4 Pieces of Must-Know Casting News

Watch out highways of the East Coast—Helen Mirren is heading out in a Winnebago with Donald Sutherland in their new film “The Leisure Seeker.” The film follows two ailing retirees as they fight off poor health to take what may be their last road trip from Boston to the Ernest Hemingway House in Florida. The project will also star Christian McKay and is based on a novel by Michael Zadoorian. Filming is expected to start later this month in Atlanta. While most of the additional casting is out of the Peach State, Marc Hirschfeld is also attached to the project. Hollywood is heading to the Great White North as K’naan Warsame celebrates his new HBO pickup, “Mogadishu, Minnesota.” The Minneapolis-based pilot is about a family struggling to define what it means to be American while still living among the city’s Somali population. The project, one of the
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6 Pieces of Must-Know Casting News

As if having a bustling music career wasn’t time-consuming enough, “Anaconda” rapper Nicki Minaj is taking on television with a new untitled pilot inspired by her life. ABC Family, to be rebranded as Freeform in January, has picked up the half-hour comedy about the singer’s move from Trinidad to Queens, N.Y., in the early 1990s. Vickie Thomas Casting will find the actors for the New York production looking to shoot in January. Writer John Ridley is continuing his love affair with ABC with new pilot “Presence.” The “American Crime” creator’s new venture will follow a former Army Counter Insurgency Operative who moves into the world of private investigation, sans proper credentials. Kim Coleman will cast the project that features a woman in the lead role. While dates and potential leads are yet to be announced, the production will make its home in Los Angeles. Kevin James (“The King of Queens,
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Cheyenne Jackson and John Goodman Go Digital

For proof that online series are the future of television production just look at the names attached to the Amazon Studios pilots slated to go into production: Jeffrey Tambor and Cheyenne Jackson are set to star in “The Onion Presents: The News,” while John Goodman and Mark Consuelos have roles in “Alpha House,” written by Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Trudeau. The success that Amazon has had in attracting top talent to its six comedy pilots and five children’s series comes after Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright starred in the Netflix series “House of Cards,” which debuted Feb. 1 and is expected to start production on its second season next month. “It’s all about the material,” Marc Hirschfeld, who cast the soon-to-debut Netflix original series “Hemlock Grove,” told Backstage. “If the script and auspices are great, it will attract great talent. If the material is subpar, it’ll be tough to attract talent,
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Network Comedy Pilots to Shoot, Cast in New York

Until shooting on its final season wrapped in December, NBC’s “30 Rock” had the distinction of being the only broadcast network comedy series filming in New York. A few cable comedies shoot and cast in the Big Apple, including HBO’s “Girls” and FX’s “Louie.” But as far as broadcast comedies go—or went, anyway—“30 Rock” was the only game in town. However, two network comedy pilots are already slated to shoot in New York in the coming weeks—a 200 percent increase over last pilot season, when every single broadcast-net comedy pilot shot in Los Angeles. CBS’s untitled project starring comedian Jim Gaffigan is set to start shooting in March, with casting director Marc Hirschfeld overseeing casting in both New York and Los Angeles. And NBC’s untitled family comedy starring Michael J. Fox began shooting Jan. 30, with New York–based Jennifer Euston handling casting. (The NBC project has received a 22-episode order,
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Pilot Season Heats Up As Casting Directors Find Projects

As pilot season begins to ramp up, four new comedy projects now have casting directors attached, Backstage has learned. The comedy "About a Boy" for NBC, which has ordered 11 comedy pilots this season, will be cast by North Hollywood-based Cami Patton. The pilot, based on the book by Nick Hornby which was also turned into a movie starring Hugh Grant, is about a serial bachelor who develops a relationship with the geeky boy who moves in next door. A shoot date and location is still being determined. NBC's "Joe, Joe & Jane," which has "Army Wives'" Sally Pressman lined up for one of the title characters, will be cast by Jeff Greenberg. The comedy pilot, which is based loosely on the relationship between executive producers Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and his wife, is about a children's book author who must deal with his needy wife and his best friend/co-author.
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Hulu and Netflix Offer More Opportunities---With a Tradeoff

