'Arrive on time, and be ready to go' Coco casting director Carla Hool shares acting advice
Casting director Carla Hool has overseen the casting of 40 episodes of Netflix's hit drug-dealing drama Narcos, seven episodes of Danny McBride baseball comedy Eastbound and Down as well as Disney Pixar's latest, quirky animation Coco.
Mandy News had the pleasure of talking to Carla about all things casting live action, animation and her career so far.
Carla, tell us when you started to work in casting?
I started casting in 2002 in Mexico City.
Tell us what your first casting job was like.
My first casting job was on a feature production. It taught me about the various personalities that one encounters when dealing with creative personalities in conjunction with those who are more business-minded. We casting directors deal with everyone - from producers, directors, executives and talent to talent representatives. There are a lot of different personalities to balance.
The job of casting itself–- finding great performers to fill the roles – was not in and of itself the most challenging aspect of the job. For me, it is the most rewarding - finding the perfect actor to fill the role!
Tell us a bit about your work on Narcos. It’s a huge show. What are the challenges on it?
Since Narcos is an international program, we need to source talent from various Spanish speaking countries who are typically unknown in America. Some of these actors can be hard to find – foreign talent sourcing systems are not generally as streamlined as in Hollywood. Some actors are not as easy to track down as one might think.
From there, the actor’s accents need to fit the particular character’s country of origin. For example, an American actor might be able to do a British accent for one role, and a southern accent for their next project. Often times, Latin actors are not trained in “working different accents.” Some can naturally shift accents, but it’s not something that is in their training as it might be for, say, a British actor.
Casting the American, Spanish speaking roles, presents the obvious challenge of finding high quality actors who can speak Spanish.
Where have you travelled to for work and why?
I currently live in Los Angeles. I have traveled within the US to New Mexico and various locations within California.
Internationally, I’ve traveled back to Mexico City and Spain. In Spain I conducted workshops focused on teaching American audition processes to Spanish actors.
With modern technology, much of my casting can be done remotely (while I am based in LA) through taped submissions and recording from Skype.
What does a typical day/week/month/year look like for you? Tell us some of the realities of your job.
At any given time I could be casting a television pilot, a television series, a studio feature, an independent feature and a student film. Needless to say, every day looks different and each week brings about new challenges. Like most other artists, a challenge can be not knowing what my next job will be – whether it will be something I am passionate about from an artistic standpoint or if it’s something that is purely a “job.”
How often and where do you see new talent?
I receive no less than 50 email inquiries from actors on a daily basis (add to that Facebook and other social media, and that number multiplies). This, however, might not be the best way to reach me simply due to the sheer volume of unsolicited submissions. I try to watch as many as I can but it’s not always possible.
In my spare time, I try to watch everything that I can – US programming and foreign television and films. If I see emerging talent within these productions who might work for another project of mine, I will find a way to make sure I can read them.
Occasionally, I will take general meetings upon the advice of agents, mangers and other trusted industry professionals.
How many new actors – or new to you at least – do you see in a given month?
All the time. Every time we conduct auditions I will see someone I have not seen before. The amount of new actors varies based on the volume of projects I’m casting at a given time.
What advice can you give to actors about working on the large scale productions you work on?
It should go without saying, but be professional. You have to arrive on time, and be ready to go. Due to the urgencies of production there often isn’t time for a performer to get into character or apply some other process. Be ready to go!
What can actors do to make an incredible self-tape?
Have a good reading partner (not on camera!) and who is not too loud. Have good lighting, good sound and good framing. Sorry Apple, but iPhone auditions don’t come out well…
Keep it simple - no props, no locations. Shoot the tape as if you are in a casting room.
Do you have any do’s or don’ts for an actual casting? Worst case casting and best case casting scenarios?
You need to be prepared. Come in in character and be prepared. It’s fair to ask questions if you have them but leave the esoteric questions at the door. The scene should be enough for the actor to figure out his or her motivation.
Also, be honest – if you say you can speak Spanish you must be able to speak Spanish.
Know who you’re going in to read for – know what those people have worked on. It’s the same preparation that I do when I meet someone for the first time in a professional setting.
People who can nail it on their first or second try are often the actors who get the jobs.
Coco, what were the challenges on this one? Was this your first animation?
Regrettably, I can’t get into specifics regarding this project. I can say that I absolutely LOVED the film.
I worked on Despicable Me 2 for Universal.
How does live action and animation casting differ for you?
When it’s voice, the physical components of expression go out the window. The performer’s mannerisms and eye contact become far less important. When people read for VO projects, I often will close my eyes so that I can focus on the sound of the voice and not be distracted by anything else.
Does the look of the actor make a difference to casting in regards to animated films? Often voice actors and actresses look like their character
For me, the look never matters.
What kind of projects are you looking to work on in the future?
Anything that I am passionate about. I have no bias for or against any medium – linear television, streaming services, feature films – if the material is good, then I want to be involved.