The Casting Couch

The Casting Couch

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Tragedy of Television

"The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason." -Hunter S. Thompson

Some pilots just don't get picked up. Others do, then are cancelled immediately or shortly after airing. Its the sick sad world of network television. And this process has many casualties. One that I've noted as of late is a beautiful and talented actress named Chyler Leigh. I think poor Chyler has just had a string of good and yet bad luck in recent years. At only 22, she's already been a part of NINE Television series...crazy. Unfortunately, looking at her IMDB resume is like a graveyard of failed TV shows. Don't let that affect your opinion of her though. I assure you, she is extremely talented and her series failures cannot be attributed to anything she herself has done. She has that unique ability to be very pretty and yet still hold onto a sweetness and sincere quality that you really push for and believe in. Its likely because of this quality that she is so frequently cast, and I'm also convinced that this quality will eventually allow her to succeed. Don't give up Chyler! Its always a pleasant surprise when I see your face on screen. I loved Reunion when no one else did. I'm pulling for you!!

This clip makes me sad because I really did like this show a lot:

Monday, March 26, 2007

Our Weight Problem

"I've been told that if I'd lose weight I'd have more work, but I refuse to submit myself to those standards. To the rest of the world, I'm slim, and I like the way I am."

"I don't have a weight problem and I never have, and just because I don't starve myself and I'm not a size four at 5'10" doesn't mean that I have a weight problem."
--Liv Tyler

I chose to include these two quotes from actress Liv Tyler to make a point regarding weight diversity within the movies and television industries. I previously commented on the amount of flack casting directors have gotten for not casting differing ethnicities, ages, etc. However, in the grand scheme of things, little is said about WEIGHT diversity. This is a topic that causes me a great deal of concern. Sure sure, everyone is always commenting on how skinny actresses and models are getting these days. But even still, there are just as many gossip columnists pointing out the slight imperfections in the far less than fat others, like the one magazine editor that went so far as to ask Liv Tyler about her "weight problem" and provoke the above quote. Weight problem, really? If someone as GORGEOUS as her, as THIN as her, and as TALENTED as her is being asked about their "weight problem" and passed over for roles, then what hope is there for everyone else? There are plenty of other talented and attractive actresses out there that aren't a size 4 (and even some size 4's are considered "not quite thin enough.") And yet, they're being passed by simply because they don't fit the mold of what we feel like they should look like. Who set the bar at Zero? At Anorexic. At Exercise Fanaticism. At Salads. At Lemonade Diets. For most women, this look cannot be achieved through healthy means, and yet we perpetuate it. For the lucky few that are blessed with a speedy metabolism and small bones, congrats. You're one step ahead of the pack. For everyone else, I'm sorry. I only hope that we can all make a push to cast diversity of all kinds, including weight. As I said before, it is the responsibility of everyone involved in movies and television to try to accurately represent the world that we live in...and that world is certainly not made of stick figures. I mean really...Is it so impossible to think that an average sized woman could be a fantastic actress? When did unnaturally tiny become the industry standard by which we all subscribe?

**PS**--I just saw "Reign on Me" and my love and adoration for Liv Tyler has been completely reinvigorated. Such a beautiful and talented actress, truly.

Movie Stars on Television?

So I definitely feel like there has been an increasing number of movie stars on television these days, but looking through the latest pilot pick-up list, I'm still a bit surprised. It started simple with the likes of Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo, then graduated to the Jason Lees and Jaime Pressleys of the world. Keifer Sutherland was in there all along, but I let him slide because he's on one of Fox's top rated shows. I wasn't really surprised until we reached Steve Carell, who, at the height of his career, took on a series role. It seems now, though, that TV is rampant with other stars known most for their lucrative film careers, like Jeff Goldblum, Minnie Driver, Sally Field, Alec Baldwin, Emily Deschanel, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. What makes these stars want to turn to TV? Is it the promise of a steady job? Whatever the reason, TV doesn't seem to have the same stigma that it once did. The latest pilot pick-up list boasts a slew of similar movie stars: Kal Penn, Jennifer Coolidge, Lucy Liu, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhames, Jordana Brewster, Marisa Tomei, Jason Biggs, Jeneane Garofalo, Parker Posey, and Eliza Dushku to name a few. I would imagine pilot season must be pretty tough for actors having these names as the competition. Don't get discouraged though, there are plenty of other roles out there and its all just a part of the business!

