For this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we wanted to feature someone who’s cast more than 3,700 commercials over the course of her career. At one point, Megan Foley Marra did so many spots for a certain allergy medicine that she started being referred to as the “Claritin Queen.” Those interested in getting to know the casting director behind the impressive stats, though, need look no further. Foley Marra made time to talk with Casting Networks and give insights into everything from how she works — which also includes the worlds of theater and film — to all the other hats she’s worn along the away. Keep reading for an in-depth look at a casting professional who’s also directed, put on women’s retreats, and even served as a host for one actor in order to help him land a local role.
It’s great to get to speak with you today, Megan, and I’d love to 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 was working as a receptionist at a commercial production company, and whenever a casting director named Sharon McGee came in for a session, she would ask if they could spare me to help her. They always said yes, so I got to be her assistant for those casting sessions. And I remember the exact moment when I had the realization that it was what I wanted to do. I was standing in the lobby of the production company, and it hit me that the job allowed me to do all the things I love. That is to say, casting is essentially acting, teaching, and directing all wrapped up into one role.
It sounds like it was meant to be, considering how the circumstances aligned to put you in the perfect position to have that realization.
Totally. The only reason I was working at the production company in the first place was because I had just broken up with a horrible boyfriend. He and I worked at the same restaurant, so I called up my older sister and told her I needed a new job. She reached out to a connection — her neighbor — and got me the interview for the receptionist position just a few days later. My sister really didn’t like that boyfriend. [Laughs] She even took me clothes shopping for the interview and practically drove me to work my first day!
Oh my goodness — that is a solid older-sister move! Thanks for sharing such a fun anecdote about what led to your start in casting. And now jumping to present day, I’d love to hear a good casting story from a recent project, if you have one you can share.
Sure. One starts with a call I got from my friend Leslie Brown, who is also a casting director. I actually mentored her when she was just starting out in the business. Leslie rang me and asked if I could help with a few roles that they were casting out of Lake Arrowhead — which is where I live — for an upcoming feature called Winters Garden. The actors needed to be local hires and also had to be able to do an English accent. I started working on the roles they needed help with, and then I found out that they had lost their male lead. A replacement was needed, someone who was young, good-lucking, charming, could do the dialect, and lived in Lake Arrowhead. I thought of Lior Selve, who had just taken my acting class, but he didn’t live in the area. So, my husband and I put him up at our house for three and a half weeks while he worked as the lead on the feature. I was so excited he got to do the role!
Wow. Talk about casting directors rooting for actors to succeed — it’s incredible to hear how you went the extra mile to help an actor seize an opportunity! And now it’s time for my favorite question to ask casting. If someone made a film about your life story, which actress would you cast to play the role of Megan Foley Marra?
It would have to be someone like Sissy Spacek or Debra Winger — someone who’s southern, since I’m from the south. I know I’m reaching way back with those names, and I’d probably go with Debra Winger for my casting choice.
That’s a great pick. And before we wrap, I have a fun last question. If you weren’t a casting director, what would your profession be instead?
I’ve actually done a couple of different things — while still casting — over the years. For example, back in the 2000s, I branched out and started running women’s retreats. I would do my casting work Monday through Friday and then host women on the weekends for the retreats. There would be 14 women in my house, and I set everything up for them. That included cooking meals, teaching them scrapbooking, and organizing a masseuse to come give massages. Then on Monday, I’d go back to being a casting director.
It was — I loved it and made so many friends through the process. Around the 2008 recession, though, the whole retreat industry kind of slowed down. When the economy bounced back, I went a different way and began directing projects with my husband, Chuck Marra. We started in theater and then transitioned into directing films. We’ve done 30 so far and won awards along the way. It’s a blast to work together in that way!
From the support given Foley Marra by her older sister that led to her becoming a casting director to the above-and-beyond assistance she offered an actor to help him land a role, this has been a window into a person who is all about aiding others with her work. “Our joy is to make everybody look good, to make the actors shine and to make all of our clients shine,” the casting director asserted in one Q&A session. Those interested in learning more about her film and TV credits can find them listed on IMDb.
This interview has been edited and condensed.