Burn Notice cast photo

‘Burn Notice’

Lori Wyman
Lori Wyman Casting, North Miami Beach, Fla.; Florida casting for ‘Burn Notice,’ ‘The Glades,’ ‘Dolphin Tale,’ ‘Recount’

I actually started out as an assistant in a talent agency. I remember trying to get a local casting director to see an actor. She fought me on it, and finally she saw him and he booked the job. That’s when I knew I wanted more of a hand in the actual casting process. I left the agency business and started working in a busy casting director’s office before I broke out on my own.

I love actors. They’re spontaneous and fun and playful. I’m more business, so they help me balance out. I have an excellent memory for names and faces. When I’m casting a project, I have to search the hard drive of my brain to reach for certain actors, and I love having to do that.

I do feel like a director. The better the actor auditions, the better I look. I try to make the casting environment pleasant. I love the art of acting, and I can play at it every day I conduct a casting. I know that many CDs hire a reader when they’re conducting a casting session, but I want to read with the actors. After reading with actors for 30 years, I feel like I have plenty of acting experience. And I do think an actor makes a good casting director. Actors understand what actors go through, and hopefully they have a certain empathy for the actor coming in to read for them.

There is a certain way that actors need to be spoken to. I often sit in a casting session and the director goes on and on about what he wants, and I know by the look on the actors’ faces that they don’t have a clue what the director is asking for. Sometimes I know if I just interject a sentence or two, I can clear up the whole thing, and I will risk it so the actor can get some clarity.

I love actors so much, I married one.

Michael Donovan, CSAMichael Donovan
Michael Donovan Casting, Los Angeles; ‘Fences’ and ‘Sister Act’ at Pasadena Playhouse, ‘Guys and Dolls’ and ‘South Pacific’ at the Hollywood Bowl

I directed a play that casting director Beth Holmes saw, and she hired me to direct commercial casting sessions. I had no idea it would lead to a career. It was my survival job when I was an actor. Megan Foley and Beth Holmes were my teachers. They were both amazingly generous.

I think as former actors, we really understand the process. A good casting director does everything he or she can to empower the actor to give a great audition—get the actor all the materials, treat the actor with respect and dignity. I’m also a director, so I like the process of giving adjustments.

You have to have a good memory, but it’s impossible to remember everyone. I think casting is mostly about taste. I love it when an actor is fearless and creative. I love being able to give actors opportunities. And it’s great when you really believe in someone, bring them in, and they book it. Some days it’s a bit overwhelming. The sheer numbers of submissions get to be a bit much. But you just dig in, and it eventually all reveals itself. I feel very lucky to be doing something that I love to do.

Kacee Devoe
Devoe Casting, Los Angeles; ‘Praying Out Loud,’ ‘Sweet on You,’ ‘Boogie Town,’ ‘Love Lockdown’ (a Kanye West music video)

I have always had a love for film, as far back as I can remember. I was always curious how certain actors were cast, and I used to comment about talent choices that were made and if I thought they were good or bad for the movie. I finally earned the opportunity to intern on a feature film called “Blackout,” written and directed by Jerry LaMothe. It was produced on a modest budget, so I was able to wear more than a few hats on the production, which is how I met Lamese Williams, the film’s casting director. Lamese took me under her wing and showed me the way.

I really enjoy the casting process. I always knew I wanted to start my own company, but I wanted to build myself as a respected casting director in this business before I pursued it. I was afforded the opportunity to work with consummate professionals who are committed to storytelling excellence. Patience and flexibility rule the day, and the payoff is a rewarding experience you can cherish forever. You can do and be anything you want. Bottom line.

Marci Phillips
Executive Director, Primetime Casting, ABC Entertainment, New York; ‘My Generation’

My whole reason for being, practically almost my mission in life, is to get the actor to the next level. They would make it there without me, but to be able to help push it through a little sooner is the biggest joy that I could possibly have.

I teach year-round. I don’t think a week goes by, hardly, that I don’t have a class somewhere. To me, that’s such a necessary part of what we do, and I love it so much, so I try to do it as much as possible. Obviously, this job is my No. 1 priority, but then second to this, teaching is my second love.

It’s a symbiotic thing. I can’t say it’s a calling, because that’s way too lofty. But I do feel like I have this mission. I think when you love something and you have the energy of loving people, you get it back. I suppose that’s the reason why.

This “Ask a Casting Director column was published in the Nov. 11-17 issue of Back Stage.

Back Stage 11.11.10 pg 12 Ask a CD