Friday, March 23, 2007

"My Girl"--All Grown Up

You guys probably remember the cute little girl who made us cry over a mood ring and Macaulay Culkin in the early 90's movie My Girl. That girl was a young actress by the name of Anna Chlumsky, and she's back. According to IMDB she took several years to be a kid, go to school, graduate college, and have a fledgling career as a food critic in Manhattan. But once you're bit by the acting bug, its hard to leave it forever. She's done some theatre and shorts in recent years, and now it seems she back full force as an actress. Anyone who watches NBC's "30 Rock" (best new sitcom of the year, btw--its absolutely hilarious) got the first glimpse of her as "the other liz" in the most recent episode "The Fighting Irish" (she's the girl Liz fires b/c she's dating "flower guy"). She still has the adorable sweetness that broke our hearts, but she's definitely grown into something more. I think she could have what it takes to really hold her own in the TV comedy world. Interestingly enough, The CW has announced that its picking up the pilot "8 Days a Week," a workplace comedy centered around the lives of assistants to high-powered executives, starring little miss Anna Chlumsky (best name ever). I haven't had the opportunity to read the script, but I'm definitely interested in seeing how this show plays out. Welcome Back, Anna!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kelly's F#cking Rad! (Awesome.)

OH MY GOSH, OBSESSION!!! SHOES!! I have watched this video probably 100 times now and it still makes me laugh hysterically. The comedian playing "Kelly" is LIAM SULLIVAN. You can find out more information about him at THE LIAM SHOW. He's so so funny. I found his older stuff to be a little bit weak, but he's definitely found his niche with the "Kelly" videos. All of his characters are so creative and relateable on a comedic level. While now you can catch him in LA's Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre and all over youtube, I would expect him to expand to a larger scale audience in the near future.

His most-recent video: Text Message Break-up. The sketch stuff at the beginning is so hilarious. I love the subtlety from the "Don't Eat the Daisies" song in the background to the hilarity of the day to day. This guy really knows comedy. I just can't get enough.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From the Small to Big Screen...

It was only a matter of time before The CW's favorite teenage detective KRISTEN BELL made the big leap from television to feature film. As rumors of a "Veronica Mars" cancellation continue to swell, it should come as no surprise that the adorable and talented Bell has seen some activity on the movie side of entertainment. She was recently cast as the lead in a Universal Pictures feature entitled Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Its not too much of a stretch for Bell, considering the lead role of Sarah that she will be playing is in fact a "TV Star". Bell will star opposite Jason Segal of "How I Met Your Mother." This film looks to be your typical light-hearted comedy, but don't let that undercut Bell's full talent potential. She's shown her superior acting, singing, and dancing chops in Showtime's musical comedy "Reefer Madness." In addition to "Sarah", Bell is wrapping up production on MGM's "Fanboys" and an animated film "Flatland: The Movie."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm a Geek for GREEK

So, I'm sorry to admit that I was in fact a sorority girl in college...I know, I know...credibility out the window. But I feel that admission is necessary in understanding my obsession with a pilot recently picked up by ABC Family. ABC Family is a network most people know very little about...they syndicate some of our favorite shows of yester-year (TGIF anyone?) and those of the extinct WB. Still, apparently they have some of their own original programming as well, and I'm not just talking about those Christmas movies our parents make us watch each year. If you're into horses, I hear "Wildfire" is pretty interesting. Similarly, their newest shows "Kyle XY" and "Lincoln Heights" have gotten pretty decent reviews. Now, I've never really watched any of these, but the recently leaked pilot GREEK is a whole different ballgame. Its young and hip and fresh. As someone that lived it, it really does grasp the world of Greek life from its greatest moments to its biggest disappointments. More importantly, it does all of this while poking fun at the very things that it also works to promote. Never before have I felt such a sense of accuracy and amusement at this kind of teenage/young adult dramedy. I have to say, it got me hooked, and it does this through its quick-witted writing and really intriguing young cast. Introducing:

Spencer Grammer as "Casey Cartwright." I don't know if its necessarily raw talent, but this girl definitely keeps your intention. She's funny and sharp, and you really can see her as this struggling girl caught up in her own upward social mobility within her greek realm, which conflicts, of course, with her inherent good nature.

Jacob Zachar as "Rusty Cartwright." I'd seen this kid in a commercial or two before getting my hands on the pilot. He's got a unique look and acting style that works well for his socially awkward and yet adorably naive character. Think Adam Brody meets Topher Grace...he's cute, he's weird, and he's oddly relatable on a variety of levels.

