Casting Director David Rubin: “The most important thing for an actor to bring to the table is themselves”

“And so many actors get preoccupied with what they think the filmmaker is looking for. And, frankly, what we’re looking for is them.” – Casting Director David Rubin

Casting Director David Rubin has had a 40-plus year career in entertainment, dating back to working as a production assistant in the early years of Saturday Night Live. As a casting director, he has received won Emmy (for casting the HBO movie Game Change), and has worked on blockbuster films like Gravity and popular television series like Wayward Pines. In a short conversation with PBS, he offers tips to actors on casting and explains what he’s doing to help promote diversity in the industry.

Rubin says that actors shouldn’t try to project what they think the director wants — they should just display what they could bring to the role. He says, “The most important thing for an actor to bring to the table is themselves, their own idiosyncrasy. And so many actors get preoccupied with what they think the filmmaker is looking for. And, frankly, what we’re looking for is them.”

In fact, Rubin explains that sometimes “botched” auditions are the best way to see how an actor connects with a character, adding, “There are some times when an actor comes in, and they give what they think is a botched audition, they go off on their lines, something goes wrong in the scene. And often those are the most illuminating auditions to me, those kind of organic moments where an actor connects with a character, even though they may not even realize that they are doing it.”

Because diversity is such an important issue in casting these days, Rubin points out that he approaches casting looking at how roles can create opportunities. He explains, “When you read in a script ‘doctor 40s,’ the temptation on the part of the filmmaker might be just to assume that it was a white male in their 40s or 50s. Why couldn’t it be an Asian person in their 30s? Why couldn’t it be a little person? Why couldn’t it be a Latino? Gender diversity, racial diversity, all of those things come into play in a conversation with a filmmaker when you are bringing in different approaches to a particular character.”

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