  • Backstage
Online channels are expanding their original programming and giving actors new opportunities -- albeit at a price.Hulu announced this week it would premiere 10 original series this summer: three original series and seven exclusive shows. Netflix, meanwhile, is building on the success of “Lilyhammer,” a series the online provider purchased from Norwegian broadcaster NRK1. It currently has three original series in the works, including the David Fincher drama “House of Cards” starring Kevin Spacey. With an audience as big as premium cable channels such as HBO and Showtime, Netflix could become a major draw for actors.Casting director Marc Hirschfeld, who’s working on Netflix’s new contemporary gothic horror “Hemlock Grove,” said the opportunities are there for actors online -- just don’t expect a network-sized paycheck.“The financial model’s different. They don’t have the deep pockets of a cable channel or a network as far as what the actors are paid,
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MTV Shakes Up Its Casting Department

  • Backstage
MTV recently shook up its West Coast casting department. The music channel, which has steadily expanded its programing, added a new casting director and lost one senior staffer to a rival network.Blyth Nailling, who had been an independent casting director, signed on at MTV as the new director of talent and casting, overseeing casting for the channel's scripted and reality programing. Prior to joining MTV, Nailling was a co-casting director at Marc Hirschfeld Casting where she had extensive experience casting network comedies. She worked on CW's "One Tree Hill" and ABC's "Scrubs" and "Cougar Town" among others.Nailling's first day on the job was April 30.Meanwhile, MTV's casting department lost one staffer in the shakeup. Jonathan Groce, who had held the title of manager of West Coast talent and casting, left the channel in mid April for the Cartoon Network. He's currently listed as the director of talent development for Adult.
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CD Marc Hirschfeld Takes on Supervisory Role at Gaumont Intl. TV

  • Backstage
Casting director Marc Hirschfeld will take on an advisory role at production company Gaumont International Television, overseeing series casting. The new company — established in September as an American subsidiary of French production powerhouse Gaumont — received two series orders this spring.The first, "Hannibal," was picked up by NBC for 13 episodes. The series will bring erudite serial killer Hannibal Lecter and his nemesis/mentee, FBI profiler Will Graham, to the small screen. Each episode will find Graham seeking Lecter's advice and guidance in tracking down a new unsavory character. Shooting is scheduled to start in July, but no casting director is attached. The other series, "Hemlock Grove," received an order from Netflix, adding to their growing roster of original programming. Based on the novel by Brian McGreevy, which will be released on March 27, the series is set in a small town in Pennsylvania where a young girl is found...
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Former NBC Executives Elisa Roth & Marc Hirschfeld Join Katie O’Connell At Gaumont

Exclusive: With two drama series orders under its belt, Hannibal at NBC and Hemlock Grove at Netflix, five-month-old Gaumont International Television is staffing up. The company, a Los Angeles-based TV production division of French movie studio Gaumont, has hired veteran executives Elisa Roth, Marc Hirschfeld and Andy House in top executive positions under Gaumont CEO Katie O’Connell and COO Richard Frankie. This marks a reunion for O’Connell, Roth and Hirschfeld who worked together at NBC as head of departments: NBC drama (O’Connell), Universal TV drama (Roth) NBC/Universal casting (Hirschfeld). All 3 left in the big executive shakeup at the network in December 2008. At Git, House will serve as Head of Production, Elisa Roth as Head of Creative Affairs and Marc Hirschfeld will supervise casting. Also on board is Alison Engel as VP of Creative Affairs. “As part of our growth strategy it was the perfect time to bring Andy,
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HBO Shuts Down Its Casting Department

Exclusive: HBO is shutting down its casting department, with its staff, led by 14-year HBO veteran, Svp Carrie Frazier, and VP Amy Jo Berman, exiting. HBO uses outside casting directors on all of its projects, with the in-house casting executives playing a supplemental role, mostly on the longform side. With the pay cable network’s movie and miniseries output decreasing over the past few years, HBO brass have made a decision to close that department. The network may revisit their casting needs in the future. HBO’s decision is the latest in a growing cost-cutting trend over the past several years on both the TV and feature side that involves the downsizing/eliminating in-house casting departments or the phasing out of seasoned senior staff casting executives. Rick Jacobs left Lifetime 2 years ago as part of the company-wide layoffs. NBC’s Marc Hirschfeld was let go from NBC in the 2008 executive shakeup.
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Starz Signs Multi-Year Production Deal With BBC Worldwide Prods.

