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Photo Credit: Vincent Urbani

Get to Know the Casting Director: Luis Canete

The résumé of Luis Canete houses some big-name projects, whether they be commercial or film. Lexus and Samsung, for example, show up on the impressive list of brands for which he’s cast spots, and his feature credits include titles like Joshua Marston’s Oscar-nominated Maria Full of Grace and the Bruce Dern-led romantic comedy Remember Me. But for those who want to know more about the person behind the résumé, we’ve got you covered. Canete sat down with Casting Networks — via Zoom — to give insights into everything from how he works — including a window into casting an international spot for McDonald’s — to what he’d be doing if casting weren’t an option.

It’s great to virtually meet you, Luis, and let’s kick things off right at the start of your career journey. When was the moment you knew that casting was the job for you?

I fell in love with casting very early. I have a BA in theater from George Mason University, and I interned for a fellow CSA member, Carlyn Davis, when I was still in college. As far as the actual moment, I remember realizing that casting encompasses my various strengths and passions. I would be in the studio, helping direct actors in front of the camera for a session, and then I’d hop on the phone and transition to the business side of things. The job is essentially a mix of my different skills, which range from administrative to creative. I also think that casting directors, in general, tend to lean more into either the acting or directing aspects of the role. I studied both in school, though, which helps me look at the overall picture. I love getting to exercise both skillsets with casting. So, even though I didn’t initially focus on casting in college, once I got the internship with Carlyn, I realized my passion for the job. It just clicked for me early on. And then Carlyn actually hired me the day I graduated from college. From intern to assistant to associate to casting director, I worked at Carlyn Davis Casting for four years, and we’re still friends to this day. I love Carlyn — it’s actually her birthday today [at time of interview]. Somewhere, she’s sensing that we’re talking about her.

Her ears must be burning! [Laughs] That’s a fun coincidence, and speaking of present-day, I’d love to hear a recent commercial casting story if you have one you can share.

When I lived in Madrid, we did a big spot for McDonald’s. It was massive and involved casting 50 roles, all of which included the theme of movement in some way. We had skateboarders, parkour athletes/artists, gymnasts, etc. The job involved a lot of street casting and just hitting up skate parks. Seeing it all come together in such a short time frame was really interesting. If you’re casting 50 roles for a movie, for example, you’d normally have about three months to cast them all. We just had a week for the McDonald’s spot, though, and saw hundreds of people during that time. We’d literally take cameras out to the park to interview people while trying not to come off crazy or creepy. [Laughs] And we had to convince them to do the spot without telling them that it was for McDonald’s — we could only say that it involved a big chain restaurant. Most everyone was into it, though, and we found a great cast.

Thanks for sharing such a fascinating, international casting anecdote. And now it’s time for my favorite question to ask casting. If someone made a film about your life story, which actor would you cast to play the role of Luis Canete?

This is actually a very easy question for me to answer. Since college, I’ve gotten that I look like Jason Bateman, especially around the eyes. Plus, I love him as an actor — I think he’s fantastic. So, that’s who I hope would play me in this movie.

I totally see it! Great answer, and let’s move on now to your inspirations when it comes to casting TV/film.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some incredible casting directors at the beginning of my career. For instance, I was assistant to Donna DeSeta in New York for the Tom Cruise-led Knight and Day. I got to learn from her through that experience, and of course, Carlyn is also on that list. Then there’s Maria [E. Nelson] and Ellyn [Long Marshall] of Orpheus Group Casting that I worked with on Maria Full of Grace, as well as on other projects. I just picked a few things that I liked from everyone and created my own kind of style along the way. I also take inspiration from different directors’ films, as well as from different authors’ stories. I think we don’t often realize it, but the art that attracts us often shapes our own work and the way in which we do it. I’ll add that it’s all about the eyes for me when it comes to acting. That’s how you know if someone is telling the truth. An actor’s eyes determine if their performance is believable and if they’re interesting to watch. Whatever emotion the actor is feeling in the moment is portrayed and projected through their eyes. And I’m really big into voices, too. It’s very important for a character to have a specific voice that fits them, whether that’s the actor’s own or one they choose to put on for the role.

I love that insight into how you work, and it reminds me of the saying that a person’s eyes are the window to their soul. Now, before we wrap, I have a fun last question for you. In a hypothetical situation where you had to pick a profession outside of casting, which alternative career would you choose?

This is a good question and relates to the plan I had for my life back when I was 14 years old. I wanted to be either an actor or a diplomat. I even double-majored for two and a half years in college, studying both international affairs and theater. I ended up needing to focus on just the latter because of the heavy course load of projects we did for it, but I think the former still plays into what I do today. Casting directors are essentially ambassadors. We send offers to agents for their clients and also work with our own clients — the producers, directors, or ad agencies. Casting directors are the “go-between” people, and our position requires problem-solving and diplomacy in order to get things moving forward.

I like how your answer ties in a different profession you studied that still plays a role in your work today. So, in this hypothetical situation, to which country would you want to be a diplomat?

Well, I love the UK and am a big fan of the culture there, as well as British actors. Central Europe — such as Austria or Germany — would be tempting, though, too. My sister actually lives in Germany, and it’s just a phenomenal place. Getting to travel would be a big perk of being a diplomat, and if you were in central Europe, it would be so easy to get around and see other places.

From Canete’s passion for casting to his passion for travel — and everything in between — this has been a window into the person behind all the credits. Those interested in learning more about his work, though, can find the commercials he’s cast on the Luis Canete Casting website and a full list of his TV/film credits on IMDb.

This interview has been edited and condensed.