Jake McDorman as "Evan Chambers." Jake is perhaps the most seasoned actor on this cast, having starred in decently successful shows and movies like "Quints" and "Aquamarine." He's definitely got a sexy quality to him, and while he might be used to playing a hearthrob, he's really quite good at playing someone with a little bit of a darker side to his all-american exterior. I like it.

Scott Michael Foster as "Cappie." I think this is the real breakout star here folks. Can you say CHARISMA? His lines are the ones that get the real laughs, and yet there's definitely a very human quality to his character. He was the most interesting to watch, for me at least. He's a real guy's guy too, which will help the show win over the male audience.

Clark Duke as "Dale." I told you guys before, this kid has real comedic talent. He serves as the outsider to the whole Greek experience in this series, giving new life to a bible-thumping confederate flag-waving freshman roommate character.

Paul James as "Calvin Owens." His character is definitely something new to bring to cable TV, and Paul tackles this task head-on. He effortlessly portrays the quintessential frat boy who is secretly happily homosexual, and he does it with style. By no means a stereotype, he brings real depth to an already complicated character.

Dilshad Vadsaria as "Rebecca Logan" and Amber Stevens as "Ashleigh." The sorority girls. In the pilot their characters are a bit along stereotypical lines, but I'm definitely interested to see where they end up. Amber is just adorable: she adds real personality to an already invigorating cast. Dilshad is a bit of a mystery to me, so we'll have to see what is revealed through her as the season progresses.

Aside from these series regulars, there is a fabulous supporting cast including some really funny and talented young actors like Aaron Hill (The Beaver), Zack Lively (Heath), Tiffany Dupont (Frannie), and Johanna Flores(Libby). All of which stick out in their own right against an immensely talented cast.

Girls named Spencer

So I definitely got through about 17 years of my life without ever encountering a girl besides my own flesh and blood sister with the name Spencer, and even she went through her "KATY" phase before coming to terms with it. But there must be something in the water these days because its been popping up all over the place, most recently in two hot, young, and talented actresses. The first of which is SPENCER GRAMMER, the daughter of five-time Emmy Award winning actor Kelsey Grammer. It must be in the blood because this girl definitely has something that pops. She was most recently cast as a sorority girl in a picked up pilot for ABC Family, which deserves a post in itself so I'll just stop here.

Which, of course, brings us to my new favorite: SPENCER LOCKE! Much like when I met little miss Hayden Panettiere (pronounced Pana-T-Air if you were wondering)a few years back, I knew instantly upon meeting her that this girl is destined to be a star. Stunningly gorgeous at a meager 15 years old, she's still as sweet as can be and humble to boot (as she showed off her recently purchased Forever 21 top with pride). She's one of those people that can walk into a room and it just lights up a bit. Corny, I know. But true as can be. She's already had her taste of success working with top movie-makers on last year's critically acclaimed animated "Monster House". I expect her career to pick up a bit as she grows into those roles that she's being talked about for already, but dismissed solely because of her young age. She's definitely got star potential.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Disappointing Donnellys

So "The Black Donnellys" had a less than impressive 7.9 Million viewers at its premiere last Monday. That's kinda sad considering I thought it was a great introduction to a new show. I have to say, though, I wasn't too impressed with the follow-up episode this week. It was hard to follow and definitely difficult to relate to. We'll see where it goes from here. Hopefully the show finds it niche and is able to pull back into that weight and emotion of the pilot episode.

**UPDATE: 4/3/07**Rumors are flying of a Donnellys cancellation! They're likely going to continue to air the nine previously shot episodes, but the series is not expected to carry out to the end. I can't say that I blame much as I've been meaning to, I cannot bring myself to watch the current episodes that lie dormant on my Tivo. It must not really have what it takes afterall...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Diversifying the Issue of Diversity