On the heels of their collaboration on Torchwood: Miracle Day, Starz Entertainment and BBC Worldwide Prods. have signed a multi-year production agreement. Under the deal, the two companies will co-develop and co-finance multiple series, which will be produced by BBC Worldwide Prods. The potential output is estimated at more than 100 hours of drama series programming. Starz gets distribution rights for the U.S. and English-speaking Canada, while BBC Worldwide will distribute the series internationally. The deal essentially gives Starz a (non-exclusive) production arm without the large cost associated with overhead as Starz is looking to compete against its more established pay cable competitors on a far smaller production budget. The network already uses a similar approach in casting where it has been using the services of independent casting director Marc Hirschfeld who has been essentially serving as head of casting on a non-exclusive, consulting basis. The deal with BBC Worldwide
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No Bells and Whistles

Marc Hirschfeld, who heads Marc Hirschfeld Casting, knew from an early age that he wanted to do something in the industry, without knowing precisely what it would be. He launched his showbiz career as a production assistant for Norman Lear and within short order was working in the casting department. He served as executive vice president of casting at NBC Universal Television from 1999 to 2008. He oversaw the original casting of such NBC series as the Emmy Award–winning "The Office," "30 Rock," "Heroes," "My Name Is Earl," and "Southland." On cable, he supervised the casting of the USA Network shows "Psych," "Burn Notice," "In Plain Sight," "Royal Pains," and "White Collar." He is currently casting "Love Bites," a romantic-comedy anthology for NBC that will bow in early 2011, and supervising casting for the Starz and Cmt networks, which are both busy developing scripted dramas and comedies.Your Submission PackageI will look at unsolicited submissions from unrepresented actors,
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Starz Getting Close to Consultant Hirschfeld

Starz Media has tapped veteran casting executive Marc Hirschfeld as a casting consultant. Under the non-exclusive arrangement, Hirschfeld will work closely with Starz programming executives on major castings for the channels’ scripted and non-scripted programs, beginning with “Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-Up,” which is gearing up for its fifth season. The Starz setup is expected to be the first of several, in which Hirschfeld provides casting executive services to networks that are ramping up original production but don’t have a fully-fledged casting departments.
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Starz Media taps casting consultant

Starz Media has tapped veteran casting executive Marc Hirschfeld as a casting consultant.

Under the non-exclusive arrangement, Hirschfeld will work closely with Starz programming executives on major castings for the channels' scripted and non-scripted programs, beginning with "Martin Lawrence Presents 1st Amendment Stand-Up," which is gearing up for its fifth season.

The Starz setup is expected to be the first of several, in which Hirschfeld provides casting executive services to networks that are ramping up original production but don't have a fully-fledged casting departments.

Hirschfeld, who is casting two pilots this season, ABC's "The Whole Truth" and CBS' "Hitched," served as executive vp casting for NBC Universal Television Entertainment from 1999 to 2008, overseeing casting for all of NBC Entertainment, Sci Fi, Bravo and USA Network scripted programs and consulting on unscripted programming.

Before that, he ran with partner Meg Liberman top casting agency Liberman/Hirschfeld, which cast "Seinfeld," "3rd Rock from the Sun,
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'Second position' TV casting on the rise

'Second position' TV casting on the rise
Casting actors in "second position" on pilots has been on the rise during the past few years.

The process -- in which actors in on-air series are cast in pilots -- also has become increasingly aggressive, with broadcast networks even going after actors whose shows have not yet premiered.

This pilot season, Kyle Bornheimer and Alyssa Milano, stars of ABC's upcoming comedy series "Romantically Challenged," and Tyler Labine, star of Fox's upcoming comedy series "Sons of Tucson," were pursued for pilots. After fielding several offers, Bornheimer signed on as the lead in CBS' hot comedy pilot from "How I Met Your Mother" creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas.

Overall, more than a dozen actors on existing series already have been cast in pilots this year.

Casting executive Marc Hirschfeld, who cast one of them -- "Numbers" star Rob Morrow, in ABC's drama pilot "The Whole Truth" -- is not surprised.
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'Ugly Betty' cast in demand

'Ugly Betty' cast in demand
The news of the cancellation of ABC's "Ugly Betty" had barely hit the Internet on Wednesday when the phones of the reps of co-star Eric Mabius started ringing off the hook.

With broadcast casting executives again in the hunt for good-looking thirtysomething leading men for pilots, Mabius' sudden availability made him instantly a hot commodity.

