NYC Casting Director Nina Pratt Urges Actors to "Enjoy the ride."
If the process of casting is like an intricate puzzle than Nina Pratt is an expert player that holds the fitting pieces. She loves finding the right actor for the right job, having cast all types of performers from rising talent to celebrities.
Pratt has been part of the Casting Department at GREY for over a decade. There she has cast hundreds of actors in thousands of projects, including commercials for companies like Cover Girl, Direct TV and E*TRADE (yes, she cast that famous baby). Recently, has worked on Nickelodeon’s Nicky Deuce and HBO’s Bernard and Doris. Actors that Pratt has booked include: Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, Josh Lucas, Adam Ferrara, Becky Newton, Jenna Ushkowitz, Hayden Panettiere, Josh Radnor and Rashida Jones.
Read on as Pratt talks about getting started in the business, why actors should make their own opportunities, how actors can impress in the audition room, and more.
RP: How did you primarily get into Casting?
NP: I was always interested in Casting but had no absolutely no contacts in the business. I really wanted to work in TV and at that time most of the work was in LA so I decided to move there and just go for it. I worked really hard, followed up every possible lead and took every temp job that even got me close until I got lucky. I worked for a small independent company (Cathy Henderson/Tom McSweeney Casting) that always had multiple projects going on at once. I worked 12-13 hour days and the pay was terrible, but boy did I learn everything about casting! I owe them a lot.
RP: What do you love most about the process and your journey thus far?
NP: I love the excitement and satisfaction that comes with connecting the right performer with the right job. Also, meeting all the incredibly talented and interesting people along the way is something I never could have imagined when I started.
RP: Besides in person auditions, how active, would you say, do Casting Directors scout out talent?
NP: I am a proud member of The Casting Society of America, and I can honestly say we all spend an enormous time outside of the audition room scouting talent. I attend screenings, plays, showcases and comedy clubs on a regular basis and I can’t remember that last time I didn’t see a casting colleague there!
RP: What's the most unorthodox way you have found talent?
NP: Most recently I walked through all the downtown parks and the subway looking for drummers…
RP: Do you find that "unknown actors" can make it in the door? Or is it more about having connections and a big time agent?
NP: No. It doesn’t matter who your representatives are, I have strong relationships and enormous respect for all the agents and managers I work with. They really are the unsung heroes of this business and do not always get the credit they deserve. I have met incredible talent from the most powerful agencies to the smallest boutique ones. I call actors with no representation directly all the time. If an actor is talented it doesn’t matter how I find them, just as long as I do. However, I will admit to being slightly biased towards my fellow New Yorkers!
RP: What do you suggest actors do to get themselves out there?
NP: It is up to the actor to try and create opportunities for themselves rather than just sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. Go to a meet and greet, participate in a reading, write your own material or do whatever is appropriate for you, just put yourself out there, keep active and the work will come.
RP: Do you think it's important to "type" yourself as an actor?
NP: I’m not sure “type” is the word I would use, but I do think it’s important to know your strengths and limitations as a performer.
RP: What is the biggest mistake that you find actors make in the audition room?
NP: One mistake is being in a hurry or not leaving you enough time for the audition. I usually run on time and rarely keep actors waiting, however there are circumstances beyond my control that can hold up an audition (especially a callback) so allow yourself extra time and don’t make your problem my problem.
Another common mistake actors make is to say too much in the room. It’s fine to ask a question or two if it helps but try and remember that we are usually on a very tight schedule and unless we engage you, less is more.
Lastly, please be prepared when you walk in the room. The audition will go much more smoothly.
RP: On the other end of the spectrum, what do you find really impresses in the room?
NP: Self-confidence. Auditions can sometimes be an awkward process, so when an actor comes in strong and confident, we always notice that. We appreciate a good sense of humor, it indicates that we can throw different things at them, and they can go with it and not get flustered. We want you to do well!
RP: Generally, what do Casting Directors like to see on a resume?
NP: I firmly believe training is the key to a long and successful career. That doesn’t necessarily mean that if you did not go to one of the top schools you are out of luck. There are many wonderful classes out there available to performers every level. Do your research, talk to your peers and find the best available individual class or program to suit your needs.
RP: What is you most valuable piece of advice for aspiring actors?
NP: Take advantage of the wonderful opportunities available in a city like NY (Free screenings, student rush tickets, etc.).
As long as you are comfortable with the role, take every job you are offered no matter how small or insignificant it may seem at the time because you never know who you will meet or where it will lead.
Lastly, enjoy the ride! Even though it may seem tough now, when you look back on your career you will undoubtedly remember the early struggles as some of the best times of your life.