From Benny and Josh Safdie’s crime drama Uncut Gems to Shia LaBeouf’s autobiographical Honey Boy to Nathan Fielder’s docu-comedy series The Rehearsal, the credits of Jennifer Venditti run deep. But even with such an impressive résumé, the casting director has remained grounded. When Venditti virtually sat down with Casting Networks, she displayed a strong sense of self — a person who knows who they are and what they are about. Keep reading for a window into the individual behind all the casting credits, along with a peek into her casting process via season two of Euphoria.
It’s great to virtually meet you, Jennifer, and I would love to kick things off with the beginning of your career journey. When was the moment you knew that casting was the job for you?
I’m a person who is more about the journey than the destination. Casting started as a desire to expand the faces that we see in the media. I previously worked in fashion and wanted to broaden the idea of what is seen as beautiful, which I felt was limited at the time. I was motivated to contribute to the conversation, but all the iterations of what I considered beauty weren’t available at the talent agencies at the time. So, I started street scouting, which allowed me to travel around the world and approach strangers to tell them that they are beautiful. I would get to hear their stories and take their photographs. That was the initial impetus for me to get into casting: the opportunity to study people, explore humanity, and celebrate beauty. And my work now is just a continuation of that. Casting allows me to explore for myself what it means to be human, as well as contribute to stories that help others understand what it means to be human for themselves.
It’s lovely to better understand the heart behind what you do, as well as the journey that led you here. Speaking of which, can you tell us about the process of assembling the cast for season two of Euphoria?
I’ll say that the difference between casting season one and season two relates to the fact that no one knew anything about the show when we started. So, we went the traditional route of putting out breakdowns and reaching out to agencies for season one. I also had scouts searching for non-actors all over the country. And then we did an open call, which attracted maybe 50 people.
Cut to season two. On top of releasing the breakdowns and hearing from agencies, we did an online open call, to which roughly 20,000 individuals submitted. So, my people who would normally go scouting were busy looking through all those submissions. We did scout in a couple of places — such as strip clubs — looking for a non-actor to play Fezco’s grandmother but ended up going with an incredible actor named Kathrine Narducci for the role. Plus, there were pre-Covid and post-Covid phases to the casting process for season two, which made it interesting to see how things changed as a result of the pandemic.
Henry Eikenberry, for example, came from an open call submission and was being considered pre-Covid for a different character than the one he ultimately ended up playing. When production resumed after the pandemic’s initial onslaught, though, we saw him for the role of Young Cal’s boyfriend Derek. And then Veronica Taylor was another open-call person — she played Lexi’s theater assistant Bobbi. Dominic Fike, who plays Elliot, is another good example. We wanted him for the role pre-Covid, but he couldn’t make that commitment because he was going on tour. After things shifted because of the pandemic and he was able to do it.
It is very cool to hear how such a hard time actually resulted in some happy outcomes, regarding how the shift that the pandemic caused allowed for the right people to become available for the right roles. Now, switching gears here, it is time for my favorite question to ask casting. If someone made a series about your life story, which actor would you cast to play the role of Jennifer Venditti?
That is a hard question. I guess my answer is that I would find an undiscovered person. I can’t give you a name because it is someone I don’t yet know. And the casting process would be all about finding them.
I love it! That fits in nicely with your overarching approach to casting. And before we wrap, I have one last get-to-know-you question. If you weren’t a casting director, what would your profession be instead?
I mean, I now produce and direct, as well as cast. I consider myself a filmmaker and storyteller, in general. But, if I wasn’t doing something in that world, it would be a job that relates to who I am at my core as an entrepreneur and artist. So, the alternative profession would probably fall within those worlds. To be clear, I did not seek out the job of casting. I never assisted a casting director or anything like that. Rather, I sought to expand the way people see beauty in each other. And this job in casting was what came of that. If I were to do a different role, it would be another job that touches humanity in some way.
From Venditti’s passion for expanding society’s view of standard beauty to her unique casting process that incorporates scouting non-actors for roles, this has been a window into the person behind all the credits. You can find additional information on said process via her book Can I Ask You a Question?. And those interested in learning more about the stacked list of film and TV titles on her résumé can find them listed on IMDb.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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