The early cancellation of "Betty" was done mostly to help the dramedy's producers give it a proper ending, but the timing of the announcement also releases into the pilot talent pool a strong cast just as networks are starting to assemble this year's crop of series hopefuls.

"Betty" co-star Becki Newton, also in a sought-after category of beautiful 30-year-old comedic actresses, has additionally been inundated with calls, and Vanessa Williams, Michael Urie and Ana Ortiz also are in demand. It is not clear whether star America Ferrera would be open to another series as she
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The Power CD List

The following is a list of the top 25 Power Casting Directors in film and television (including Casting Director of the Year, Debra Zane; see page 9). We began with more than 100 candidates. In some cases, collaborations were so closely tied that we considered multiple people as one entity. Several drafts later, all 25 spots were cast.Notably omitted from the list are in-house casting executives at studios and networks, the inclusion of whom would have ballooned our list to 50 or more. But read about them online at Focusing on independent casting directors leveled the playing field and highlighted people whose puissance is not affected by one scale-tipping affiliation. Now, on to the top 25!Kerry BardenCan you imagine Monster's Ball starring Erykah Badu, or American Psycho starring Leonardo DiCaprio? Kerry Barden can, because he saw them read the parts. "There are so many great actors that sometimes it's a
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The Evolution of Pilot Season

  • Backstage
Actor Dendrie Taylor braved her first pilot season more than 20 years ago. Each year, she recalls, she would compete with droves of colleagues from New York, who would attend a "mad" number of auditions in January and February -- sometimes two or three a day -- which would taper off in March and April. "Then you counted on the summer being your movie time and the fall being your episodic guest-spot time." But the pattern did not hold. These days the networks have a much less predictable pilot schedule. As actor Bellamy Young notes, "There are pilots in dribs and drabs all year long." Taylor, Young, and the industry insiders who recently spoke with Ross Reports suggest that the only consistency you can count on with pilot season is inconsistency. Surprises abound. For instance, in 2008, when the Writers Guild of America strike nearly obliterated pilot season altogether, Taylor booked two
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NBC Uni reveals details of exec shuffle

In one of the biggest executive shakeups in recent TV history, NBC on Monday let go of its top programming executives at the network and the studio as well as most of the department heads and senior executives at both entities.

NBC Uni confirmed that it is merging NBC and Universal Media Studios and has tapped the company's international TV production chief Angela Bromstad to oversee the combined unit's scripted programming as president of primetime entertainment.

Former BBC Worldwide Prods. president Paul Telegdy has been named executive vp alternative programming and will head the unscripted department at the network as well as Ums' newly formed alternative production studio.

Additionally, Bromstad will continue to supervise the company's international production, while Telegdy will also oversee the international sales of unscripted formats generated by the new production unit. Both Bromstad and Telegdy will start Jan. 5 and report to NBC Uni co-chairs Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff.
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CBS Paramount TV taps Meg Liberman

Top independent casting director Meg Liberman is joining the executive ranks as senior vp casting for CBS Paramount Network TV.

Liberman will oversee the day-to-day casting for all studio shows, reporting to Peter Golden, executive vp talent and casting for CBS Par TV Group. She replaces Sheila Guthrie, who will return to her independent casting career.

"Meg has incredible relationships with writers, directors, agents and fellow casting directors, and she has an encyclopedic knowledge of actors," Golden said. "Sheila is highly respected, and we're looking forward to continuing our relationship with her."

Liberman founded her own company in 1984 before partnering with Marc Hirschfeld from 1987-99. For the past nine years, since Hirschfeld left to become exec vp casting for NBC, Liberman has been partners with Cami Patton.

Liberman, a second-generation Hollywood casting director whose mother Pat Harris cast such series as "Get Smart," has won two Emmys, with Hirschfeld for the HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon" in 1998 and with Patton for "Band of Brothers" in 2002.

"I look forward to working alongside her on the NBC/Paramount series 'Medium' and competing against her in the talent marketplace," Hirschfeld said.

Liberman's credits also include "Seinfeld" and "3rd Rock From the Sun" (with Hirschfeld) and, most recently, ABC's "Pushing Daisies," HBO's "The Pacific" and CBS/Par's new drama "The Philanthropist."

On the feature side, Liberman/Patton cast the blockbuster hit "My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
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