Courtesy of Lori Lewis

To celebrate Women’s History Month, Casting Frontier spoke with the influential casting director, Lori Lewis on her profession, mantras to live by, what she would like to achieve in this new ‘age’ of virtual auditions, and much more. Keep reading for a look into how Lori got involved in the industry and her goals to be the best, most compassionate casting director possible.


What interested you most about this profession?

I was initially drawn to getting to know casting directors and how they worked since I was an actor looking to get my foot in the door. Since I often found the casting process challenging, cold and impersonal, I volunteered for local casting directors to become more comfortable when it came time to audition.

One of those times volunteering led to my eventually being hired by a casting director to work in her office while I also pursued acting jobs. Early in that position, an “emergency casting” came up while my boss was out of town. This meant I needed to run the session, which I’d never done on my own; only assisted. If I thought auditioning was terrifying at times, finding myself running a session was even more so. It was quite by accident I ended up making the change over from acting to casting. I found out not only did I love casting more than acting, but I was very good at it too!


What surprises you on a daily basis about your profession?

After many years, nothing surprises me on a daily basis. Each project is different, which keeps things fun and exciting. What surprises me at times is finding that extraordinary talent. It is super fun when I get to see an actor who is auditioning for the very first time; especially when they do an amazing job. It’s why I like to take a chance on seeing talent who may not have an extensive resume but have invested in training with reputable teachers. It’s like a treasure hunt and I love finding the gems.


What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

This is a tough one! Part of why I love casting is because each job is a new challenge to find the right people. A big challenge I faced early on was being allowed to approach casting “my way” versus the way I was being taught. I fondly remember attending a directing class arranged by my former boss with an incredible teacher she admired greatly. At the end of the class he said I should be allowed to direct the talent as I had been because even though unconventional, it worked. Now that I’m my own boss, this is no longer a challenge. Sadly, the incredible teacher has passed, but I’ve silently thanked him many times over the years.


What would you like to achieve in this new ‘age’ of virtual auditions and remote working?

I’m already working on it and improving with each job… the PERFECT self-tape directions and instructions for talent to be able to send in job-winning auditions! It is heartbreaking to see some of the tapes that come in because it is crystal clear the actor misread or, more likely, didn’t fully read the information sent. I know perfect instructions are an impossibility, but I’ll keep trying! Seriously though, hopefully, we will be back to in-person casting sessions by 2022. Until then, my goals are the same as they’ve always been… to be the best, most compassionate casting director possible.


What influential piece of advice has a mentor, colleague, friend, or family member gave you that speaks true today?

There are so many pearls of wisdom I live by each day that my stepmom taught me growing up.  Two of the biggest which go hand in hand are:

“Feeling sorry for yourself never solves your problems.”

“Welcome your problems and think of them as presents because they’re always a surprise and have something to teach you.”

A quote from one of my favorite movies Doctor Strange that keeps me completely grounded in this industry… “It isn’t about you.”


Which female leader do you admire and why (industry or non-industry)?

This is also tough to choose just one! Thinking back over my life so many women in leadership positions have earned my admiration. At present, one young woman comes to mind and fills my heart with joy… Amanda Gorman. Poised, strong, creative, loving, and fierce. With young leaders like her and Greta Thunberg, on the rise, I have more hope for humanity’s future.


This interview has been edited and condensed.

Written by Hannah-Cate Rogerson