Casting Spotlights Ensembles at Creative Arts Emmys

Casting Directors Among Honorees to Be Lauded

On Saturday, Sept. 8, 63 awards will be handed out at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles during the black-tie Primetime Creative Arts Emmys. The awards presentation, executive produced by Lee Miller and John Moffitt, with Spike Jones Jr. producing and Chris Donovan directing, will be televised on E! the following Saturday, Sept. 15, at 8 p.m.

Among the awards to be presented that evening are casting for a drama series and casting for a comedy series.

In an era when the ensemble series has become more important than ever in prime-time television, the casting competitions increasingly showcase the key challenges faced by academy members working just outside the bright lights of the featured Emmy categories.

"Friday Night Lights," produced by NBC, Imagine Television and Film 44 in association with Universal Media Studios, was cast by Linda Lowy and John Brace in Los Angeles. Beth Sepko was in charge of location casting in Austin, Texas, tasked with giving the show a genuine Texas feel.

"I turned in a list of 215 actors cast on the series for season one. Eighteen of those came from the Los Angeles casting office. I am very proud to showcase the Texas talent," Ms. Sepko said. "On the show there are some of our Texas regulars -- people we've been casting locally in films that came to the area for years. So it's been cool to have people I didn't necessarily discover, but that I've known for years, and now other people are appreciating them."

Ms. Sepko said the NBC show's Austin setting is an important first for her hometown. "This is the most challenging thing I've ever done," she said. "There hasn't been a network television series in Austin, Texas, ever. This is really a first-time thing. For months when I got the job, people kept saying, 'Are you ready?' I was saying this isn't pilot season in Los Angeles. I think I'm ready. There were times when I would be three or four days away from shooting a new episode and we wouldn't have a script. But these scripts have been rich in characters. It's not like finding three people for an episode. It's often finding 12 to 20 people per episode."

Ms. Sepko credits some of the success of the series to the way it is staged and shot. "With the three different cameras constantly moving, it feels like real life," she said. "It looks like more of a documentary series than a drama series. Because of these three cameras, you have no idea what they're picking up. You've got three different cameras going, you've got actors improvising, so everybody has to be on their toes."

With a prestigious New York address as the title of the show she was casting, Jennifer McNamara knew that assembling the players for "30 Rock" -- produced by NBC, Broadway Video and Little Stranger in association with Universal Media Studios -- meant creating the right balance.

"The biggest challenge of casting for an ensemble comedy is finding the right mix of talent and chemistry that work together well, and continuing to do so as the series continues," Ms. McNamara said. "The reality of casting a network comedy such as '30 Rock' is that I try to be collaborative with everyone involved, while focusing on each individual role and maintaining perspective on the big picture as to how each of the actors fit within the context of the show. Being a true ensemble piece, it is very important that we are always aware of the cast as a whole."

She credits Tina Fey and the other writers with creating a show that allowed her "to not only put together an amazing mixture of core regulars, but also to continually search out the best of New York comedy talent. The thing I love about '30 Rock' is that each week you get to watch someone as talented as Alec Baldwin go toe-to-toe with comedians, improv artists and some people who really are just starting out. It is this unique blend that I think has helped to give '30 Rock' such a palpable sense of energy, and such a fresh, fun comedic voice, week in and week out."

Also nominated for casting for a comedy series:

  • "Desperate Housewives" (ABC), produced by ABC Studios; casting by Junie Lowry Johnson and Scott Genkinger;

  • "Entourage" (HBO), produced by Leverage and Closest to the Hole Productions in association with HBO Entertainment; Sheila Jaffe and Georgianne Walken, casting directors;

  • "Ugly Betty" (ABC), produced by ABC Studios; casting by Libby Goldstein and Junie Lowry Johnson;

  • "Weeds" (Showtime), produced by Showtime Presents in association with Lions Gate Television and Tilted Productions; casting by Amy McIntyre Britt and Anya Colloff.

Also nominated for casting for a drama series:

  • "Brothers & Sisters" (ABC), produced by ABC Studios; Jeanie Bacharach and Gillian O'Neill, casting directors;

  • "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC), produced by ABC Studios; casting by Linda Lowy and John Brace;

  • "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (NBC), produced by Shoe Money Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television; casting by Elizabeth Barnes, Francine Maisler and Liberman/Patton Casting;

  • "The Tudors" (Showtime), produced by Showtime Presents in association with Peace Arch Entertainment, Working Title, Reveille Productions, an Ireland-Canada co-production; casting by Nuala Moiselle and Frank Moiselle; Mary Jo Slater and Steve Brooksbank, U.S. casting consultants.

What: 59th Creative Arts Emmy Awards
Where: Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles
When: Saturday, Sept. 8
Telecast: Sept. 15, 8 p.m., E!

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