“I have a love of the weirdos and I love a real face and a real grounded performance in drama or comedy. I’m best at the oddballs and filling in the world with people that feel real.” – Casting Director Josh Einsohn
The NBC drama This Is Us, which will soon be entering its sixth and final season, has become an award-winning series and acclaimed for its generation-spanning storytelling. Part of the success of the series can be credited to the significant efforts of the casting team. Casting Director Josh Einsohn, CSA, who joined the series after the pilot had been shot, has been responsible for putting together the show’s stellar cast. He spoke with Below the Line about the challenges of casting the series — particularly because creator Dan Fogelman is so secretive about the production!
When it comes to casting an ongoing series, Einsohn remarks that he gets enjoyment out of the world-building of adding new faces to the series — particularly the “oddballs.” However, he uses the example of Justin Hartley, who portrays actor Kevin Pearson to demonstrate the importance of the actors feeling “real” in their roles. He explains “I have a love of the weirdos and I love a real face and a real grounded performance in drama or comedy. I’m best at the oddballs and filling in the world with people that feel real. What I love about casting episodic shows is you continue to fill the world and the audience develops a feel for the world and continue to have that world feel real so nobody sticks out as not feeling real for the show. I love doing that… My thing is to find people that are appealing that you want to watch but that feel real. Of course, you’re putting together TV stars but Justin [Hartley] playing Kevin as a TV star still feels like a real human being because of what he brings to the character. It’s so important that everybody has those deep third dimensions that they can tap into. I need actors who are 100% engaged in their characters.”
This Is Us is famous for its secretive plotlines, and having multiple actors plays characters across different decades. The top-secret nature of the production does make casting challenging, and Einsohn says that often he has to be sly in order to get the right actor for the role to agree to join the series. He explains:
“Some of the roles on the show we can’t release on the breakdown because the show is such a secret. Some we know what it is and we just throw the net wide and see what comes back. When it comes to the lookalikes that’s just very much Ryan Tymensky who’s been an Associate [Casting Director] on the show and has an amazing eye for that so he’s the first filter to help with the matching and then it comes to auditioning people to see who has not just the same look but the same energy and the same sort of vocal style so it feels like when you cut from one to the other you really are seeing an older and younger version of somebody. For some of these roles, I’ve had to call the agents and say, ‘Where can I make an offer? I can’t tell you what it is. Trust me, they’re gonna be really happy if they accept it.’ If they’re interested I can put them on the phone with Dan Fogelman but I don’t tell them what the role is! It’s a very strange way to go about business.”