For this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we’re featuring Angelique Midthunder, who is based in the Southwest region. Recent credits include her work as a casting consultant for First Nation roles on the National Geographic series Barkskins, as a consultant for Native American roles on the upcoming Peacock series Rutherford Falls, and as the lead casting director on the upcoming series from Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi entitled Reservation Dogs. The busy head of Midthunder Casting took time out to talk with Casting Networks about everything from the magic of the audition room to her talent for stunt work. Keep reading for a window into the casting director behind the credits.
Let’s start at the beginning. Can you share the moment when you knew that casting was for you?
I started out in the industry as an accidental actor after seeing an ad in the newspaper for a casting call that literally described me. It involved working with horses, and I didn’t even realize it was an audition until I got there. I booked the project, and it was fun but not really what I wanted to do with my life. I became friends with the casting director through the process, though, and she offered me a job in her office as a reader. I would say that was the moment, the time I first got to be in the audition room to see the characters leap off the page. There’s a lot of prep work that goes into casting, such as reading the script, doing your character breakdowns, and making lists. You imagine what it’ll be like, but when the actors bring everything to life in the room, that’s when the magic happens. And it happens over and over again as each actor comes in to bring their own flavor to the material. Getting to see what every person does with the character you’ve imagined is like being a kid in the candy store.
That’s such a great window into the casting process and your passion for it. I’d also love to hear about one of your proudest casting moments.
A pilot I recently cast for FX called Reservation Dogs definitely comes to mind. It filmed in Oklahoma, and I actually traveled out there to do some grassroots casting. All the actors in it are Native American, and we cast some local kids out of the community there. One of them had never worked as an actor before and landed a series regular role. Putting together an entirely indigenous cast so that the series would have completely authentic characters is definitely one of the things I’m most proud to have done. Plus, it’s made by Native American filmmakers, as well. Everybody has put their whole heart into it, and I just can’t wait for the world to see it.
Wow. That sounds like an incredible project! Can you share more about the importance of preserving integrity in cultural casting?
It’s particularly important to me because my husband and daughter are Native American, as well as a lot of my extended family. So it just means a lot to me on a personal level that indigenous people are represented authentically and with integrity in film and TV, which means having indigenous actors play those roles. You know what I mean? How could someone know how to play that type of role right unless they come from that community?
I couldn’t agree more. And since you mentioned your family, I noticed that you all share a passion for the industry.
Yes, I actually met my husband [actor David Midthunder] in the catering tent on the first movie that I ever did, and we were both in costumes. I spotted him sitting at a table by himself, and the chair in front of him was empty. So I just went over and asked, “Is this seat taken?” It was so forward of me, but I just saw him and was interested. I was 24 years old at the time, and I’ve been with him ever since.
What a great meet-cute! If there were ever a show made about your life, that scene would definitely have to be in it. And in this hypothetical series, who would you cast to play the role of Angelique Midthunder?
It could be Maggie Q if it were a drama. But let’s actually make it a dramedy, in which case I would cast Olivia Munn. My first inclination was to say Angelina Jolie, but just because she’s my favorite actor of all time and does a lot of her own stunt work. I don’t know how accurate of a casting that would be, though.
I could see it, especially since you have a number of stunt credits, yourself. Does that often combine with your casting work, or is it a separate passion of yours?
I’ve tried to keep that on the down-low because stunts and casting is kind of like chicken and waffles. But I guess the cat’s out of the bag! [Laughs] I had already been working as a casting director for over 10 years when I got into stunt work by accident. I was on a show where the stunt coordinator needed a person to double someone coming off of a horse. He knew I had experience with horses, asked me to do it, and I said yes. I guess the rest is history. It’s kind of addicting, but I am starting to slow down in the stunt world now. The most exciting thing I’ve done is double my own daughter [actor Amber Midthunder], and I will continue to do that as long as I can.
I’m so impressed. I tried to pick up the quarantine hobby of rollerblading and ended up injured for a month. We’re almost out of time, though, and I’d love to ask one last question. What are you watching at the moment? It can be new or a throwback. When I interviewed Victoria Thomas for this series, she’d been watching The Andy Griffith Show.
I have some tips about rollerblading I can share with you after, but in regard to what I’ve been watching, it’s funny you mentioned older series. When the pandemic really put the industry on pause last year, my husband got the idea to go back and watch the original The Twilight Zone. It’s so interesting how some of the questions about society it brings up are still relevant today. And it was really fun to watch it with our daughter as she spotted actors like Robert Redford, Dennis Hopper, and Burt Reynolds appearing in the show early on in their careers. The casting of that series was just incredible. Aside from that, I’m keeping up with anything and everything that has indigenous talent in it. I’ll always want to watch something if it has a Native American cast.
Midthunder’s words remind us that authenticity and integrity are paramount in casting and in onscreen representation. Plus, her passion for the ability that actors possess of bringing roles to life may serve as an encouragement to them. As with many of those featured in Get to Know the Casting Director, Midthunder reinforces the idea that casting directors are rooting for actors to succeed.
This interview has been edited and condensed.