This month’s Tenant Spotlight feature is Baily/Thomas & Associates. This highly sought after casting agency have been long time tenants at our Gower location. You will find their casting prowess on Hulu’s critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale, AMC’s Better Call Saul, AMC’s heavy hitter The Walking Dead and Fox’s hit show Gotham. Ariana caught up with co-founder Sharon Bialy on a warm Friday morning to talk about the agencies beginnings and everything in between.
- Walking Dead Question: Which are you: a survivor or a walker? Survivor
- You ladies receive all sorts of gifts, does that ever help with making or breaking a decision? We get really weirded out or uncomfortable when we get a gift from an actor we interview. It absolutely does not help, it might hurt because it’s not appropriate. But we are comfortable when an actor wants to say an extra special thank you, if it’s a huge role or if they know we went out of our way to help them.
- Have you received anything that was strange? Oh yeah, we got a bloody bat in the mail when we were casting “Negan” for The Walking Dead we were at Sony at the time and Sony took that very seriously. They called the police and it was pretty scary.
- In the lobby we get a lot of actors who drop off their headshots and resumes for you two. Do you ladies every look at those? And have you ever cast someone who’s dropped those off? I look at every piece of mail that comes in and I appreciate when they drop them at the front with you ladies ::chuckles::
But yes we have cast from drop offs, more than once.
- Do you accept actors that don’t have proper representation? What could or should an actor do to get through to you two. We’ve hired actors that don’t have agents but if they want to get through, they should be in a play or be in a web series. The reality is there are thousands of actors so you can’t focus on getting into our office. They should stop worrying about that and go out and start doing work – we read the trades, we read the reviews on plays. We’ll find you.
- Is there a movie that inspired you to be a casting director growing up? I have a lot of movies that I loved growing up and they’re so diverse. From Revenge of The Nerds to James Bond movies to Gone With The Wind. When I was young it was Gone with The Wind. When I was an adult already casting, it was Shawshank Redemption, that was a perfect film.
- How did you meet Sherry Thomas? Sherry and I met through Debi Manwiller – a former partner and still a best friend. I was looking for an associate after I was on my own for about six months. I called Debi to see if you she knew of anyone because I had a big job and needed an associate. She recommended Sherry Thomas who had worked with her on 24. We met at a Starbucks and I had four people lined up to meet with and she was the first one and I canceled the others. I was like, ‘That’s it, we’re on!’
- You have two have worked together for over 16 years. The first two – three years she was my associate and then I made her partner.
- Why do you think you two work so well together, what clicks with you guys? Complete and utter respect and trust in each other. No competition ever.
- What are some of the ways studios and showrunners, convey what they’re looking for? At beginning of a project we’ll get on a concept call, and really discuss the character with the creator. Sometimes with the studio or network people involved but usually with the creator of the project because it’s their vision that we’re serving. That’s where it starts – sometimes they will mention an actor that they have in mind. But really, we don’t like to work that way. It’s more so, what are the qualities they’re looking for in a character, so that you we a complete blank slate to really use the casting process the way it should be used - to really find something exciting.
- Do you have a database you use? Yes we have a database, we have these books ::points to a wall of five tiered bookcases packed with big binders with shows labeled on the spines:: that I’ve been compiling since I’ve started, with notes on all the actors we’ve ever seen. We use a service called Breakdown Services, where we send out to all the agents and managers and we get ideas and we go through them all.
- Some actors on your shows, I don’t see or hear of them coming in, do you interview remotely? Well some people self-tape because they’re not in LA, so we’ll get their tape and Skype with them. If it’s a big role, we’ll have to do a test at the studio. It also may be someone that we’re offering to, or maybe for example- Elizabeth Moss came on The Handmaid’s Tale before we did.
- I’ve spoken to some of the parents that come in for casting for other agencies in the building and they’ve expressed that their kids may or may not get cast based off their social media following. Does Bialy Thomas practice this? It’s definitely very common, but we do not do that at all. Someone’s social media following is not a factor in our casting decisions.
- You don’t have to tell me who it was obviously… But what was the most horrific casting session you’ve ever had? I’ve had a knife pulled on me once. We were in session and this actress had a knife and got really close to me. This was for a feature, so the next actor, I asked if they had a knife or gun and I said OK you need to go put that back in your car! That was the most horrific.
- The Handmaid’s Tale has been nominated for 13 Emmy’s. Congratulations! How did you two find out about the nominations? I was at home and Sherry text Russell and I. She told us and I couldn’t find it, so I think Russell text her back asking “Are you sure??”::laughing:: But yes, Sherry told us the great news.
- Is there a show on air right now that you watch and think I could have done that better? Not better, but more of, I wish I could have cast that, it’s more out of respect. The Night Manager was so well cast and I’m like, damn I would have loved that job!
- Where do you see Bialy Thomas & Associates in the next 3 years? I think I can speak for Sherry and myself. We’d like to continue to do work that we really believe in and we’re really passionate about- like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Last Tycoon, Barry, or Alan Ball’s Here, Now. When the work really resonates with us, we do better work. We want to work with the people that respect what we do and keep our incredible staff in this beautif