Okay, to start out, what exactly does a VP of Casting do?
“I have two different jobs, depending on where the show's life is. So, for a show like Modern Family, every week we have guests [to] cast. So, we hire a casting director, and that casting director reads a bunch of talented actresses and actors, sends choices to the studio, and we make sure that [they] feel like the best thing for the show from where we’re sitting. Then we send them to the network for approval, and then they get cast. For pilots at the bigger-picture level and for scripts in development, what I try to do is package in talent. So, I’ll introduce [them to] the creators of whatever show it is. I’ll be like, 'You need to sit down with this actor. She’s very talented, she’s right up your alley for this idea you have.' Essentially, I’m a connector.
Who have been some of the most influential mentors you've had in the industry?
“I would say Dana Walden, Gary Newman, Sharon Klein. Those three have been instrumental to me in allowing me to learn from them, make mistakes, be accountable for them, and move forward. You know, I’ve messed up. Everyone does. You make mistakes. You think something’s right and it’s not, and that’s okay. [They've created] a great environment to work in, where you can do that. And, they’ve helped me, they trust my taste, and they give me freedom and support, and that’s something that I think every job environment needs to have. They keep us accountable for our choices and our tastes, and they trust us with some of their most valuable relationships with the studios — you know, with Howard Gordon, who created 24; Steve Levitan, who created Modern Family; Ryan Murphy, who created Glee. I don’t think you stay somewhere for that long if you don’t feel you’re being challenged and a lot is being asked of you. And, they give you that feeling, and that’s a really big deal.”
In terms of mistakes, do you have any memorable ones?
“When we were casting Don’t Trust the B In Apartment 23, I remember my boss saying to me, 'Do you really think that this is for James Van Der Beek? Do you really believe in it? I’m going to trust you.' Because it was a different part — him playing himself — it hadn’t been done before. And, that worked out very well for me. Being able to make those decisions and have them work out — and being able to make those decisions and having them not necessarily work out — is worth it."
What are some of the basic things that every casting agent looks for when spotting talent that could be the next big thing?
“I think there’s a presence. There’s a little bit of a force field with actors like that. There is an ‘I can’t take my eyes off of you.’ It doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s how you carry yourself and what you bring to the table. And, I think having an opinion, having a point of view, and not being afraid to announce that you feel that way, all contributes to this little force field. I love [when] actors come in and they see the character in a completely different way than we did."
Who's been a recent example that you've felt that way about?
“Dakota Johnson [on Ben & Kate]. There was something about her that I was so intrigued by. I just thought she was really special. I didn’t know what she was going to do or anything, but she was great for us on the comedy front. Now, she’s doing drama. And, Jenna Dewan. She never ceases to amaze me as an actress. We had her in American Horror Story and then she ended up doing a Lifetime show for us, Witches of East End. She has that little star quality that’s hard to find.”
What’s the most exciting news you have coming up that you’re excited to share?
“I’m excited to cast Kurt Sutter’s new show. We don’t have a script yet, but it's called The Bastard Executioner. It’s a drama for FX. And, right now, we’re just selling pitches to network, so we’re in development. It’s always fun to be there in the beginning, just have the idea, see it on the page, see it shot and cast, and see it from beginning to end is just very exciting.”
How do you measure your own level of success? Does it come at awards season? Premiere time?
“I measure success of a television show not from awards, just from it being something that [people say] at a dinner table, 'I love that show.' I get excited when people are like, 'I love that,' or 'This made me laugh,' or 'Did you see that episode?' I like [shows being] dinner table conversation. I think [television] also is a great equalizer. If you don’t know somebody and you’re meeting them for the first time, you [can] talk about the shows you like or the books you’ve read or the movies you’ve seen. It’s nice to be in that category."