Casting Director Bonnie Timmermann on Trusting Your Instincts

Actress Meryl Streep

“No one wants to be rejected. But if people reject you then that means it’s not the right fit for you” – Casting Director Bonnie Timmermann

Casting Director/Producer Bonnie Timmermann can count Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Glenn Close, Bruce Willis, and dozens of other huge names as clients she has once helped to extraordinary roles. In an interview with Forbes, Timmermann spoke about what she looks for in talent — and how she put herself on the line to represent actors who went on to have tremendously successful careers.

Timmermann reveals that she tries to see beneath what the actor presents. She explains, “As a casting director, if I’m going to put my camera on you, I’m going to look to see what is inside the person as opposed to the physical. The camera reads what we go through in our lives. And I hope that I am like a camera, that I can read the interior.”

Like many casting directors Timmermann has a long experience in the industry. She elaborates on what brought her to this point — and reveals how she has grown as a casting director alongside the talent she has scouted. She says:

“Do what is in your heart. If you don’t ask you don’t receive. You need to get out and try. It doesn’t matter what the result is. The most important thing is that you tried.

Know that you can create the life you want. When I was a kid I was a musician. I wasn’t that good, so I wanted to do something else. By luck, I got a job casting at the Phoenix Theater. There was very little money!  However, several plays that I cast were televised. Five years later the actors in them became big stars, including Meryl Streep and Glenn Close. When I worked in the theater I also cast Buried Child, Sam Shepard’s first play, which won the Pulitzer Prize. From my work in theater directors and producers, including Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Mann, approached me about casting films.

Trust your instincts. When I cast radio plays for the BBC and National Public Radio. I went to the theater, closed my eyes and listened to the voices. Working in radio and theater prepared me for film and television. When I cast for television, I didn’t want to use the same people that you often see on TV. We have many qualities to us. Some of us don’t have good skin. Some of us are heavy. Some are skinny. I love people who have unique faces and think differently. I look for that. I don’t just look for just the standard I-am-beautiful kind of person. I look for character inside and out. It’s not about what we look like on the outside. It’s what we project.

Dive into what you want. I’m not afraid of drowning or what the result will be. I never worry about it in the beginning. I just jump into the pool. And I don’t swim. Of course, it’s terrifying to be rejected. No one wants to be rejected. But if people reject you then that means it’s not the right fit for you.

1 Comment

  1. DJ Holte

    March 7, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    This is very true. My best auditions were ones where I did what my gut was telling me to do (within the confines of the script, of course). But it also takes a good amount of training in order to 1) have the tools and honed skills to be able to transform your instincts into a believable performance, and 2) have the confidence to just “relax” into the character completely. I occasionally come across very new, mostly untrained actors who have an amazing ability to go with their instincts, and those same actors have occasionally been able to nail a scene just flying by the seat of their pants — but without training (or a great deal of experience), those folks will generally run up against a wall at some point and the cracks will begin to show. And the thing is, I didn’t know this myself until I had studied the craft for a number of years — it was only then that I realized that prior to that point, I was like someone trying to paint an abstract painting without first having learned basic art techniques. Studying gave me the ability to be more free to “play”.

Leave a Reply
‘Call Me By Your Name’ Star Timothée Chalamet: “What scares me is being boring”
"At a certain point I was able to come to grips with the idea to just 'be.'" - Timothée Chalamet
‘Phantom Thread’ Star Lesley Manville: “It’s so easy to make someone bad look good on film. In theatre, there’s no hiding place”
"Filming is different. You’re getting a moment right. You can go in and create something very good, very quickly. That’s a different challenge to having five, six weeks to rehearse a play.” - Lesley Manville
Chadwick Boseman on ‘Black Panther’ and How He Refocused His Career
"As soon as I came to L.A., things immediately shifted for me." - Chadwick Boseman
Bernadette Peters on Returning to Broadway and Why She is Still Trying to Improve Her Craft
"You have to do your best to fulfill the role, not fulfill yourself" - Bernadette Peters
Ellen Pompeo: “Acting, to me, is boring”
"Anybody can be good on a show season one and two. Can you be good 14 years later? Now, that's a f*ckin' skill." - Ellen Pompeo