Searching for next Seinfeld
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She and McConnell respond well to those kinds of credits even if newcomers appear with no representation. "These are people who've just come to town with nothing but theater credits and can't get an agent," she says.Skip to next paragraph
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After the first cut, casting directors bring their top picks in for auditions with the show's writer or producer.
"When you're dealing with a writer, they have an image in their head or a gut feeling that's impossible to express." Gilmore says, adding that often they have to keep bringing possibilities in until the writer "hears a voice he's comfortable writing for."
But there are times when the casting director sticks to his or her vision. "That's what our job really is, to push and push," says Ms. Klein. "You walk in, and they have such specific views of what they're looking for - it's our job to change that."
"Sometimes they just need to be convinced," says McConnell. One example, says Gilmore, was when the two were working on "Boston Public," and the writer didn't see the role for the African-American actor that the two wanted.
"We stuffed Chi McBride down [David] Kelley's throat," says Gilmore.
On-screen diversity is an area in which networks have come under fire. Casting directors play a big role in expanding the possibilities for writers and producers to consider actors of all ethnicities and backgrounds.
"It's our job to go out there and dig," says Eileen Mack Knight ("Bernie Mac," "Mad About You"). "Sometimes you have to go out and hold a day of general auditions with all ethnicities to see if there's anyone out there I haven't yet seen."
Networks are sensitive to this issue, says Klein. "No network is going to let you go through a casting session without a diverse cast."
Because many of the lead roles are precast by writers or producers, the smaller roles offer directors an opportunity to be creative, especially when it comes to diversity.
"Supporting characters are where you get to play," says Ms. Waite. "You go over to [the theater called] The Groundlings, and you can have some real fun," using new talent, she adds.
Even when a casting director gets to cast a plum lead role, it's a negotiation. "It has to be a big enough name to sell," Perry says.
She says one of her biggest challenges is getting new faces seen. "It's always a process of fighting to get [producers] to take a chance," she says.
But Perry, who has worked on movies as well as TV, can proudly rattle off a laundry list of industry stars who got their first union job through her.
"I cast Michelle Pfeiffer in 'Kojak,' " says Perry.
Like many casting directors, Perry has a background in acting. This understanding helps her bring out the best in young performers, who are often terrified by what Perry calls "a hectic and dehumanizing audition process."
"My advice to actors is to ask questions, and if you want to try it again with a different take, go ahead," she says, adding, "someone without the acting training might not understand how differently a scene can be played."
At the end of the process, casting directors understand that the networks make the final decisions. But for some, the search is the reward as well as part of the job. "The only way you get kudos is to discover someone new," says Waite.
As for the actor who had Perry pinned up against the wall, not surprisingly, she says, "He didn't get the job."