Casting Directors React To Complaints About Fewer Roles: “All My Friends Are Actors And They’re Panicked”

Earlier this month, Deadline kicked off its Hollywood Contraction series by checking in with the acting community to see whether opportunities have picked up since the end of the strikes.

The response wasn’t so positive. On top of fewer shows in the works and the disappearance of pilot season, the available acting gigs are paying less than they used to amid rising cost of living, making it hard for many working actors to afford their rent or mortgage and support their families.

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So we went to the front lines to the people who would know best — casting directors– to ask about the contraction going on in the industry, and whether the fears are justified. Though just about everybody acknowledges that change is happening, they also remain optimistic about the future.

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As Disney TV head of casting Sharon Klein told Deadline Thursday, “Do I have fewer roles? I’ll say this. There are the same number of roles per episode of television. There are the same number of roles per movie. It’s not like you’re going to see fewer roles per show. We’re going through a natural correction of the business. And will the number of series being produced go up? I don’t know. But I don’t think panic needs to ensue.”

Here’s a sampling of reactions from those who attended Thursday’s Artios Awards, an annual event that celebrates the work of the casting community.

Kim Davis-Wagner (casting director, Daisy Jones & the Six): “I think [fewer jobs] feels true and correct. We’ve been in-between projects for a little while. It feels that the temperature of the community is that there are fewer roles and lesser projects in production. It feels like a challenging time for actors.”

Faryn Einhorn (casting associate, Daisy Jones & the Six): “Coming out of the strike it feels like everyone’s just taking stock of where we’re headed and not wanting to rush into something that they can’t finish, And wanting to be able to see projects all the way to completion.”

Steven Tylor O’Connor (casting director, Casting Society of America board member): “As soon as the strikes were over, we had a movie that had been in the works. So I started back to work right away, and then I had a Hulu miniseries that we technically started back in 2021 that started back up in January. So I’m blessed and grateful that I went into a movie in January and then moved right into a series. So for me, I’m not seen a slowdown. It also makes sense that we’re the first department back, and I just think that sometimes actors are like, ‘oh, as soon as the strike is done, the work is back.’ And it’s like, no, unless you were already in something that’s about to ramp back up. I think that it’s just a little slow on the uptake. But from talking to some of my colleagues, we’re blessed to be busy and I think there is a lot of work that’s coming.”

Destiny Lilly (CSA president): “We’re still hiring a lot of actors. We still need that number of actors to tell the stories and telling stories is so important for what we do as casting directors. I think that things fluctuate and we have to see. We’ve been through a pandemic and we’ve been through strikes, so we have to see what’s coming next. I’m an optimist. I believe that while there might be a contraction now, things will continue to grow, and one of the things that we’ve really seen growth in is a lot more diversity and inclusion on our screens, which I think is incredibly important. So I believe that things will start to self-regulate and get better, but so much has changed. We watch TV and movies so differently than we did even five years ago, especially differently than 10 years ago. And so I think that there are some growing pains in the industry that I think will eventually lead to something even more fruitful for everyone. I know it’s hard for actors. I sympathize with them.”

Claire Koonce (casting director, Beef): “I would say things are opening back up. It’s been really wonderful to see that a lot of the studios and networks have things in the pipeline, and I am excited for the stuff that is to come. I’ve had actors ask me about Deadline’s Hollywood contraction article quite a bit, and it feels like it’s been true for a while. I think there were some people who read it and they were like, ‘oh, is this the way it’s going to be moving forward?’ And I’m like, this is the way it’s been for a little while now. Things are opening back up and that we’re seeing a lot more productivity, but I’m also not the one cutting the paychecks, so I can’t say for sure.”

Tiffany Little Canfield (casting director, Only Murders in the Building): “We have to remember that not only is our industry in recovery from a double strike, but also a world pandemic. So I think we’re all in recovery mode. I don’t think that we should be afraid. I think that work will come back because there are so many incredible storytellers. It’s just that it might not be business as usual. We might have to get creative.”

Robert J. Ulrich (casting director, The Boys): “I think at the moment it’s taking a while to get back from the strike. So yes, I think right now there are less jobs. Do I think it’s going to be forever? No. I think it’s a temporary thing. Most people would agree that it’s taking a while for the business to get back to enormous state. All my friends are actors and they’re all panicked. They’re losing their insurance. It’s terrible. I’m a major therapist now. My wife said about 15 years ago, I should have quit and become a therapist because that’s what I do.”

Jodi Long (SAG-AFTRA President, LA Local): “I see it from my friends because a lot of them are young and they’re like, ‘I’m not having an audition.’ I do think it’s natural for the contraction to happen, even though we were so excited to be back to work. At the beginning of December, before Christmas, there was a lot of activity. There was a lot of activity at the beginning of January with auditions and then it’s kind of slowed down. This industry has to take a deep breath. I think it’s going to come back, just like the stock market always falls back. There’s a contraction and then it’s got to move forward. So in the end, they do need product, right? They can’t do it without us. They can’t do it without the writers. We can’t do it without the producers, the publicists and the casting people. So I think we just have to be supportive where we can. I’m confident that industry’s going to come back. But, I’m just an actor.”

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