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Casting director Carol Goldwasser won two Casting Society of America Artios Awards for her excellence in casting, and the young talents she cast went on to receive Kid’s and Teen Choice Awards, Young Artists Awards, and Emmy Award nominations for their roles. Goldwasser has worked for over 25 years in both Los Angeles and New York, and her television work includes Disney’s “Austin & Ally,” “Hannah Montana,” “Dog with a Blog” and “I’m in the Band,” as well as “Melrose Place” and “My So-Called Life.” 

In a Master Talent Teacher interview, Goldwasser shared valuable insights for young auditioners.

Looks vs. experience

Goldwasser explains the importance of young actors’ looks in comparison to their level of experience with the craft. “If you’re talking about a really young actor, I mean maybe between five and eight years old—because I have to cast actors that young—their credits don’t matter,” she asserts. “There can be a talented five year old or a talented eight year old who hasn’t done anything at all, or hasn’t done anything except print or hasn’t done anything except a commercial. So they just have a quality. They have a great look or they have a sort of unique, funny personality.” 

According to Goldwasser, prior experience in the field becomes increasingly important with age. She continues, “When I’m casting teens who are 12 to 14—I mean [Los Angeles] is a very competitive town and there are 14 year olds who have incredible resumes—I will look on a 14-to-16 year old’s resume and see if they’ve done other comedy shows in town. And I’ll see, oh, so-and-so cast them in this. There are certain casting directors whose work I respect, and I will notice if someone like that has cast them. Sometimes, depending on the size of the role, it’s just a look. If it’s a cheerleader who has one line, if she can execute the line the way it’s supposed to be—the way that it’s written—then it’s going to be equally about the line and the look.”

The difference between casting kids and adults

Although she’s best known for her work with kids and teens, Goldwasser has also worked extensively with adults. When it comes to casting young talents, she explains, “You have to give them more leeway and more coaching. … You really have to give kids the benefit of the doubt.” Adults often audition before her after participating in acting or conservatory programs. They’ve been trained to make creative choices before stepping foot in the audition room, and their personal qualities are either a good match for the part or not. 

“I have to be more flexible with kids and lead them by the nose,” she states, “because when you direct them, they will understand and take your direction, but they don’t necessarily come in with the choices. So I really have to give them a lot more room to find it.”

Goldwasser shares that casting children can be more like finding the talent with the highest likeliness of fitting the part. “Casting is a compromise as it is,” she says. “It’s not going to be exactly what the producers and writers envisioned. And as a casting director, sometimes we have to let them know that. Okay, maybe he doesn’t have all the elements of what you envision the character to have, but he’s 14. Can we make some adjustments to what he brings in the room? Can we put him with a coach, and coach him through the testing process? … You really have to work with them to get them there, especially for a series where you’re banking on this person’s ability to perform and have the appeal to … bring viewers in for three seasons at least.”

Goldwassers pet peeve in the audition room

With all her years of experience, there is one practice that irks her the most. “One of my biggest [pet peeves] is when an actor comes in and says, ‘I just got this [script],’” she says. “Which, to me, sounds like me and my office didn’t get it to that person in time for them to adequately prepare. If an actor just got [the script], everyone else in the waiting room also just got this, and chances are they just got this because we just got it because the writers did a rewrite overnight. So everyone’s in the same boat. And if an actor comes into a producer session and says, ‘I just got this,’ I have to do an internal eye roll because the feeling is that actor is trying to tell the producers, ‘I didn’t have time to prepare,’ but without factoring in that it feels like a dis to the casting office when you say, ‘I just got this.’”

She explains that it is an actor’s job to be ready to receive material last minute, and prepare on short notice. After all, once hired, performers can expect to receive revisions on-set pertaining to that day’s shoot. “That’s part of what they pay you for when you get the job,” she says.