It’s from Grant Woolsey:
I know you've mentioned a few times in the past about certain high-end Hollywood types interjecting their own favorites or "pet projects" into certain casting calls. In one of Bill Carter's books, he refers to Jennifer Aniston being one of these, and got an audition for "Friends" because of it. Same with William "Gil Grissom" Peterson on "CSI".
How many times has that happened to you? Does some studio head interject in the casting process and make "suggestions", or do they try to form whole shows around actors they like? Does the choice of actor they're backing sometimes seem completely arbitrary? I find this more noticeable in movies (remember the year of a million Jude Law movies?), but I assume TV gets it a lot, too.
Studios and networks definitely have their agendas. And they exert more and more of their will into the process. No, let me be clear. They CONTROL casting. They make ALL the final decisions. We producers just do the leg work for them.
Each network has a casting director. Each network casting director has actors they like and actors they don’t.
When a writer/producer gets his show greenlit to pilot he submits a list of possible actors for each part. The network responds. They cross certain names off that list. Bullshit that there's not blacklist. If you're an actor (or writer) on the non-desired list you don't get hired. )This is especially disconcerting in areas like acting where judgment is purely subjective.)
Networks will then provide you with their list of “recommended” actors.
Like I said, networks fall in love with certain people. And in some cases I don’t know why. But they will jam them into any project they can. Kim Raver gets series after series. Not that she’s that bad, but she’s sure not special, and there are hundreds of other better actors who can’t even get in the front door.
So if you have a show that features an attractive forty-something woman as a lawyer, or executive, or CIA operative you may well have Kim Raver shoved down your throat.
So you begin the casting process, seeing first the network recommended people. And guaranteed, some are going to be jaw-droppingly wrong for the part. You also see people your casting agent finds.
At one time this meant the actor would come in a room and audition for three or four producers and studio reps. Not anymore. Now those auditions are all taped. And they’re all sent to the networks. So if you’re an actor and you have a bad day, or you read for a part you’re not really right for, your bad reading gets seen by the network. And you can quickly go on the “no” list. That’s like, if you’re an outfielder in baseball, your manager tells you to pitch, you can’t get the ball over the plate because you’re not a pitcher, and the team releases you as a result.
Not fair, you say? Damn right, it’s not fair.
The next step: You narrow your choices down to three for each part. You make deals with them contingent on studio and network approval. The actors must audition for the network now. Talk about pressure. Imagine you’re one of three actors going up for the part of Chandler on a new pilot called FRIENDS. How different is your life if you get the part versus not get the part?
Usually of the three actors, one will be a network favorite going in. And the other two may give better auditions and be better for the role, but the network will approve their darling anyway.
Again, not fair? You betcha.
We had a pilot ten years ago where we had to fight hard to get a certain actor. The studio didn't love him. The network sure didn't love him. But we argued that he was special and different and had an amazing presence. After bringing him back several times to read, the network finally begrudgingly approved him (but only after we agreed to take an actor they wanted for another part who was terrible). The actor we fought for: Aaron Paul.
For comedies, the fights are usually over the producers’ desire to hire funny people and the networks’ insistence on hiring attractive people. Guess who always wins.
Networks have gotten so ham-fisted these days that even for one or two-line parts like for waiters or clerks, the producers have to submit tapes of at least three candidates to the network, and the network makes the selection. They don't even trust producers to hire one-line guys.
It’s maddening and another reason why network television is so bland. They want to go with safe, cute, known, and fuckable.
Do you think James Gandolfini would be hired to play Tony Soprano if it were for NBC? Not a chance. John Stamos would get the part.
There are probably fifteen examples of this every pilot season. Or fifty.
Networks dictate everything. Casting agents may love you and producers may think you’re a genius, but that means nothing if the network doesn’t think redheads are in this year.
My heart goes out to actors. Especially the Rachel Dratch’es. They’re sure braver and tougher than me.