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Casting for the ER


Producing eight medical dramas for the Clark College Cultural Competence training course was a great project. One of the biggest challenges was casting, because we were looking for experienced actors from so many different ethnic backgrounds. A “Ukrainian Male” in his forties or fifties, an “Overweight Hispanic Male” in the eighteen-to-twenty range, and a “Pregnant Vietnamese Woman” aged nineteen to twenty-five, accompanied by her “Fifty-something Vietnamese Grandmother” – to name just a few roles we needed to cast. It was indeed a challenge!

Cast for teenager fluent in American Sign Language

By using a combination of Craigslist, sending casting calls to college drama departments, and Southwest Washington Medical Center – along with calls to local casting agencies – we were eventually able to fill the more than 20 required roles.

We held our casting sessions over three full days, with a few of the hardest parts being filled at the last minute. Everyone who came in for a reading was given a script in advance, and they arrived in twenty-minute intervals. We saw real doctors and nurses offering to play a version of themselves, some with acting experience, and people who were merely interested in acting, but had never worked professionally as an actor before.

Casting is always an interesting process… seeing the different approaches people bring to a role, the different ways the same line can be delivered. I like to let people bring what they see during the first read, without too much direction or explanation. Then I like to see how they can take adjustments… an adjustment, in director-speak, is a peace of information which will inform a performance and produce a different take. Imagine, for example, that you’re hiding a stutter, or you desperately need to use the bathroom, or that you’re attracted to another character. These all have an impact on delivery, and can result in vastly different – and sometimes amusing – takes. A line that an actor is delivering in a way that seems too slow and deliberate (“Acting” with a big “A”) can sometime be fixed with a simple adjustment, such as asking the actor to imagine that she’s late for a meeting.

Although most of the people we saw had little acting experience, there were a few people who immediately impressed us with their abilities, and some roles (mostly the medical staff) were filled fast.

Eventually, every crucial role was filled, and we could begin the final stages of planning before shooting began.

Look out for our next entry on filming – coming soon.

or review previous entry on planning at http://spykermedia.com/medical-drama

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