I had a chance to sit down with our rockstar casting director, Wendy O’Brien, who told us a little about the casting process on Sons. This is the lady responsible for finding our Jax, Clay, Tara, Tig, Bobby, Opie, Chibs, Piney, and Juice. Not to mention the long, loong list of talented guest cast this season, as well as in Seasons 1 and 2. So, yeah, you can say she’s kind of a big deal around here. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Wendy, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. Can you tell our fans, in a nutshell, what the casting process on Sons of Anarchy is like?
Unless we get an early heads-up on characters the general process goes like this: we get the script and see what new characters are written in. We have a conference call with the Writer, Director and Producer to talk about the new roles and any specifics that may not be obvious on the page. We put out a breakdown to the acting community and actors and their reps submit. SOA has such specific vision and feel that, more often than not, the submitted actors just aren’t quite right so we go in to our own vault of great actors we know. Then we hold a session or send demo reels for those not able to come in. We narrow down the field to a couple of choices and show them to Kurt who makes the ultimate choice which is blessed by FX.
2. How is this season different than Seasons 1 and 2?
This season has been a lot more challenging for us. We have had so many roles with accents needing to sound authentic and blend together as a believable unit. We also have needed to hire incredible actors that are willing to commit to us for basically the entire season as only guest stars and not get paid a lot of money. Kurt set the tone from the beginning of not using familiar or distracting faces, so that bar was raised to find excellent actors yet ones who have not yet been over exposed.
3. Hal Holbrook was such an interesting and brilliant choice to play Gemma’s father. How did we go about casting him?
Kurt had sent me an email back in early February with a heads up of some of the roles that we would be looking for this season and a few ideas he had for them one being Hal. I had just tried to get Hal on another show I was working on, but it didn’t work out, so I thought we could have a shot at him. His agent also reps Maggie and Dayton on the show so he was a fan and was very supportive of Hal saying yes to us.
4. There are a few veterans from “Deadwood” on the show this season, (Titus Welliver, Paula Malcomson, Robin Weigert) not to mention the infamous Dayton Callie. Was that just a complete coincidence, or did anyone have any influence with that?
Dayton just came in and was the man for the job back on the pilot. Regina Corrado, our co-Producer, worked on Deadwood so she had great relationships with Paula and Robin and knew how great they would be for new roles they were coming up with in the writers room.
5. We’ve cast a ton of actors from the UK. James Cosmo, Arie Verveen, How is it different working with them versus American actors.
In general the UK actors come in very prepared and very unaffected by the industry. They have a great sense of the work and bigger picture and how they fit into it. James Cosmo is one of those incredibly special people who is humble and gracious yet superbly talented. The American audience won’t know him, yet he has an impressive body of work behind him. He is one of my favorites. A Santa Claus you want to hug but he can slit your throat.
Now, for some questions from our fans on Twitter:
6. @abarnabas would like to know, “how did Ryan, Boone, Tommy and Kim get picked for the parts? What were their auditions like?”
They all came in and auditioned for the pilot and their auditions were all outstanding, hence they got the role.
7. From @bobsparacosm: “is ability to ride the first thing on the casting sheet?” Combined with a question from @justalady89 “I’d like to know if there’s specifics looked for first – like have they been around bikers, do they know how to ride, etc”
Nope, being a great actor is always first. You can teach someone how to ride easier than to teach them how to act. We do ask however, of the actors who come in, who can ride. Fortunately some of our amazing guest cast like Michael Beach and Jose Pablo Cantillo already had their licenses.
8. @venomousvaldez asks, “I could never imagine anyone else in the roles casted. What is her recipe for finding the perfect fit 2 the characters on page?”
I wish I had a recipe. The biggest thing is to be on the same page as to what the director and/or Producer has as their vision for the role. Sometimes you can shake it up and try something out of the box, but sometimes you need to find that specific thing that they are looking for. Sometimes you know in your bones who the perfect person is but that isn’t always the one who is chosen. Casting is extremely subjective.
We hope you got a little insight of what goes on in the casting room and how we were able to score such an awesome cast. Thanks, Wendy. You rock.
Next week, I’ll have a very exclusive interview for you guys with the one and only, STEPHEN KING!