So DIVERSITY IN CASTING has always been an issue in the movies and television entertainment industries, and it is certainly a topic that gets me a bit riled up. Its actually the issue that originally sparked my interest to start a blog. I wrote a long heartfelt rant on the topic via myspace blog and it crashed right as I wrote the final word. I was devastated, and thus have not yet written about the topic since. But now I feel that I'm ready again to dive headfirst into the issue. Below is a particularly offensive article that was published in "Daily Variety" on November 30, 2006. I felt that it was necessary to transcribe this article so that you can fully understand my mindset for writing my response:
Minority actors face a bleak outlook in Hollywood and may have legal grounds for challenging studio casting policies, a UCLA study shows.
“Casting Directors take into account race and sex in a way that would be blatantly illegal in any other industry,” said study author Russell Robinson, UCLA acting professor of law. “Many actors accept this as normal, but depending on the facts of the case, lawsuits can be filed.”
Robinson announced the findings Wednesday, citing a 2006 survey of casting announcements from Breakdown Services that found 69% of roles reserved for white actors, 8.5% open to all races, 8.1% open African American, 5.2% for Latinos, 4.3% for Asian Americans, 2.9% for multi-racial, 1.7% open to Middle Eastern and 0.5% open to Native Americans.
The study also found that men were almost three times as likely as women to work in the first-billedlead role and that whites occupied 82% of those roles, based on a review of 171 films that grossed at least $1 million last year.
Women filled 44% of second-billed roles and 40% of third-billed roles, the study found.
Robinson also noted in the study that studios could use several defenses against legal actions, such as asserting race and gender are “bonafide occupational qualifications”; contending that casting is a from of free speech that may be protected under the US Constitution’s First Amendment; and offering a market-based defense that race/gender casting maximizes box office success.
Robinson said that showbiz would not have to use quotas to comply with the federal government Title VII—which prohibits employment discrimination based on race or gender—but move to increase the consideration of actors of color and women in roles. He also recommended banning the use of race/sex classification in casting breakdowns except where casting an actor of a specific race or sex is “truly integral.”
He also cited the film “Sideways,” ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and CBS’ “CSI” series as positive examples of casting practices.
Pamm Fair, deputy national exec director for the Screen Actors Guild, said the findings were not a surprise. “We know that performers of color get fewer roles than their counterparts,” she said. “We continue to strive for more positive roles for our members who are not casting often enough because of their race or gender.”

Naturally, this offends me. It attacks that which I love and genuinely do believe in. This article glosses over a lot of important considerations on this very issue. First I must mention that Casting is not so much a job, but like most key professions in the film and television industries, it is a form of artistic expression. Consider what casting directors are doing. They’re collaborating with the writers, directors, and producers to realize a specific vision. Its not just about the words on the page, but how each character is molded through the eyes of all of these key people, not to mention the specific unique elements that individual actors themselves can bring to the characters they are helping to create. It’s absolutely essential throughout this process that certain elements are not compromised based on “political correctness.” You wouldn’t accuse Renoir of being sexist simply because he painted mostly women; similarly, you wouldn’t suggest to 50 Cent that he needs to include more elements of “white culture” into his lyrics. These examples might seem out in left field considering the circumstances around the diversity issue, but in reality these situations are quite similar to the one at hand. It’s about judging someone’s artistic vision and asking them to change it for political reasons.

That being said, I do absolutely agree that the diversity issue in film and television needs to be addressed. Within the casting field, this is best targeted where the initial vision of the character is not gender, race, or even age specific. Similarly, I’ve known many instances where writers and directors have opted to transform their vision of a character to fit an actor who has inspired them in some way. In all of these situations, I do believe that movies and television have a responsibility to their audience to accurately depict the world in which we live. In doing so, this means that they must include elements of diversity throughout their work, because we all know that it is a VERY diverse world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, I feel that it is just as important to avoid stereotyping or “tokenism.” Simply having diversity for the sake of having it will deter from the overall vision and accomplish nothing for us as a society.
This issue leads me into my next big problem with this article. It places all the lack of diversity blame on the casting directors. Not only is it the responsibility of the casting directors, directors, writers AND producers to infuse each piece with as much of a representation of the real world as possible, but it is also the responsibility of the acting unions to include an equally diverse number of members to be placed into the casting pool. There are many technical issues surrounding casting that this article doesn’t even mention, the biggest of which is the common requirement to hire actors from a specific union (usually SAG or AFTRA) for each union sanctioned picture or show. This article makes no mention of the diversity statistics in these unions, which I would venture to guess (based on my experience within the casting field) bear certain similarities to the percentages listed in the article above. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of actors that audition for us and are pitched to us on a regular basis are, in fact, caucasian. To take it even one step further, those pitched to us the most are young, attractive males and females. With each audition and open call, ethnically diverse actors are out-numbered at least 10 to 1 by their caucasian counterparts. Believe me, this blame cannot be placed on the breakdowns alone…but on the managers and agents that submit their clients and the unions that validate them.

