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In a Gold Derby interview, several TV casting directors answered a wide variety of questions about their most recent projects. Here are some highlights.

 

Kelly Valentine Hendry (Bridgerton)  

Bridgerton premiered last Christmas and quickly garnered a viewership of 82 million households—the most-watched series on Netflix. 

 

The show’s casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry says, “Honestly, we knew it was good, but we did not expect the kind of takeover of the entire world.” 

 

She saw “hundreds and hundreds” of actors for the parts of Simon (Rege-Jean Page) and Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor). Several hopefuls were eliminated simply because they couldn’t do an RP accent (Standard British). 

 

Additionally, casting had to approach the project as an ensemble. “We knew we had to create this world,” Kelly says.

 

Thus, Rege-Jean and Phoebe were not immediately cast after their individual readings. Rather, casting was pursuing chemistry between the actors. As Rege-Jean became available right at the end of the casting process, he only then became a possibility. “And when he read with [Phoebe] in LA, that was the first time Simon and Daphne came alive,’ Kelly recalls. 

 

“You just have to trust your judgment, or your taste, or the people that you’re working with who are layering it down—that we’re working on the same page.”

 

Julie Harkin (I May Destroy You and Industry)

The creator of the HBO drama I May Destroy You is also the star, Michaela Coel. Coel wanted to push boundaries with casting for the show. 

 

Casting director Julie Harkin recalls Michaela was always asking, “Who needs their voice heard? Who needs to be represented?’ It’s always about giving people an opportunity.” For example, they specifically chose a gay actor to play a homophobic police officer. 

 

“[Michaela] wanted to look at a broad spectrum of actors and give them a chance,” Harkin says. “And I think I was very Irish and forceful and direct with her about who should get the parts, and she respected that.” 

 

Luckily, Weruche Opia’s “Terry,” Paapa Essiedu’s “Kwame,” and Michaela Coel’s “Arabella” had visible chemistry off-screen which translated on screen. That chemistry “is the heart and soul of the whole show,” Harkin insists. 

 

Theo Park (Ted Lasso)

In the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso, many women auditioned for the role of Rebecca Welton. It was actor Brendan Hunt’s idea to cast the established theater actress Hannah Waddingham as Rebecca, the new owner of the AFC Richmond team. Waddingham read with Jason Sudeikis who plays Ted Lasso, an American football coach. 

 

Park describes Sudeikis’ ethos as: “We don’t necessarily have to have comedians because the comedy comes from the situation and the writing.” 

 

Then they found dramatic actors such as Juno Temple who’s not a comedian but still funny on the show. Cristo Fernandez, who plays Dani Rojas, was the best at soccer since he had played professionally in Mexico. “How amazing that he exists, and we got to cast him in this show!” Park says.

 

Michael Nicolo (Young Rock) 

Based on the life of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, NBC’s comedy series Young Rock required three versions of The Rock at various points of his life—ages 10, 15, and about 20. Casting director Michael Nicolo searched all over the world.

He says, “Adrian [Groulx] came from Canada, Bradley [Constant] who plays 15-year-old Dwayne came from Los Angeles, and Uli [Latukefu] came from Australia.” When they saw Uli Latukefu, “Nobody really even kind of came close to him.” 

 

Dwayne was involved with the casting process. In fact, he helped cast Andre the Giant, Macho Man, and Junkyard Dog. However, casting Andre the Giant, who has a rare condition known as gigantism, presented a serious challenge. Thankfully, actor and former football offensive tackle Matthew Willig, who stands at 6-foot 8-inches, was the first person to go up for the role, and he quickly landed the part.

 

Victoria Thomas (The Mosquito Coast)

The Mosquito Coast TV series stars Justin Theroux as Allie Fox. Fox is an idealistic family man growing increasingly disillusioned with the corruption of the civilized world. Casting director Victoria Thomas had to essentially cast around him for the fresh take on the 1981 novel of the same name. 

 

When it came to casting Allie’s wife Margot, Thomas says, “Melissa [George] was the last big piece of the family that we cast.” 

 

The In Treatment actress was considered for the part early on. Thomas explains, “She was supposed to put herself on tape for us, and she did not. So we’d gone on trying out several people, and finally Justin said, ‘What about Melissa?’ I said, ‘She was supposed to put herself on tape.’ So I think he called her and said, ‘Put yourself on tape! Get it over here!’” So she did.” Justin and Melissa proved to have good chemistry, so she ended up landing the role.

 

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