pace. Another tip that applies to most series — not just children’s — would be to remember to bring your “callback” level performance to every audition. We move very quickly, and the recording of your first taped audition quite often becomes your “callback” that producers, directors, network executives, etc. will make casting decisions on. Be memorized, make strong choices and be fully prepared for your audition!

 

What special considerations do you keep in mind when casting young actors?

When casting young actors, we think it’s important to remember they are just that: young. They are impressionable kids who are in the midst of growth, learning, and transformation. They change from week to week and can be drastically different actors in a very short period of time. We try to make sure they are as comfortable as possible, encouraging them to be creative with the role while staying grounded and real. We make sure to respect both school and dinner times and ideally only audition kids between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. We attempt to give minors more time with the material and spend more time in the audition room giving redirection and calming nerves. We try to do everything in our power to set them up for success.

 

So whether you’re a minor or nostalgic for the days when you still got carded, you can learn from the casting of children’s series. As Bullock and Snow tell us, some lessons know no genre, such as always bringing your “callback” level performance to each and every audition. The next time you’re reading for a multi-camera children’s show, though, remember their advice to keep things grounded while bringing increased energy, volume and pacing to the performance. And don’t worry if you haven’t followed these guidelines in the past. They say it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. We think the adage applies to people of any age, however, even if the trick involves learning how to dab. 

 

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Acting Up – Episode #22: ‘Devs’ Actor Jin Ha

Acting Up – Episode #22: ‘Devs’ Actor Jin Ha

Welcome to ACTING UP, the place where we celebrate standout performances in TV, streaming, and film. Other than spotlighting exceptional work from recent projects, this feature also shines a light on how certain actors got to where they are today. Have a peek and then check out these noteworthy performances to help hone your craft.

For tech-twisting 22: Jin Ha plays a guy with serious cyber game, recruited by his ex-girlfriend to help crack the code behind her current boyfriend’s mysterious death in the thrilling original sci-fi series, Devs. (Streaming on FX on Hulu: March 5, 2020; new episodes available every Thursday)

 

Photo: Julia Discenza

The Performer:
Jin Ha

The Series:
Devs

The Performance:
There’s something to be said for diving into Devs while stuck home in quarantine. With a world in captivity, there’s a renewed focus on streaming carousels and even as we could all use a good laugh, a solid sci-fi series that’s Black Mirror-ish in its construct is a welcomed find — if just because it makes the everyday news feel lighter by comparison.

From show creator Alex Garland, whose sci-fi street cred includes other fine efforts like Ex Machina and Annihilation, comes this drama set in the not-too-distant future world of a Silicon Valley tech company named Amaya. A company working on something seemingly huge involving sound waves, quantum physics, and for a brief moment, “the celeb sex tape to end all sex tapes” in a highly secretive division called Devs.

Amaya’s leader is an enigmatic figure, Forest (played by Nick Offerman), a tech titan whose cerebral streak is as refreshing as it is, well, suffocating at times. Especially after a Russian coder named Sergei never makes it home after his first day working for Devs, leaving his girlfriend Lily (played by Sonoya Mizuno) — who happens to work for the same company — instantly suspicious and in need of her ex-boyfriend to hack Sergei’s phone to investigate clues about what might’ve led to his apparent demise.

This is when we meet Jamie (Jin Ha) — a burst of humanity in a sea of robotic coldness. He’s the ex-BF being solicited for his tech-savviness, though he’s still visibly frustrated by what precipitated their relationship’s demise two years ago. It’s an ask the still-heartbroken Jamie doesn’t appreciate given the circumstances of their break-up — as evidenced by his first rebuff. “Unreal. Literally unreal. Lily, from the very bottom of my heart… fuck off.”

But once Lily’s pleas get more earnest following a blistering revelation about Sergei’s death, Jamie gets on board to help — before expressing deep concern about what they actually find on his cracked phone.

That’s when Jamie finds it necessary to caution Lily against doing something only an ex could foresee. “I know you. You do stuff. The stuff other people only think about, you go right ahead and do it,” warns Jamie, eliciting an emotionless response. Something Lily proves quite good at.

