Observer.com has begun an “Asking a Casting Director” feature that interviews the top casting directors working in the industry today. In this interview, Mark Saks, the casting director for the drama The Good Wife, speaks about what he looks for in actors he casts for the show and mistakes he frequently sees at auditions, especially those made by young actors.
Saks explains that he often seeks theater actors for roles on The Good Wife because of the nature of the show. He says, “I like to say the show is all about vocabulary, all about the words. This show takes place in courtrooms, and offices, and conference rooms. It’s mostly an interior show. It does not rely upon action, it does not use car chases, it does not rely on exterior walk-and-talks. It’s inside someone’s room, where the curtain is pulled back and you see those conversations. So, I always like to, obviously, use a lot of people from the theater. Luckily we’re in New York, New York and London being the theater capitals of the world, and we have a surplus of actors available from the theater. Actors from the theater tend to be proficient with words, and really understand vocabulary. The Good Wife isn’t a show that is very physical in any way. It’s always about the words. We tell little stories with those words.”
Because of that, Saks is always on the lookout for talent working the New York theater scene. He reveals, “I’m constantly making lists, constantly finding actors who are in New York doing a play or just passing through. It’s an ongoing process, it never really stops. I’m always meeting new actors.”
In terms of advice that he can give to actors, Saks talks about the mistakes that he often sees at auditions. “Lack of preparation. If they are not prepared adequately for the audition. Actors who want to be on the show but don’t watch the show. Actors who don’t know who the series regulars are, or the characters they play.”
He specifically focuses on mistakes made by young actors, continuing, “This really applies mostly to younger people, where they’re just not used to doing it a lot. They may come out of a BFA program or an MFA program, and they’re just not ready for the real world yet. They need a little bit of conditioning school, if you will. It’s those people that don’t go the extra mile to get the material down; not so much having it memorized, but just making bold choices, or at least understanding the circumstances of the scene.”