“For a casting director, that’s your—the actor that you have loved for decades getting their shot, and then not only taking it, but killing it, as Sterling does each and every week.” – Tiffany Little Canfield
This Is Us is one of the most acclaimed shows of the 2016-2017 television season, and much of that has to do with the casting, which combines familiar names with fresh faces. Casting Director Tiffany Little Canfield spoke to Deadline about her work on the series, specifically addressing the casting of Sterling K. Brown and Chrissy Metz on the series — two actors who might seem like relatively new faces, but have actually more experience than many viewers realize.
While many might wonder why it has taken so long for Brown to breakthrough as an actor, Canfield points out that he’s been around for years — just not in nationally visible roles. She explains, “I think it’s the dream, because we all have known Sterling in New York, because he was a theater actor forever—since he graduated school. He’s always been a tremendous actor. That’s the thing—it’s not like his talent has just come into play. He has always been a special actor, but I think that just this art form, it’s a game of timing. It’s a game of being recognized, getting the opportunity to be recognized. He was one of those lucky New York actors who booked a television series early on, but that did sort of take him out of New York and Los Angeles, because he was down in the South shooting Army Wives for so many years. I think that him being freed up from that show ending, and him now being back in play…And also, I have to be honest—the part in Whiskey Tango Foxtrot was not a big part. John and Glenn and I and Bernie had to really argue to say we really want to bring this actor from New York to play it.”
Of course, Canfield has been happy to see Brown finally receive mainstream success as an actor. She says, “For a casting director, that’s your—the actor that you have loved for decades getting their shot, and then not only taking it, but killing it, as Sterling does each and every week. It just is why we’re in the business, I think.”
Canfield also talks about casting Kate (played by Chrissy Metz), saying that the character’s size didn’t make casting her any more difficult that usual. She says, “I think that when I get a role like this, that has one of these physical types, I think this is America, and there are going to be actors who are waiting for this moment. They are ready and waiting, and this is them. We also did Hairspray on Broadway, and that was certainly a role that…You didn’t see, when we had open calls, lines of people who were upset, or embarrassed, or uncomfortable with their weight. You saw people who were beaming with joy and excitement to get the chance to perform, and do what they do. I felt similarly in this. It was really fantastic. I think there were certainly some actors who are heavyset who read it and thought, ‘I don’t want to play this part, because I don’t want to play a part that the weight issue is a big part of it.’ And I totally understand that. But I would say most actors that we reached out to to audition were very excited to come in for it, because the role of Kate is not just about her weight. She’s a sister, a daughter, a lover. She’s really a multi-faceted character.”