Variety released their new episodes for "Actors on Actors", an intimate and entertaining series where actors interview one another.
In this episode featuring two my favorites in the industry (I promise this article won't be biased), Mindy Kaling (Ocean's 8, The Mindy Project, Late Night) and Constance Wu (Fresh Off The Boat, Crazy Rich Asians, Hustlers) discussed a variety of topics including their experiences of being on set, how they prepare for roles, the art of creating and evoking the right emotions when it's time to showcase their acting chops.
But, what stood out the most was when both shared the process when it came to casting roles for "Crazy Rich Asians" and Mindy's series "Never Have I Ever". Instead of being offered names from big time agencies, both teams went the digital route instead, looking for their cast using social media and the internet.
Wu said, “When I did ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and they were looking for actors, it was crazy how many people said,
‘Well, there are no Asian actors.’ What they really meant is like, ‘Oh, there aren’t a lot of Asian-American actors who are represented by the top three agencies and have a huge resume,'”
Wu went on to say, “What Jon Chu, our director, did was he opened it up. He had people send in auditions via YouTube and he watched every single one.”
Kaling casted up and coming actress Maitreyi Ramakrishnan for her new Netflix series “Never Have I Ever" by putting out a social media ad asking actors who were interested to submit their reel. Kaling was searching for a more youthful "with the times" actor after turning away famous stars from Bollywood.
“I decided that the pool was too small for the people we were seeing from the top four or five agencies,"
"just posted on Twitter and Instagram, with the help of Netflix and Universal who were paying for the show, ‘Hey! If you are an Indian-American girl from 15-22,’ and for the mom and older cousin, ‘please write to this email.’ So we found this young 17-year-old girl from Toronto, no acting experience, and she’s the star of my new show.”
Why is this important? Because it sets up a new system for the industry that will improve an outdated one.
Typically, casting for roles are sent out like an ad to various agencies while some are occasionally listed on acting job websites, the minimum when it comes to spreading the word, digitally. With Kaling and Chu's smart approach, the hunt for their next star utilizing the digital space makes the most sense since we do live in a digital era.
Recycling actors from the same agencies can become redundant when there is so much undiscovered talent in the world who don't have the finances or aren't given the opportunity to work with an agency. Not to mention, working with an agency may take some time to filter out the ones you want, it's a bit of a process, while accessing these auditions at the click of a button cuts the time down tremendously. The world is a huge place, and a good portion of humanity is in social media to some capacity, imagine the diamond in the rough you can potentially find?
There's a pattern here -- what executives in the industry don't seem to understand is the human connection and how that correlates to box office or ratings success. The more tangible and realistic a film or a show is, not just via their storyline or visual affects, but the entire project as a whole, the more audiences will gravitate towards it and more opt to spend their money buying a ticket or spending an hour of their day to watch it. By choosing this route when searching for your cast, there's a special connection to the film or show. The result? Kaling and Chu's method spread like wildfire, ,which social media has the power to do.
These sort of changes are so needed in the industry and instead of fighting it, we need to grow with it. This also circles back to much needed inclusion in the workspace in front and behind the scenes, acknowledging more people of color at distinguished awards shows, as well as giving more women just due across the board.