Many casting directors say that actors need to relax in the audition room. This can be a challenge when actors often view the person behind the table as a daunting entity with the power to make or break their careers. If you’re an actor feeling undue pressure during an audition, it’s important to keep in mind that the casting director is just a person, too. Like actors, casting people have dedicated their lives to the acting profession, albeit by a different path. It’s that mutual commitment that brings you, the actor, and the casting director in the same space for your read. To help actors better connect and relax the next time they’re in her room, Julia Kim, known for “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and “Starlet,” spoke with Casting Networks to share how she became a casting director.
What got you into casting?
[It was] accidental. I am an avid film lover. I’m born and raised in LA. You know, the film industry is one of our town’s main industries, but I just kind of worked my way into casting. I started as a PA on “The Simpsons,” which kind of got me into the business. But I wasn’t fulfilled creatively and started to explore other channels. I ended up interning at a casting office of David Rubin, who was just named the president of the Motion Picture Academy. So, I got into it through interning and ended up loving it and having a knack for it.
When I started, we opened up every headshot that was sent to our office, and we organized them by types, by agencies and by roles. That very manual process really helped me get familiar with the aspects of casting. It helped me get familiar with agencies and what kinds of people they represent. It helped me get to know agents’ actual names, develop relationships and also get to be familiar with emerging talent versus established talent. All those things really helped solidify the confidence that I knew this was the job for me.
Plus, I love actors. My love of actors just comes from when I watch something, it’s the performances that move me the most. And it’s the actors that really move me when they’re delivering something so raw and authentic. So it was just a natural gravitational pull for me. I worked with a lot of topnotch casting directors and sort of figured out who I was. When I was ready to put up my own business and start my own casting company, it was drawing from other experts in the industry and in the field going, “Oh, I like the way they did that.” Or, “Actually, I would probably do it a different way.”
What made you stay in casting?
For me, it’s always about starting with a script that grabs me. When I read a script, I love thinking about names as I read it. So besides putting the story on paper, [casting directors] are some of the first people to come on creatively and to start painting a picture of how the story is going to be told. [That includes] who are the right people or who are some of the creative actors that would be best in telling the story that the filmmaker has to tell.
So I love the collaborative aspect of that and of talking about certain actors and then also bringing in a few surprises. I think that part of our job is to think outside the box and bring in unexpected choices. And that is what I love: the unexpected magic that happens in a very bland room when an actor is just sitting in a chair and reading from their sides. You’re watching these words come out of their mouth, and they’re taking you where the filmmaker had in mind for you to go. Seeing that unfold never gets tiring. I love that. I love making the director and writer see things that they hadn’t seen before.
Kim’s backstory, her journey from P.A. to running her own casting office, reveals how casting directors are on the same creative journey as actors. If called into her office, that sense of connection can help ease the actor’s nerves. And the passion she displays for her job and for actors can help—not intimidate—them as they go into their next audition. They can walk into the room ready to bring the magic because they know the person on the other side of the table is eager to see it.