Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Coronation Street Blog interviews the Corrie Casting Director

Janet Hampson is a Casting Director on Coronation Street and has very kindly given us an insight into her role on our favourite show. 

You can check out Janet's website here.

Q: What does a Casting Director actually do?

It varies from show to show, but in essence you use your knowledge of who is out there, and the show’s requirements to suggest and bring in actors to meet the producer and director.  Sometimes I make a direct approach to an agent when a show wants a specific person, and then it’s up to me to sell the show (if it’s a brand new one for example) and help to persuade the talent to join the cast. Finally, and usually, we negotiate contracts.

Q: Can you explain your background and how you got into the casting profession and into casting for Coronation Street?
I originally trained and worked as an actor for eight years before moving into production. After a stint directing in Radio Drama I found myself producing comedies for E4 and BBC3. As I started on very low budget pilots I was usually responsible for several things including casting. Finally one of the non tx pilots I cast (Lunch Monkeys for BBC 3) was commissioned, I cast the series and never looked back.

Q: What are the main things you look for when casting for Coronation Street in particular?
Coronation Street has a very clear identity, and a very loyal audience. So one of the important things to get right with new cast joining the show is the ‘fit’ with our existing cast.  It’s a hard thing to explain, but we take a lot of time to find people with the right feel. It goes without saying that we are looking for talented actors who enhance the show, who bring their own particular skills and – hopefully – who also love the show.

Q: Is a Coronation Street casting purely your decision or is there a team who decides? Who has the final say?
Some roles are cast by the Casting Director in conjunction with one of our lovely team of directors.  However when we are casting a new long term character the process starts with an initial search and early auditions with the casting department, and goes on to screentests with our cast, on set. The screentests are then edited and circulated to our senior producers and Creative Directors for that final decision.  As Coronation Street is a fast moving show, I’m pleased to say that those final decisions never drag on.

Q: Are there any casting decisions on Coronation Street you feel particularly proud of or fond of and have there been any casting decisions you feel just weren’t right for the show?
I’m pretty new to the show but there are some new characters coming on screen I’m very excited about.

Q: What unique challenges and opportunities does casting for Coronation Street have as the longest running drama series in the world?
The unique opportunities casting Coronation Street brings are easy: we have a fantastic team of writers and a wonderful production team that turn the scripts to TV gold. As ITV’s flagship show we have a huge share of the audience and so we also offer a chance to be seen by that audience.  The challenge is to cast every part with the same care as the long term regulars.  We cast every week, and I’m always on the lookout for strong actors new to the show.  If someone catches our eye, they can find themselves being asked back quite quickly.

Q: We know that Sophie’s new girlfriend has been cast to an unknown actress. Is there anything you can tell us about this please e.g. the process, the outcome?
The process was the same as for all our new regulars, we write a character breakdown and this goes out on Spotlight.  We sift through those submitted and invite our chosen actors in for an initial audition in the office.  We make a selection from this to show to our producer Stuart Blackburn, and we then discuss who to bring in for a screentest. The new character you refer to is played by a young  unknown actress, Amy Kelly.  She’d come to the attention of an agent who thought she’d be great for the role – and she is.

Q: Are there any new Corrie characters being cast that you can tease fans with at the moment?
Well I’m looking forward to seeing Amy as the character you’ve just referred to – not long now.

Q: Do you cast for extras too and how can people become extras, do they have to go through an agency for example?
My colleague Joanne Moss casts all our background artists and yes, they do all come via agencies.

Q: What advice would you have for other people interested in entering the profession e.g. where do they start?
The usual way is to start as an assistant to an established casting director, though of course I didn’t.  It goes without saying that you need an interest in actors and can spot talent.  It helps if you like people, have a good head for business and some charm, but it is a role you can make progress in if you have a talent for it.

Q:And finally, we all love Fat Brenda, the best Corrie character that we’ve never seen.  If you were casting for the role, who would be your top three favourite choices for that role?
Fat Brenda is an enigma and should remain that way I think.  We all have our own impression of Fat Brenda, don’t we? 

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Anonymous said...

Fun article, I enjoyed that! Thanks for this unique take on the show. Interesting comment by Janet: "Fat Brenda is an enigma and should remain that way I think." Sometimes I wish that applied to some character development and spoilers! Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

How about not casting some "exciting" new characters (who will probably be as dull as ditchwater) and leave Dennis alone?

NZ Coro Junkie said...

The day they cast someone to play "Fat Brenda" is the day Corrie jumps the shark.

Anonymous said...

She certainly has the ability to sound like she's answering, while telling us precisely nothing!

Anonymous said...

fantastic team of writers???? - you're having a laugh!!

Ryan Dior said...

The writers have a very challenging Job , and have to consider the ever changing real world and reflect that in to Storie line's

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