Working for a major cable network, a phrase I hear all the time is “Ethnic, Ethnic, Ethnic.” I hear it so much it has become a cliché in itself. As someone working in the casting industry, I know all too well that these pleas often fall on deaf ears. No matter how hard we fight, and yes, we do fight about this all the time, sometimes things just don’t happen the way that we’d like. It’s not fair for us alone to take the blame. Bottom line is, the casting directors and the networks and studios that hire these actors WANT different ethnicities, ages, sexes, orientations, and personalities. WE WANT DIVERSITY. WE NEED IT IN ORDER TO APPEAL TO A WIDER RANGE OF AUDIENCES AND THUS, BE SUCCESSFUL. So to write an article like this, to point the finger at Casting Directors specifically is just ludicrous. How about turning that finger back around and pointing it at themselves, rather point it at all of us—all of us who perpetuate these inconsistencies, because I assure you, we all do our part to contribute to this problem.

So what can we do, you might ask? Why not turn this issue into creating a positive solution rather than simply playing the blame game. The truth of the matter is, this is an extremely complex issue, one that cannot and will not be defeated overnight. However, it’s the little things that can make a huge difference.

If you’re a casting director, fight as hard as you can for diverse actors that you feel could positively impact the overall vision.

If you’re an actor, don’t be discouraged because you don’t seem to fit into a type. Keep working hard to show that you can bring something new and unique to each role you audition for.

If you’re an agent or manager, think of your diverse clients for roles that they might not be obviously suited for. Give them a chance to make things happen based on their talents as an actor. Also, be more open-minded for other unique talent that you could represent.

If you work for SAG or AFTRA, consider what you can do to help encourage diverse actors in this world to go out and strive for their goals. Perhaps have incentives and workshops about growing in diversity within the union and increase your memberships to reflect a more well-rounded society.

If you’re a writer or director, don’t get caught up in your initial vision. Be open-minded to seeing things in new and interesting ways and let characters be created through the shared experiences of others.

Finally, if you view and appreciate entertainment for what it is, then encourage those around you to be more open and willing to accept difference. Stand up and let your voice be heard when you disagree with certain casting choices. Write the network or studio executives on those shows and movies that you feel lacked important diversity elements that could have created a more well-rounded entertainment experience. Through all of these things, we can take on this issue, and we can make a difference to better the entertainment medium for all involved.

ShoWest Stars of Tomorrow

For those of you who don't know, ShoWest is an annual film industry convention held in Las Vegas. Past "Star of Tomorrow" winners have included Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Beal, Hilary Swank, Cameron Diaz, Nicole Kidman, Josh Hartnett, Matt Damon, Heath Ledger, and Johnny Depp. Pretty good company to be with I would say. Congrats!

Male Star of Tomorrow: SHIA LABEOUF
LaBeouf got his start as the bratty younger brother Louis on Disney Channel's "Even Stevens." From there he had a string of pretty big movie roles like those in "Holes," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," and last year's "Bobby." He's a pretty funny guy. He's got that lovable but goofy thing down, yet you get the impression that he can still handle those roles with a bit more depth. You can catch him in three movies out this year : "Disturbia," "Surf's Up," and "Transformers." He's rumored to be in the new Indiana Jones movie as well.
Photo Date: 28 January 2007
Photo Credit: Jeff Vespa
(Copyright ©

Female Star of Tomorrow: EMMA ROBERTS
Roberts is cute cute cute. I would have loved to get her for a pilot we were casting recently, but at just 16-years-old, she was a tad young. She first caught my attention as the young child of Johnny Depp in "Blow." Her performance was heart-breaking. As she got older, Roberts became prevalent in a handful of the "cute best friend" roles, like in the Nickelodeon show "Unfabulous" and the movie "Aquamarine." Still, I don't think she'll continue to be typecast in such roles because she's already stealing the show (she nabbed a Nick Kid's Choice Best TV Actress nom over the show's star). Look out for her as this year's Nancy Drew in the film by the same name.

More TV for Tamblyn?

Sorry Y'all. I've been seriously slacking. It was crazy last week with the whole HBO Aspen Comedy Festival going on, but its no excuse. I'm gonna try to stay on top of it from now on.

So, First up...AMBER TAMBLYN is set to return to television. You might remember her as the cute girl from the short-lived (but critically acclaimed) series "Joan of Arcadia" or last year's "Grudge 2." She's a cutie. She just landed a starring role in the CBS dramedy pilot "Babylon Fields." The girl must have an affinity for the supernatural. While she was talking to God in "Joan," she'll be dealing with the resurrection of her dead abusive father in this series. Interesting...we'll see where this show goes.
Photo Date: 22 February 2007
Photo Credit: Jesse Grant
(Copyright ©