Without giving too much away, I’ll just say this:  There’s something very everyman about Ha’s performance as Jamie that’s both relatable and refreshing. Jamie’s quandary: He’s torn between helping the woman who broke his heart — but at the same time is acutely aware of the dangerous circumstances surrounding them after they unveil new evidence together.

In one of the series’ few moments of levity, Jamie offers the homeless man sleeping outside Lily’s door $10 to never speak to him again. The man takes the money — a $20 bill actually — and keeps talking before beating himself up about it. “I already broke the terms of arrangement, man. It’s exactly that kind of unprofessionalism that led to a life on the streets.”

Devs is not even halfway into the limited series’ 8-episode run, but I’m definitely looking forward to what happens next — for Jamie and the rest. 

 

Out Magazine (2017). Photo: Daniel Seung Lee

The Career:
Jin Ha is a shining example of a talented theater actor making a successful jump from stage to screen. The NYC-based actor was born in Seoul, South Korea, and according to this article, he admits to learning English by watching “’90s sitcoms and cartoons” when his family moved to Hong Kong when he was 3 years old. This, before moving a few years later to the States, where eventually, he graduated from Columbia University with a degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures. He then took a gap year, briefly considering a career in finance.

When that didn’t take, he decided to get his MFA in acting from NYU Tisch.

That’s when he got his break, landing the role of Aaron Burr in the Chicago Company production of Hamilton: An American Musical (2016-2017) and soon after, playing Annas in the Grammy-nominated, Emmy-award-winning production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on NBC (2018). In between, Ha also found time for the role of Song Liling, a man masquerading as a female opera singer, in the first Broadway revival of David Henry Hwang’s M. Butterfly (2017). Directed by Julie Taymor, the show put Ha alongside other multi-talented actors such as Clive Owen.

Though Ha did land a role in the film Hot Air (2018) with Steve Coogan, Devs represents his Hollywood close-up. It’s a stellar performance so far and should no doubt gin up more TV/film work for the talented actor in the future. What that future will look like post-quarantine, well… who knows.

 

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Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.

 

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The Difference Between Commercial and Theatrical Headshots

The Difference Between Commercial and Theatrical Headshots

Whether you’re updating your casting profiles or pulling one together for the first time, you’ll come across options to post commercial and theatrical headshots. Your agent is going to want at least those two options as your defaults. But what’s the difference? Below are some things to keep in mind so you can show appropriate range and maximize your submissions.

 

1. Types 

Your commercial types will be different from your theatrical ones. Think about the character tropes you see in commercials and try to place yourself. I, for example, am solidly in the young mom/millennial professional/perky host/quirky friend category. When it comes to determining your theatrical type, think about what kind of shows are filming in your area and where you might naturally fit. Once you determine your type, do what you can to suggest it with the rest of your aesthetic.

 

2. Intent 

Even though you’re taking photographs, that doesn’t mean you stop acting. Your headshots need to tell a story and show off your strengths. Remember that you absolutely want to look like yourself, but through a filter. Your commercial shot should be yourself at your happiest and most wholesome. Your theatrical shot may vary with your type. Are you the sweet, vulnerable ingenue? The strong, capable leader? The gritty, disenfranchised rebel? Remember to suggest, not perform. Headshots are like the La Croix of character shots. You might get the faintest whiff of flavor, but at their heart, they’re about the basics. (You’re basic).

 

3. Clothes

You will likely want to change up outfits for commercial and theatrical shots. Your commercial outfit should be clean-cut and flattering. Something that wouldn’t look out of place on an after-school sitcom. Brighter, happier colors are all right, as long as they complement and don’t distract. For theatrical shots, you can get slightly more creative. Lean into darker colors and maybe play with lines and styles that suggest the kind of roles you go out for. Just make sure that what you’re wearing is still generic enough to be flexible.

 

4. Smile 

This is where we get a bit shallow. For commercial, an open smile is preferred. Casting directors want to see your teeth. So find a natural way to flash those pearly whites!

 

All of these differences come down to your audience. Specifically, agents and casting directors. When you’re preparing to take headshots, think about who will be seeing them. What story do you want to tell? What version of yourself are you promoting? All following decisions should be made from that point.

 

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