Casting Based on What Characters Do & How They Do It

Thanks to several area theaters offering ridiculously good deals for students, I started regularly attending theaters in the 1980s. Almost from the get-go, I was exposed to what is generally termed “non-traditional casting,” including a production of Macbeth with a cast that included actors who, at the time, I would not have instantly guessed as “Scottish.” Any preconceived notions I might have had of what the Scottish characters “ought to look like” were retired by the curtain call. The production was full of energy and all the actors brought their ‘A’ game. Franchelle Stewart Dorn, for example, will always be a definitive Lady Macbeth. She was that character based on what she did and how she did it.

Now multiply that by every single show I’ve ever seen with “non-traditional casting.”

Why am I mentioning this? Well, for one thing, from running auditions in the DC-Baltimore area for 15 years, I continually found myself needing to remind filmmakers that very skilled and enormously appropriate actors were available for their production if they focused on what the characters needed to do and how they needed to do it. And so few stories these people were telling demanded the characters be a certain age, ethnicity, or even gender.

In fact, I’ve found an overwhelming amount of great stories that don’t have those restrictions. Just tell the story with the best people you can find.

For a second thing, people in general still need to get this memo, and the author of the Percy Jackson novels evidently needed to give people a version of this memo, because, yes you guessed it: some folks are up in arms that a character is going to be played by an actor who isn’t who they pictured. I appreciate his call to stop the bull and remind people where the buck stops. Hopefully, a few more people will become more open about who could be a Greek demigod.

After all, growing up, I never imagined The Doctor from Doctor Who being Scottish… and we’re about to have our third Scot in the role. I’ll let you guess why I thought of that.

Welcome, Number Fourteen

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