Casting Networks® caught up with Candace Stewart, a theatrical talent agent at DDO Artists Agency. Stewart explains a memorable talent discovery, a pivotal moment in her career and the mantra she lives by.
1. What inspired you to work in the entertainment industry, and what steps did you take to get started in your profession?
I took a few drama classes in high school and quickly realized that I was not good. It didn’t help that America Ferrera was in these classes. I was also our high school’s junior mascot, but quickly learned that I was not good at comedy. It didn’t help that Tiffany Haddish was the senior mascot. Although I was no actress or comedian, I noted what true performers brought to the table and I knew that I wanted to surround myself and work closely with talented performers.
So, after graduating from Cal State University Northridge with a degree in Cinema Television Arts Media Management, I began interning at a boutique management company that specialized in youth actors. When one of the managers invited me to join him at a new talent agency as a Theatrical Jr. Agent I took the leap and have been in talent representation for over 15 years.
2. What is a memorable moment for you regarding discovering or signing a talent?
I have had many memorable moments in finding a diamond in the rough. The most enjoyable include finding talent new to the industry with natural skills that they themselves have yet to uncover. Booking the first commercial or the first TV credit on a nationally broadcast show have been very enjoyable. When working with youth, I frequented Jack Turnbull’s The Actorsite and I discovered a wave of really talented kids. I was lucky to sign them and work with them for a number of years. Those are the most enjoyable times!
3. What was a pivotal moment for you and your industry during the pandemic, and how has your role and/or your day-to-day routine changed in the past year?
The industry came to a halt like I’ve never seen before. There was a sudden lack of projects, a lack of movement, a lack of production — it was surreal. Our day-to-day routine has greatly changed. Working remotely, meeting new talent virtually and a plethora of self tapes! I’m happy to report that production is picking back up and projects are starting to move forward. However, we have yet to see a steady stream of in-person auditions. It seems as if self tapes or virtual casting might be here to stay. I have had to invest in faster Internet service and new work setups to stay effective in this new norm. Talent has had to do the same.
4. What would you say to those aspiring to work in your position?
To those aspiring to work as a talent rep, you must love what you do. It is not easy maneuvering the unique personality types that this industry is comprised of. It can be a thankless job, but the joy outweighs all of that. Being part of the art without being an artist and helping our beloved casting offices try to pinpoint the best person for the job is very rewarding. Stay sharp, push through and you will persevere!
5. If you could cast yourself in any role of all time, what would it be?
Beyoncé Knowles in “Dream Girls.” Period.
6. What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of work?
The pandemic made it very clear that I lacked favorite activities or hobbies. Work has been my end-all-be-all. This was rather troubling to me in the early stages of the pandemic. As it turns out, this seems to be a shared feeling among many others in my peer group. As a result, I am currently in the process of creating a better work-life balance. I’m starting to do more puzzles (graduated to 3D puzzles recently) and looking forward to traveling more and spending time with loved ones once I have received both Covid vaccinations.
7. What is an accomplishment you hope to achieve in the next five years?
In the next five years, I hope to continue doing what I love doing — representing talent. I’d like to take on more of a mentor position to up-and-coming talent representatives looking to add to diversity in positions on the other side of the camera. That’s my top career goal. My ideal path would include working abroad for a year or two. The way in which remote work has been trending over the past year, that might not be too far out of reach.
8. Share an industry professional you admire/look up to and why.
I recently read a New York Times article, “The Uphill Battles of Black Talent Agents in Hollywood,” that highlighted the success of fellow talent representatives of color. I have so much respect for and admire Brandon Lawrence (C.A.A), Andrea Nelson Meigs (ICM), Tiauna Jackson (The Jackson Agency), Lorrie Bartlett (ICM), Ashley Holland (WME) and D.C. Wade (WME). It was refreshing to find out that I am not alone in the obstacles and situations that I have faced being a talent representative of color. I have the utmost respect for those that have flourished despite the odds.
9. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
“Nothing of real value ever comes easy.”
10. What are you looking forward to in the industry in 2021 and beyond?
I’m looking forward to more diverse stories told from varying point of views. That is what keeps talent representation exciting as well — the challenge to keep finding authentic, talented people that truly embody the unique roles you find when content is diverse.