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Get To Know the Casting Director: Meredith Tucker


When Casting Networks recently sat down with Meredith Tucker — via Zoom — we learned that her introduction to casting TV was a little show you may have heard of called The Sopranos. With such a start, it may come as no surprise that the New York-based casting director has built up a stacked TV resume that includes series like HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, as well as an impressive list of film credits such as Mike White’s Beatriz at Dinner and Brad’s Status. Keep reading for insights into Tucker’s most recent collaboration with the filmmaker, The White Lotus, as you learn more about the person behind all the casting credits for this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director.

 

It’s great to virtually meet you, Meredith, and I’d 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 fell into it quite early. I acted in high school and college as just an extracurricular activity, and that’s actually how I originally met Michael [White]. We were in an acting class together during our freshman year of college. During the fall semester of my junior year, I wound up in New York interning at a theater company called the New York Theatre Workshop. Besides working backstage there and reading plays, I also assisted the woman who was in charge of casting the company’s weekly reading series. That experience helped me realize casting was a job that could be good for me. Looking back, it made sense because the cast of a film or series had always been a big part of what attracted me to a project. I worked in a video store the summer before I went to college, and when people would ask me if a movie they were interested in renting was any good, I’d always answer them by referencing the actors in it.

 

It sounds like you were meant to be in casting!

I remember telling my best friend from high school that it was what I was thinking about doing for my career. “Oh, that’s the perfect job for you,” was her response. So, the summer after the New York Theatre Workshop, I interned for casting directors Billy Hopkins and Suzanne Smith, who were also in New York. After graduating, I interned again — for John Lyons, then Ellen Chenoweth — and then worked with a casting director named Howard Feuer for the next six and a half years of my career. Film was the main focus with Howard, and I was really introduced to casting TV when I started working for Georgianne Walken and Sheila Jaffe. I came onto their team when they were working on season three of The Sopranos.

 

Wow. What a way to start in TV casting! And now jumping to your work on that medium in present-day, congrats are in order for all the critical acclaim The White Lotus has garnered, as well as for its number one ranking debut on HBO Max and renewal. What can you tell us about the process of assembling the cast for Mike White’s dark comedy series?

The whole thing happened very quickly. HBO reached out to Michael in August of 2020 — before he’d written anything — with the idea that shooting would begin that October. After he wrote the first episode and everything got greenlit, they were still figuring out the filming location and didn’t want to start casting until that was locked in. So, I didn’t officially begin until after Labor Day, and we cast the whole thing in three weeks, which is a little insane.

 

That’s a quick turnaround.

I hadn’t worked in five months because the pandemic had shut everything down and had to go from zero to 60 in that timeframe while working from home. So, the logistics were a little daunting, but the enthusiastic response to the roles made it easier. People tend to want to work with Michael. Plus, he knows what he’s looking for in a performance. Michael likes to have people read — rather than just going off a list of names — and I think that played a part in how well the show was received. He knew what he was getting and that the actors were right for the roles. Then there was also his ability to make revisions and write more toward the selected actors.

 

Thanks for that window into the casting process. 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 Meredith Tucker?

On several shows that I’ve worked on, we would have fun casting the entire office in the various roles, so I’ve actually gotten feedback related to this question in the past. I even went to a friend’s birthday party where her seating arrangement was marked by place cards that denoted the actor she thought would best play each of her guests. I did end up recasting the whole thing, though, because I didn’t think she got them right. [Laughs]

 

That’s amazing.

I will say there’s one long-standing comparison that I’ve always received. Even back in high school, I had a guy come up to me and say that I reminded him of “that girl” from Sixteen Candles. I asked if he meant Molly Ringwald. “No,” he replied. “The one with the neck brace.” [Laughs] And I’ve been getting Joan Cusack ever since. Funnily enough, I have the same sweater that her character wears in School of Rock, just by pure coincidence. Recently, people have also been saying that I remind them of Jenny Slate, which is very flattering, as well. I’m tall and closer to Joan in height, but I would be honored if either portrayed me. They’re both brilliant comedians.

 

Those are two great comparisons to receive! And before we wrap, I’d love to hear how you recharge when you’re off the clock.

One of the great things about living in New York is that you can wander around the city and explore. You’re outside and walking around — it’s a nice way to get out of your head. The pandemic has changed that a bit, but I also frequently exercise and read. I used to make jewelry, as well, and I watch a lot of television. Going to museums is on that list, too, and I try to travel when I can.

 

Considering the second season of The White Lotus takes place in Italy, as well as the casting director’s penchant for traveling, we had to ask if she’d gotten to go with the show. “I just got back two weeks ago,” she said at the time of our interview. “When you’re a longtime friend of the showrunner, you sometimes get to visit location.” So, from insights into Tucker’s work to what she does in her free time — and everything in between — this has been a window into the person behind the impressive casting resume. Those interested in learning more about the latter can find the stacked list of film and TV titles she’s cast on IMDb.

This interview has been edited and condensed.