From Sam Mendes’ Jarhead to the upcoming Tommy Lee Jones and Aaron Eckhart-starring Wander, the casting credits of Faith Hibbs-Clark run deep. She has 20 years of casting experience to her name and is located in New Mexico, an area of the southwest market where productions have begun to resume. Hibbs-Clark is one half of Good Faith Casting, an aptly-named company that also includes her daughter Bella Hibbs, who runs their Arizona office. Besides holding an impressive resume of TV and film credits, the mother-daughter team has cast literally thousands of commercials, working with brand names such as Pepsi, Buick and Marriott. Hibbs-Clark virtually sat down with Casting Networks to share about her journey into casting, which included a drastic career change and the creation of a science-based acting technique she now teaches.
Thanks for taking the time to talk, Faith. I love profiling casting directors so that actors can get to know them. There’s sometimes an intimidation factor that comes with how actors perceive casting, and it’s a great reminder that casting directors are just people, too!
I think in general, actors are not expecting casting directors to be human, like you said. And they’re certainly not expecting us to have a sense of humor. Sometimes I’ll joke around with an actor when they come into the casting office, and it often takes them by surprise. I’ll also say that I might be a little more intimidating to actors because I was a deception detection expert before becoming a casting director. Basically, that involves the ability to read body language and determine if somebody is lying or not.
I’ve never heard of that career outside of the Tim Roth-starring series Lie to Me. Can you tell me more about what it entailed?
They give a pretty good overview of the science behind it in the first episode of that series. Deception detection involves universal facial expressions, micro-gestures, and body movements. Body language is everyone’s first language. You maybe don’t know how to speak it, but you can feel it. You’ll meet somebody and will get a certain feeling about that person right away. We attribute that feeling to a gut instinct, but it’s actually coming from our brain, which is literally hardwired to decipher body language. So we will react to it, even if we can’t describe it. But as a deception detection expert, I can both understand and describe it.
Wow! I imagine that skillset would come in handy with casting.
It absolutely does. It adds an extra layer to how I analyze actors when they’re in the room.
And I created an acting method that is based on the science behind it. It’s called the Communication Method for Actors and is based on the fact that essentially everything you do as an actor is a lie. I mean, if you’re playing a crack-addicted prostitute, chances are you aren’t actually a crack-addicted prostitute. And I don’t think actors need any more acting exercises that involve drudging up old memories of grandmothers dying or having to put their dogs to sleep. They can instead use the science of body language, which hasn’t previously been applied to acting. So I started teaching the method because I saw a need for it, and now I do seminars and workshops all around the world.
That’s an incredible career journey, and I love how you’re using it to help actors now. Can you tell us more about the moment when you knew casting was the way you wanted to go?
I didn’t really make that conscious choice. But it came to be because I got to feeling rather burned out in my other field. Politicians would hire me, and some wanted to learn how to reverse-engineer the process of being able to tell when someone is lying. In other words, they wanted me to tell them how to discern it so that they could lie more effectively. It felt like I was facilitating their dishonesty by default, and I did not like that. I also did a lot of work with jury manipulation, which sounds terrible in itself. But I would work for the defense, advising them on how I thought certain arguments were going based on my reading of the jury. I only took cases where I believed the defendant was innocent because I never wanted to help exonerate someone who was guilty. In the end, though, I experienced burnout from the career, I decided it was time for a change. There were a couple of other steps in between that and casting, but to make a long story short, I came to it through a director I was dating at the time. He essentially said, “You know that creepy thing you do of reading people? That’s basically a casting director.” And I replied, “Cool. I’ll do that.”
Can I just say that I would definitely watch a film made about your story? And I actually love asking casting directors which actor they would cast as themselves if a movie were in fact made about their life. So if that were the case, who would be your choice to play Faith Hibbs-Clark?
I would say Cameron Diaz because of her performance in Bad Teacher. The character is in general the polar opposite of me, but she’s funny and quirky and embodies a sense of humor that’s pretty similar to mine. And if I were to pick one for Bella, I would probably say Leslie Mann. There’s an age difference there, but they have similar personalities.
Speaking of Bella, what is it like to get to work with your daughter as a fellow casting director?
It’s all about cloning, you see. I wanted to expand the empire, and rather than hire someone, I just made another casting director. [Laughs] But in all seriousness, she came to work for me right after college for what was supposed to just be a temporary summer job. But she could do the work of four people. Her attention to detail and ability to remember everybody’s name is almost frightening. We make a good team because we have different strengths — she’s very detail-oriented and I’m more about the big picture.
From working for politicians and defense attorneys as a deception detection expert to now teaching actors the science behind her former profession, Hibbs-Clark has had quite the impressive journey to casting. But with all this in mind, the casting director reminds us that she’s not actually an intimidating person. “People who spend time with me know that I’m not at all that way,” Hibbs-Clark noted and gave some fun facts to back it up. “I spent a summer backpacking across Europe, I rescue bunnies, and I have a very British sense of humor.” This window into a fascinating individual with a heart for animals and a unique set of skills is one perfect example of why it’s always great to get to know the casting director.
This interview has been edited and condensed.