With the holiday season still a recent memory of happier times, we’re featuring someone with a number of Christmas titles to his name for this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director. Dean Fronk is known for his work on a variety of projects that span genres, such as Netflix’s Fatal Affair, the Nicolas Cage-led Left Behind, and the NBA 2K motion-capture video games. He’s also a self-identified “geek” for horror films, and the versatile casting director took some time out to virtually sit down with Casting Networks® and talk more about his work. Keep reading for a window into the casting person behind the credits.
When was the moment you knew that casting was for you?
It was when I started working for Don Pemrick, who is now my business partner at Pemrick Fronk Casting. We’ve worked together for 20 years now, and he’s also one of my best friends. But back when I was an assistant, I experienced running an audition for the first time, and that was when I knew casting was for me. There’s still nothing quite like that moment when you and the director are in the room, and the actor comes in and nails the read. You know without even looking at the director that that actor is the one who’s going to book the part. It’s such a great feeling, especially when you get to tell the actor they got the role. Just seeing their reaction to what they’ve accomplished is awesome. Right now, things are a little different with virtual auditions, but it’s still exciting.
I love when casting directors share about how they’re rooting for actors. And I’m interested to hear more about your work on holiday movies. Can you tell us a favorite memory from casting one of them?
Yes, and first I’ll say that we’ve been doing holiday films for almost 18 years now. The biggest thing that’s changed over the years is that at first, people didn’t want to do them. But they have such a shelf life, like there are ones still airing that we did 15 years ago. So now we have reps contacting us because actors want to be a part of them. As far as a specific favorite memory, though, I’ll give the example of when I did one of my very first ones called The Santa Trap. It was directed by John Shepphird, who we’ve worked with for many movies, and it starred Robert Hays and Shelley Long. I grew up watching the movie Airplane! and the series Cheers so to get to meet people who’d starred in both was just really special. And we’ve done Christmas movies all over, such as in Utah, Mississippi, New York, Vermont, Louisiana, and Canada. No matter where you are, though, one thing doesn’t change. Everybody loves coming in for a Christmas movie. Actors always seem to be happy when they audition for them — there’s just a good feeling about them.
What a fun genre to cast! Now I have to ask one of my favorite questions for casting directors. If someone made a movie about your life, which actor would you cast to play the role of Dean Fronk?
I would go with Tom Cruise for sure. That comes from growing up in the ’80s, and I’ve been a huge fan of him ever since Taps. I mean, the first-ever expensive pair of sunglasses I owned were aviators, inspired by Top Gun. So I’d love to have him play me.
That is a fantastic choice. And I’m going to pivot here to your work teaching audition technique. Is there one big takeaway you have for actors on that subject?
Listen, I have one thing that I say to anyone and everyone who ever asks me about the topic. When an actor auditions, there are a lot of aspects about it that they can’t control. But one thing that is in their power is to make sure they’re the most prepared actor we see that day. You need to come in completely knowing your material inside and out. That applies to self-tapes, too, and even more so since you’re not in the room with the casting director. Your only chance to connect with them is through that screen so you don’t want to be looking down as you read off the page.
I hope actors reading this, take note! So before we wrap, can you share what you’re watching at the moment?
I have to say that there are two big ones. We’re watching Big Sky, which is just a great whodunit series. But my absolute favorite show is The Blacklist because James Spader is beyond brilliant. I grew up watching him in all of my favorite shows in the ’80s, and he’s just this fantastic actor. If you ever watch The Blacklist, you’ll see that he captures the screen the whole time. I mean, it happens every episode.
Fronk’s interview reinforces the idea that casting directors are rooting for actors’ success. Plus, his enthusiasm for the talent he gets to work with, as well as the jobs he books, display Fronk’s passion for what he does. The casting director wrapped with an anecdote about when he was offered a very memorable project, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys. “I remember sitting there and thinking to myself, ‘I would do this for free,’” Fronk recalled. So no matter what part of the industry you’re in, the casting director reminds us of the importance of getting to do what you love.
This interview has been edited and condensed.