“Sometimes on Billions, there will be actors that we cast in one episode in Season 1, and it turns out in Season 3 that they’re the main protagonist. It’s happened!” – Casting Director Allison Estrin
Casting Director Allison Estrin was one of several casting directors to work on the Netflix miniseries Inventing Anna, which is based on the real-life “fake heiress” story about a New York City who conned her way into the social lives of the rich and famous. In an interview with Below the Line, Estrin speaks about casting Julia Garner in the lead role and how casting a miniseries is different from an ongoing series.
Estrin credits her fellow casting director on the series, Linda Lowy, for landing the series’ star,Garner. She reveals, “Linda Lowy was really instrumental in casting Julia. She really had her eye on wanting Julia for this role, definitely by the time I came on. There were some questions because of the Ozark schedule whether that was going to be able to happen, so we did end up doing auditions and seeing a lot of different women read the role, which was extremely fascinating and always interesting to see the different takes on it. But they were able to work it out with Julia, and when that happened in LA, Linda called us ecstatic. Julia had gone in and met with Shonda, and she just called us and said, ‘wait until you hear the accent. You’re going to die.’ At the first table read, the first moment that she opened her mouth, everyone was just silent. ‘Oh, this is going to work. Okay, this is very exciting.’”
While Lowry might have been the one to make the casting happen, Estrin was confident that Garner was the right choice for the role. She explains, “Julia was an actress I’ve known since she was 15 or 16 years old, [back] when she first started, because she started here in New York. She’s been someone that I’ve been auditioning for years, and she’s always just the most interesting. She comes in, and the camera has always been absolutely obsessed with her. She’s so incredibly intelligent and thoughtful, and, from such a young age, has known exactly the way that she wanted to have a career. That’s something that’s really admirable for someone so young. She was always someone I remembered and thought of for different things over the years.”
Estrin was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Casting for a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie for Inventing Anna and has mostly worked in film and limited series. However, she also has been responsible for casting an ongoing series, Billions. She speaks about what is different about casting an ongoing series:
“I would say that the biggest difference is that, with this especially, we knew how it was going to end. I have the full picture; I know when we introduce a character at one point what their entire arc is going to be, and if they’re incredibly important.
“Sometimes on Billions, there will be actors that we cast in one episode in Season 1, and it turns out in Season 3 that they’re the main protagonist. It’s happened! That can end up being the trickier part of the long-running series. Both are incredibly fulfilling, just different. To me, that means that, no matter what, you always have to cast the best possible actors for every single role, because they can always come back in any possible way.
“I do find the limited series, because I come from the film world originally, to be very exciting, since it’s similar to that, just in a longer form with a lot more characters and a lot more roles. That feels much more similar to a film, whereas there’s nothing else quite like a long-running TV show.”