‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Casting Director Cindy Tolan on Finding Actors and What She Wants You to Know Before Auditioning

Casting Director Cindy Tolan shares something that she hopes more actors know: not being cast doesn't mean that you did something wrong.

“Approach the audition as an opportunity to do work instead of getting a job” – Casting Director Cindy Tolan

Casting Director Cindy Tolan won an Emmy Award for her work on Amazon Prime’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and it was well-deserved considering how on point the series’ casting has been. Because it is such a particular show — there are very few historical comedies on television — casting the series comes with numerous challenges. Tolan spoke with Awards Daily about her work on the series and shares what she thinks every actor should know about the casting process.

Tolan speaks about working with The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel series creator and Executive Producer Amy Sherman-Palladino and Executive Producer Daniel Palladino and what they look for in talent. She explains, “With Amy and Dan, it’s great because they are such theater animals. They understand theatrical actors, so I always usually look to theater for their style in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It’s fast, it’s funny, it’s real, but it’s rooted in reality and truth. It has to move very fast.”

Regarding that theatrical background, Tolan points out that musical theater actors are a very good fit on the show. She says, “You have to have technique and you have to have language skills. A lot of people who are in musicals can do Mrs. Maisel really well. Not everybody, but oftentimes a great many of them.”

Ultimately, with a casting director as experienced as Tolan is, she often can tell who is right for a part by her instincts. She reveals, “When I, as a casting director, feel like I have that one person, it feels like it calms me down about being able to rise to the challenge, you know? … It feels like I have this person and this idea and I know what qualities I’m looking for to cast it.”

Part of the casting process for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel involves preparing talent for the show’s unique pacing, which is something that Tolan and her team has to work with an actor to develop. She explains, “When we are in auditions, everyone comes in, they try it their way first. If they need an adjustment, we give it to them and oftentimes it’s the pacing of it. It’s a nice way to see if the actor can pick it up and not stumble over their words. That’s why I say it’s all about language skills because it’s so deceptive. It doesn’t need to just be fast. You need to be able to hit what you are saying and understand it in order to land the joke… They have to be articulate. You can’t be mealy mouthed in any way.”

Tolan recognizes that it isn’t something that every actor can do naturally, and some have learned how to it from their training. She continues, “It’s a technique and it’s developed. You can’t just do it. It’s enunciation, and it’s something that actors are trained for. There are those actors who can just do it, though.”

At the end of the interview, Tolan shares something that she hopes more actors know before auditioning: not being cast doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. She shares:

“I always say this—and actors never believe me—there are so many things out of your control that determines if you have the job or not. So many things that you couldn’t do better. Even if it was the best audition of your life and you do it so well. Acknowledge that you had a great audition and then walk away. Approach the audition as an opportunity to do work instead of getting a job. … Try to have an artistic moment with another artist—in this case a casting director. If you’re going to come into my office and you have an opportunity to do some work. You are going to get an adjustment. The thing is we want to cast the role as quickly as you want to book the role. It only behooves me to make adjustments so we can do it together.”

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