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James MarstersJames Marsters & Alexis Denisof - "Ops" Pilot - Casting Tidbits
Friday 2 December 2005, by Webmaster
We’re in the middle of casting the two lead roles for Ops. As I predicted, the audition scenes have now become gibberish to me. The only advantage to having them so fully etched in my brain is that when an actor makes an interesting choice for a line reading, I suddenly snap back and pay attention.
The two roles are written as Americans, but Jordan and I are both more than willing to change the backstories to accommodate Britons, Australians or other nationalities. After all, almost every country has soldiers. So in addition to hiring on New York and Los Angeles casting agents, Fox was generous enough to bring on casting directors in Sydney and London. We’re getting in new tapes every few days.
Unfortunately, the overseas casting agents aren’t taking us at our word. Almost every actor is trying an American accent.
Almost every attempt fails.
Here’s the thing: If you’re an Australian actor, you can probably suppress your give-away twang, just like most Canadians can - with a lot of effort - distinguish between “about” and “a boot.” But just because you don’t sound Australian, doesn’t mean you necessarily sound American. Often, this lack of accent is worse. We can hear that something’s not quite right, but we don’t know what it is. And while we’re wondering what’s wrong, we’ve lost track of your performance.
Now, obviously, there are some cases where an international actor will simply have to try for a specific American accent, just as an American actor may need to hit a certain British dialect. But if a producer or director tells you to use your natural accent, trust him. It’s not because you suck. It’s because you’re better when you can use every part of who you are.
As a side note, two actors we met with yesterday were Americans whom I’ve only seen play British. James Marsters and Alexis Denisof both come from the Buffy/Angel universe. It was jarring hearing them speak, because I kept expecting the same voices I’d heard for eight seasons or so. But even more interesting was recognizing the actors’ own cadences that were the same even without the accent; on a fundamental level, Spike sounds like James Marsters.
To me, it’s further proof that actors shouldn’t dwell so much on accents, but rather focus on giving the words meaning.
This one-hour drama pilot about private military contractors has suddenly roared back to life, with Fox giving the go-ahead to start casting. We’re out to directors, and - knock wood - should be able to shoot early in the year. For various reasons, the episode we’d planned to start with might now become number three in the season, so that means a whole new script to write (with co-creator Jordan Mechner). But TV scripts are short. And it will be nice to get back into that world.
Casting a TV show takes forever. We’ll have a big pow-wow with the network and the studio, going over their lists of who they have deals with, and who they’ve always liked. Then we’ll meet with those actors. The less-established actors will be fine coming in for an audition, but the bigger names will only “meet.” Which often means coffee. Which often takes a hell of a lot longer.
Eventually, we’ll have big casting sessions, where we’ll audition 15 or more actors in an afternoon, one after the other. On the other two TV shows, I’ve always been in the room for those sessions, but given the newborn and the other projects on this list, I’ll probably be watching videotape for more of these casting sessions.