Interview by Diane J Reed - @DianeJReed
Hi Veronica—thank you for taking time out to talk with us! We know your career has already been quite varied. For example, you've been involved in the casting for such hit shows as Alias and Lost, and you were recently nominated for the Casting Society of America's Artios Award for your work on Once Upon a Time. Can you tell us about your journey to become a casting director? What kind of training or experience did you go through to enter this profession?
I had worked for several years with April Webster. When asked this question, I often say I came from "The April Webster School of Casting". Working with her was invaluable. Her taste, style and generosity towards actors is something to be admired, and I try to bring the same to the table whenever I do a project.
What is the casting process like—do you look through piles of resumes & head shots & videos and then make tons of phone calls? Or do Hollywood agents primarily contact you? Give us a glimpse of what your average day is like (and pardon our ignorance!).
A typical day goes as follows: A script will be coming out which will require a few new roles. I then release what is called a breakdown. This breakdown lists the characters I am looking for with a description that includes age, type and any quality I may need for the role. The agents, who all have access to the breakdowns, then submit their ideas to me online based on the character description. From there, I chose actors to bring in. I read with them while my associate records the performance on camera, and then we present our choices to the producers. That's basically the short version of what I do on a weekly basis.
What is the funnest or most exciting part about your job? And what do you like the least (or even dread)?
There are many aspects that I love about my job. Working with the actors through the process of auditioning to actually booking the job can be very exciting. Sometimes you have to bring them in several times and with different material to make sure you have the right actor for the role. When you get to give them the good news that they've booked the part, that moment is very exciting and rewarding. Often times some roles will require a "name". I will come up with a list of ideas of recognizable actors that we can make offers to for various roles. This is probably the thing I like least about what I do as I don't find it as creative. It's much more exciting to bring someone through the process and often times to discover them.
If you could have any actor play a role in Once Upon a Time, who might be on your "wish list"?
Robert Downey Jr as ANYTHING! He is and has always been my number one favorite actor.
For those actors who auditioned for parts (like Josh Dallas), can you describe what put them over the competition? Was it appearance, talent, charisma, or just that special "something"?
Josh was someone that I had tried to bring in for Eddy and Adam from the very beginning of the pilot. He was very busy testing for different pilots at the time, so it was difficult to get him on the books for us. Towards the end of the pilot, I circled back around and discovered he was still available! We were down to our last day of casting for this role and I didn't want to miss out on him so I finally made sure to get him in that very last day! I always thought Josh was a very cool, interesting and strong actor. He's performances are always so genuine and sincere which is one big reason that I think that everyone really responded to him for Prince Charming.
How much of a factor is appearance in your casting decisions? Do you actively try to find people who look like the traditional Disney fairy tale characters, or is it fun to sometimes to buck a trend and surprise the audience? Sinqua Walls, for example, was a delightful choice for Sir Lancelot— were you or the creators deliberately trying to diversify the cast and defy expectations?
Yes. With characters we've seen so often in our lives there is an expectation of what they will look like and be like. Sometimes we try to find clever ways of mixing it up, where it's still cool and fun, but not too off the path so that it doesn't make sense. I thought Sinqua was a fun way to go for Sir Lancelot.
Do actors know what role they're auditioning for? We've heard from a few actors that they didn't—is that to prevent spoilers from reaching fans, or for a different reason?
Correct. We'd like to keep some excitement and mystery and reveal as little as possible.
We can't help asking about auditions gone bad! Do you have any funny or cringeworthy stories from your experience (without naming names) that still make you laugh? Or has anyone ever done something truly bizarre to try and get a role?
Oh yes, there are quite a few. One of my more shocking auditions was on a film I was casting. This Emmy-Award-winning actress (who shall remain nameless) was doing a scene with me where she sort of had to man-handle me in the scene. Typically, you never touch the casting director, but apparently not in her case! During her performance she kicked me in the shin and poked me in the eye! Her performance was so amazing, though, that I honestly didn't even care. She immediately apologized, and we all laughed about it later. It was pretty funny.
At the end of the day, what do you do to relax and destress from all of the demands (and histrionic people) in your profession? Or do you thrive on the adrenaline? A little of both?
I actually do prefer a little of both, but when casting happens to be really tough at certain points throughout the season, the stress definitely takes a toll on you. I like to garden, go wine tasting, go the the spa—fun relaxing stuff like that!
Many fans have inquired about how to become an extra on Once Upon a Time. What process should they go through to achieve that dream?
Once Upon a Time shoots in Vancouver, and I do all the casting out of Los Angeles, so I wish I could tell you how to go about it, but I don't have anything to do with the extras on the show. Apologies!
Thank you so much for granting us this interview, Veronica! We really appreciate it and know that the fans will love this unique, behind-the-scenes look into your world and the casting of the show.