Featuring dozens of characters from the colorful world of Batman comics, Gotham is a series that features many actors who might not normally be cast in prime time network television series. The “dynamic duo” behind the cast of the series is Sherry Thomas and Gohar Gazazyan. In the “Asking a Casting Director” feature on Observer.com, the two casting directors for the series discuss the hiring decisions that have helped make the series a popular favorite.
While Gazazyan says every television series has its own requirements, Gotham is a particularly unique series. He explains, “Every show is different in terms of tone and aesthetic, and Gotham is very much a unique world. We keep that in mind. We’re always looking for interesting faces that make sense in that slightly heightened world.”
Thomas points to Robin Lord Taylor, who plays the Penguin on the series as an example of an “interesting face” that fit in with Gotham. The duo actually was looking for the right role for Taylor for several years. She says, “We met Robin years prior, he was living in New York and he read quite frequently for us when a role came up that was right, and we had hired him previously as well.”
In fact, the duo almost cast Taylor in Breaking Bad, but when they didn’t they kept him in mind for their other projects. Thomas continues, “On Breaking Bad, it was down to Robin and Jesse [Plemons] for creepy Todd, and for a variety of reasons Jesse was just a little more right for the part. But then we hired Robin on The Walking Dead. So when we went to meet with [Gotham creator] Bruno Heller about the idea of Gotham, we said ‘We’ve got your Penguin. You don’t know who he is, but you will, and he’s perfect.’ The moment that we had material for actors to audition with, we had Robin go on tape in New York. He went through the entire process, winning the role opposite some other actors who were all fantastic, but Robin was just so right. As you can see now, it was just perfect casting.”
Though Gotham primarily shoots in New York, both Thomas and Gazazyan say that they don’t only cast New York-based actors. Thomas points out, “I think casting is casting. It doesn’t make a difference to us as long as long as it’s the best actor. If there is an actor in Arkansas we think fits, we’re going track him down.” Gazazyan adds, “Casting, due to technology, has really become more global. In terms of casting, we’re really looking everywhere. The ability for actors to quickly self-tape and send that to us, all those technological advancements have facilitated that. We know of actors all over the place. And it happens all the time, like Robin Lord Taylor all the way in New York sending an audition to us in L.A.”
So what exactly is the pair looking for when they cast a series? Thomas focuses on actors who can elevate material. She says, “We look for somebody who can elevate the material, which is very important when you’re looking at so many actors for a specific role. Particularly in pilot season. There are times when we see hundreds of actors for one role. It’s quite often the people who get down to the wire are the ones who can elevate the material in a way nobody else has. In the audition room there is an ‘it’ factor that is indefinable, the quality that makes you say ‘that’s the person.’ For example, Camren Bicondova in the role of Selina Kyle.”