With all the recent controversy about the lack of inclusion at the Oscars, and on the evening before the Motion Picture Academy took action to broaden its membership, the point was made several times during the 31st annual Artios Awards that casting directors are responsible for most of the diversity seen on screen and on stage.
The awards, put on by the Casting Society of America, honor the best casting in film, television, theater and new media and were handed out in concurrent ceremonies Jan. 21 in New York at the Hard Rock Cafe and in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton.
Actor Greg Grunberg was host of the West Coast gala, which featured Aaron Sorkin presenting Danny Boyle (“Steve Jobs,” “Slum Dog Millionaire,” “127 Hours,” “Trainspotting”) with the career achievement award and Sarah Paulson lauding Bernard Telsey as she handed him the Hoyt Bowers Award.
Telsey is a CSA and an AMPAS board member who has cast some of Broadway’s most memorable productions, including “Hamilton,” “Rent,” “The Normal Heart” and “Hairspray,” in addition to his on-screen casting work for shows including “Smash” and “The Wiz Live!”
Paulson, who stars in FX’s “American Horror Story” and the cable network’s upcoming “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” lamented that although Telsey is a good friend, he has never cast her in anything.
“He’s changed the lives of actors on Broadway,” she said, noting that Telsey is also an experienced actor. “Many hold you responsible for their careers. I revere you in word and deed.”
“I owe you a movie,” Telsey told her in his acceptance speech, adding this bit of commentary about Paulson: “I love watching her — and not casting her.”
Concluding on a serious note, he said he was awaiting the day when casting directors can be acknowledged with an Oscar and/or a Tony Award for casting.
A vein of humor ran through the entire awards presentation. Presenter Jay Duplass joked about his character on “Transparent.” “Josh Pfefferman has had more sex in one season than I’ve had in my entire life, and I’ve been married for 15 years,” he said.
Grunberg made this remark about Alexandra Billings, who also appears in “Transparent:” “She’s trans and Jewish — a TILF.”
“Transparent” took home two Artios Awards, for television pilot comedy and television series comedy.
Another theme throughout the evening was the fear, dread and insecurity that actors feel when auditioning for casting directors. America Ferrera, currently starring in NBC’s “Superstore,” which features a diverse cast, talked about her many auditioning travails.
“When I was asked to share a casting story, I’ve been racking my brain all day whether to share the one where I tried to make a statement by keeping my retainers in — that’s real life. Or the one where I tried to make a statement by refusing to blow-dry my hair and wearing my curly natural hair, or the story where I tried to make a statement by doing an audition tape in white face. That’s a true story, unfortunately,” she said. “But I think I’m done making statements on my casting tapes.” She also thanked the casting directors who first took a chance on her by giving her a role in 2002’s “Real Women Have Curves.”