Casting Conversation: Rebecca Wright

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Last month, at Acting Up, Casting Director Rebecca Wright (Call The Midwife, Rillington Place, A Street Cat Named Bob) kindly popped in to answer a few questions from the students. Here is what she had to say;   

What do you look for in an actor?

Half the time, it’s a gut feeling and very subjective. For TV I look for truth, for something real. It’s difficult to define and it changes from job to job. I love meeting people and I love actors. If you come to a casting, you are in the room for a reason, so don’t doubt it. Feel confident that we want you to do well; if you do well it makes my job easier.

How can an actor make your job easier?

Be good (laughs). Be prepared, make sure you have read the script and learned the lines. It’s a good idea to have the script with you in case you are given a note. And be as professional as you can. Keep the personal things to a minimum. You will probably get asked whether you have any questions but don’t feel you have to have any.

Can actors write to you?

Absolutely send emails to Casting Directors but it’s best when there’s a reason: you’re in a show or you have a new headshot. Don’t send a generic email, think about who you are writing to, what have they worked on, is there a specific reason. It’s refreshing when someone has taken the time to compose an email and often I will reply. Your email will always be read.

What’s your favourite part of casting?

Obviously telling someone, usually via the agent, they got the job. I think finding someone new or giving someone their first job, whether just two lines, is just lovely.

What do you look for and how do you find new talent?

Someone who’s ‘fizzy’, that has something about them. I will ‘store’ everyone I see. I would much rather go to a small fringe theatre to find talent. It doesn’t matter if you have no TV experience, I like to find new talent in fringe theatres. Show reels are a big thing however, as I see a tiny headshot when posting a casting, so it’s nice to see a show reel. If you haven’t got a show reel I then look at your credits – what roles you have played.  I also look to see if you’re with an agent I know.

How many agents receive your castings?

About 300 on Spotlight.

How many submissions would you normally get for a role?

Sometimes even for a tiny part (i.e. role of a three line receptionist) I can receive over 400 suggestions. I then write a long list from this, including actors I’ve thought of myself, giving me a list of about 30 – 40 people. For a new regular, I would meet these people but for a guest part I would meet between 3 to 6 people and then if we haven’t found it, I meet another 3 to 6 people. But often things are cast so quickly I might only be able to see 2 or 3 people for a one/two line part. It can be very frustrating.

Should an actor come into the room in the accent stated in the script?

I prefer you to come in as you and surprise us with the accent.

Do you look at people who trained in Musical Theatre too?

I love musicals and have cast people in TV who have done musicals. The problem for musical actors is that it’s hard to hold out for TV work when you may be offered yearlong contracts in musicals.

How long should an actor wait to hear if they have got the job?

If you don’t hear after a week, it probably hasn’t gone your way. Not always, but for your head, yes after a week.

What are the dos and don’ts in a casting?

Don’t chew gum. My pet hate. It’s amazing how many actors have come in chewing gum. Don’t be late and don’t be too early. Ten minutes early is fine. Wear a suggestion of what you are going up for, as it is nice to get a feel for the character. If it’s an emotional scene and you need to get in the mood, don’t spend too long psyching yourself up to get into that space. A moment is fine but if the moment becomes too long it becomes awkward for the director, producer and myself.

Have you any advice for actors?

Hold on to the feeling that you did a great audition; it can often be a very random reason why someone else gets the part over you. So much is to do with look. Everyone realises you will be nervous and if you are nervous have your script on your lap. It’s not a test it’s about conveying the truth and don’t worry if you stumble on your lines, it happens to the best actors, just act through it. It’s so hard being an actor; when you get a part enjoy it for that moment, as it may be over quickly and may not immediately lead on to more work.  Get rhino thick skin!

A massive thank you to Rebecca Wright for speaking to us at Acting Up and letting me share her answers here. It’s so nice to hear casting from the other side and I think you will agree is very useful.

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