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Photo by Robin Leabman, courtesy of Karen Ryan.

Get to Know the Casting Director: Karen Ryan

Karen Ryan is a top commercial casting director whose recent work includes collaborating with brands ranging from United Airlines and Wells Fargo to Wayfair. She is also a board member of the Commercial Casting Directors Association (CCDA). When Ryan virtually sat down with Casting Networks, we wanted to know more about the person behind the casting portfolio.

We kicked off our get-to-know-you questions with a query regarding the moment that Ryan realized casting was the job she wanted to pursue. She shared that her career started with a short stint in front of the camera, which included playing Ray Liotta’s wife in an episode of ER. Ryan noted that her experience with acting helped form her appreciation for those in the profession. “I have such a lot of respect for actors, knowing how much they have to go through for every role,” she added.

Ryan also recalled how she used to go in for auditions and was most interested in what the casting directors were doing. “I just thought they had the coolest job, and I thought that would be just the best job to have in Hollywood,” she told us.

Ryan made the switch to her ideal career and hasn’t looked back. When we asked for a peek into the process of a commercial she’s worked on, the casting director shared about a recent Just For Men spot she cast. That particular search was for thespians who also had skills unrelated to acting. “It was amazing to find out the amount of jobs that people have outside of the business — that just gives them a more well-rounded personality,” she expressed.

Then came the question that may just be the hallmark of our Get to Know the Casting Director series. If someone made a film about Ryan’s life, which actor would she cast to play the role of Karen? Her response included a Friends cast member, as well as a frequent Mike Flanagan collaborator for whom Ryan actually doubled back when she was an actor.

Before the interview wrapped, we asked Ryan what she enjoys doing when not on the clock. Ryan shared her love for travel, as well as a passion for teaching and supporting animal rescue centers. She combines the latter two by teaching classes at Creative Acting Studios as a way to raise money for shelters in need.

Ryan has an upcoming workshop in December and all proceeds from it will go to one of her favorite animal rescue centers in Ireland.

This video interview has been edited and condensed.

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