‘When They See Us’ Casting Director Aisha Coley’s Audition Advice


“The thing is to really know your craft and to be able to own it when you audition.” – Casting Director Aisha Coley

Aisha Coley recently won an Emmy Award for casting When They See Us, the Netflix miniseries about the Central Park Five. In a conversation with Awards Daily prior to winning the Emmy, Coley spoke about her experience casting the series and provided some background on how some of the key actors landed their parts.

Coley mentions that in order to find the right actors for the roles, it required extensive research into the backgrounds of the real-life individuals they would be portraying. She explains, “The first thing we started with was research. We researched the five young men to get an idea of them. People knew about the case but didn’t know them intimately – who they were, how they spoke, how they moved. Then, we started looking for the kids. We cast a wide net to really just bring together some good kids for the younger roles. After that, we started narrowing it down based on looks and so forth.”

As an example, Coley points to Jharrel Jerome, who portrays Korey Wise. Regarding his casting, Coley reveals, “He auditioned earlier on, but he was working on something that required him to have a beard at the time. He did a really good reading, but Ava really needed to see him without the beard because he was auditioning for young Korey. We waited, and his manager really stayed on it. She really gets a lot of credit here and really made sure he stayed on our radar. When he could shave the beard, he read for Ava in New York. When she saw him in the room, she realized maybe he could do both parts. He read both parts at the time. She sent me the tape, and he was amazing. He’s so talented and has a special quality that you see when he reads.”

When providing advice on how to best audition, Coley uses the example of Asante Blackk, who portrays the young Kevin Richardson in the miniseries. She says, “The thing is to really know your craft and to be able to own it when you audition. When you go into auditions, each one is important. It’s important to show your best each time you walk in the room. Even if you don’t get this job, you may be under consideration for something else. Casting directors may remember you and bring you back for something else. Asante Blackk we read for another project before this one, and we remembered him for this. It’s just really important to make a great impression as well as keep studying and knowing your craft.”

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