"I need the actor as much as the actor needs me…I am only as good as the actor is." You may be surprised to hear it, but these are the words of one of New York City's top casting directors, Mele Nagler. Together with her casting partner, David Caparelliotis, Mele founded MelCap Casting whose tv/film credits include the CW's Gossip Girl, AMC's Rubicon, Showtime's Brotherhood, Edward Zwick's Love and Other Drugs (starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway) and the upcoming Stephen Daldry film, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (starring Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock), while their Broadway credits include The House of Blue Leaves, Good People, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, and Fences.
When I talked with Mele for our Artists In Action Guest Interview Series, she made it abundantly clear that the relationship between a casting director and an actor is not a one-way street. It may sound obvious once you hear it, but it can't be overstated -- a casting director's reputation and success is dependent upon the actors they cast. They want you to succeed. Why is this simple idea so important? Because I can't tell you how many times I've sat across from actors who were either scared to death of casting directors, or were just plain resentful of them. The general consensus seems to be that casting directors are these super-terrestrial beings who wield untold power over all the actors in the land. They're the enemy, predisposed to hate you like a never-satisfied Simon Cowell.
As Mele explains, this couldn't be further from the truth, and actors needs to understand this if they want to be successful in the casting room, because casting directors can spot a negative attitude the moment it walks in their door. Think of a casting session as if it were a job interview -- you want to present the best possible version of yourself that you can, and if you go into it feeling intimidated or bitter, that's going to taint your impression, no matter how talented you are. If you can look at casting sessions as opportunities to grow relationships, you'll be able to see casting directors as people who can help you rather than people who are out to get you. Trust me, as someone who's been on the other side of the table, I can tell you that a positive attitude goes a long way. Even if you're not right for the part you're auditioning for, you're far more likely to remain on a casting director's radar if you made a good personal impression. As Mele said: "You leave behind a wake; your behavior gets noticed."
A final word of advice from Mele: "There's all sorts of stuff that happens in that room…and I know it's disappointing when you don't get something you really want…But the thing that you need to remember, and that will aid you in getting up and going back into the room for that next job, is knowing that there are certain things that are just outside of your control. Decide what is IN your control and be really good at that."