To say that the casting process is fair would be to assume that every actor walking the streets of LA or NY actually makes a living as an actor and not as a barista at Starbucks.
Some of the top commercial casting houses; House, Melsky, MILK, and Telsey all have been feeling some heat from their clients wanting to save money casting non-union actors as opposed to having to pay day rates on unionized talent. While many have rejected to do so, this is a serious concern for both parties. Major commercial agencies like Abrams Artists, DBA, CESD, to name a few, need to supply these casting directors with their requests in order to place a talent on a specific job.
Type casting becomes the second move for placing an actor on a network spot. While casting assists their client, the producers of the commercial, the client usually is very specific with who they are interested in casting. Casting has been known to look at over 100 actors for one spot, all fitting the breakdown descriptions. If you are an actor and going through this process, do not be surprised when you see three actors next to you that could be your biological twin.
TMZ.com recently ran a story about the Acura Super-Bowl Commercial, in particular about the actor who was cast to play beside Jerry Seinfeld. TMZ is a celebrity news program. TMZ’s concern was not with the actor’s performance but with the breakdown that casting supplied to the agencies when casting his role. To be more specific the breakdown said “Nice looking, friendly, not too dark African American.” The uproar that TMZ is trying to create is that Acura’s ideal African American would need to be a lighter shade of dark, which in their mind opens up the idea of racism.
Acura never stated that this light African American was their ideal perception of an African American. Take for instance a recent AT&T commercial that cast overweight men to play basketball; is this AT&T’s ideal athlete? The claim is making an assumption that is not supported by facts.
Harry Allen was cast in the online commercial for Acura’s new line. Harry is of Asian decent and when is sent in for breakdowns, the casting notice clearly states “Seeking Asian-American.” To say that casting is not racially bias is not the question, casting by definition is stereotyping. The breakdowns literally put out a call for a “type.” While TMZ is a credible and successful celebrity news program it seems that it is missing the larger picture of the casting process.
Written by Jesse Murphy