With this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we’re featuring another person who’s using this time to help others. Jason Kennedy casts with Susan Bluestein both NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, the former of which Deadline reports is the most-watched drama on broadcast TV. You might think the casting directors behind such a successful show would be ready for a breather, but they’ve instead used this time to give back with their recent Bluestein/Kennedy Casting Virtual Open Call. And even with such an overwhelming response to it and an incredible number of submissions to review, Kennedy took the time to speak with Casting Networks. Keep reading to get to know a casting director who found a way to connect with and help actors, even in the midst of COVID-19.
When was the moment you knew that casting was for you?
Well, there are several moments in life that led me to casting. But I knew that I was in it for good in 2002 when I landed my first casting assistant job with the marvelous Julie Ashton on a Fox comedy pilot. And it was a hit-the-ground-running experience that I will never forget. It was a ton of work and a lot of late hours, but I was immediately invested and excited about the cast that we were assembling. I was lucky because it was truly a team effort, and I was proud to be a part of that team. It was quite an experience.
What prompted the Bluestein/Kennedy Casting Virtual Open Call, and were you expecting such a volume of entries?
We certainly did not expect such an enormous response. It’s going to take us some time to watch every single. one. I think that when everything ended, we were right at about 70,000 actors who were submitted either directly or by their reps. And it’s just incredible. We were happy that we were able to do something like this that could offer some positivity, some support, and a brief distraction from everything that’s going on. We had some time on our hands and wanted to find a way to give back to the community, so we decided that the best way to do that would be to host a virtual open call. We just wanted this to be a fun, free experience for actors in which they could practice their auditioning and self-taping skills while having the opportunity to be seen by our office. The open call started in the early days [of the pandemic] when everything was up in the air and people didn’t know where to turn, so we also wanted to use the platform to share information on financial and health resources for talent and reps who needed them. We just wanted to do what we could.
With your previous experience as a talent agent, do you have any advice for actors on how to best work with their reps?
Communication is key in any relationship. I think it’s important to periodically touch base, within reason. Update your rep on anything new, such as changes in your life or work that they may not know about. And tell them about any trips you have planned. It’s so much harder for them to do their job if they’re kept in the dark. Also, actors shouldn’t expect their reps to do all the work; they should be in control of their own careers. That involves taking classes, updating their materials, creating their own work, evolving as a person and a performer, being accessible, and always being prepared.
If someone made a series about your life, who would Susan Bluestein cast to play you?
In the highly unlikely event that something is made about my life, I think I would be cast by a new rising star who hadn’t been discovered yet. Otherwise, I wouldn’t object to Tom Holland.
What has been your proudest casting moment?
There’s really no way to narrow it down to one moment. Every episode that I work on seems to have at least one role where I’m incredibly excited about an actor getting the job. And it’s often as simple as an actor who just knocked it out of the park. Sometimes we discover a new and amazing actor who books their first job, guest star, or series regular with us. And other times, it’s after reading someone for 10 years that they finally book that perfect role. There are just too many exciting, proud casting moments [to pick just one], and they are reasons I love my job so much.
What are you watching at the moment?
We’ve been watching a lot lately and finally caught up on the CBS All Access series The Good Fight, which is cast by the magnificent Mark Saks. It’s one of the few shows I can watch without picking up my phone, except for when I have to look up an actor. That’s a part of me that I just can’t turn off.
Kennedy’s dedication to helping actors is proven by the sheer volume of video submissions he’ll review, affording roughly 70,000 actors the opportunity to have their work seen by a prominent casting office. The Bluestein/Kennedy Casting Virtual Open Call reinforces the idea that casting directors are rooting for actors. Kennedy shared in his interview that he hoped actors knew that fact. “We can’t be successful if actors aren’t successful,” Kennedy stated. “We’re in this together.” Now, more than ever, this message of unity is one for actors and all industry members to take to heart.
This interview has been edited and condensed.