This week on Casting Frontier’s 11th episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind are thrilled to be joined by the legendary casting director April Webster. Her tremendous breadth of work spans nearly four decades and includes the films Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible III, and Tomorrowland as well as the television series Lost

In fact, in 2005, Webster won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series for her work on Lost; she received more Emmy nods for her casting work on the ABC series Alias and the 1996 television movie Grand Avenue.

Webster explains how she felt like an outsider while growing up but was thrilled when she discovered the theater community while building sets for high school productions; indeed, she found a sense of belonging which continues to this day. Webster says it’s “almost like belonging to a church. No matter where you go, you have a family; you have a place to go.” 

So, as a young woman hitchhiking through Europe, she offered to volunteer at a theater in Amsterdam. “I was willing to do anything to be there,” she recalls. They took her up on her offer; Webster ended up serving as the stage manager for a multimedia show at the Holland Festival that summer. 

She took this can-do spirit everywhere she went, and thus continued to broaden all aspects of her theater skills amidst the 1970’s New York theater scene, including the experimental theater company Mabou Mines. In fact, Webster worked as a stage manager, actress, mask maker, set builder, prop and wardrobe master, in addition to being a theater director. 

“When you have learned a process and you continue to learn the process … all of the parts add up to the whole. Everything that you’ve done in your life applies to what you’re doing now,” she says.

Eventually, Webster discovered her perfect fit with the profession of casting. Now based in Los Angeles, she’s known for her warm and welcoming manner with actors and loves being able to create a supportive environment for them. Seeing herself as an advocate, she’s always on the lookout for performers; she has a  gift for casting ensembles that feel distinctly real, memorable, and engaging. Webster firmly believes whatever actors experience in their lives—in regards to both their acting careers and their personal lives—is of value and makes each individual unique. In addition, she insists it all informs how actors relate to others, saying, “It’s all about interaction. It’s always about communication.” 

When asked about audition advice, Webster says, “I think the best thing an actor can do for themselves when they’re coming in for an audition is to know the material, have made some choices … to have made a decision about what the material is and be able to be flexible enough to make a shift on that.”

When she gives direction to actors, it indicates her investment in them as performers. In other words, it’s not a critique of their first take but rather the direction reveals she sees potential in them. Also, she loves to read with actors to see what they give her in their performance and personality as well as get a sense of how connected they are in the process. With all her experience and mastery of casting and the theater arts as a whole, Webster considers her intuition as her most important casting skill.

Please make sure to tune in next week for part two of Burgandi and Govind’s interview with April Webster.

Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Stay ahead of the curve by learning more valuable tips and stories from an assortment of industry insiders by tuning in each week.

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