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Photo by Logan Fahey, courtesy of Steven Tylor O’Connor.

Get to Know the Casting Director: Steven Tylor O’Connor

Casting Society recently announced its board members for 2022 and 2023, and for this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we wanted to sit down with its newest treasurer. The accolades of Steven Tylor O’Connor range from an Emmy win for casting The Healing Powers of Dude to earning an Artios for his work on Andi Mack. His impressive casting résumé also boasts big titles like 13 Reasons Why and the recent Apple TV+ series Best Foot Forward. Keep reading for a window into everything from how he works — including a look into casting the recent Disney+ film Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3— to what he’d be doing if his chosen career weren’t an option. Hint: it’s a profession that fits nicely with O’Connor’s new Casting Society role. 

It’s great to virtually meet you, Steven, and I’d like 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 started off in the industry as an actor, which I think is true of many casting directors. Just a few months after I graduated from conservatory in 2008, though, our entire economy collapsed. The restaurant that I worked at closed, and I couldn’t find another survival job. But I had done an internship in casting, so I reached out to that company. They recommended me for a casting job at NBC, which I got. So, my route into casting was very practical — the work was paying me well when the economy was in freefall. And then along the way, I had the realization that I was good at it. 
You’ve racked up quite the casting résumé since then, which includes a recent title I have to ask about. What can you tell us about the process of assembling the cast for the Disney+ film Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3?

I didn’t work on Z-O-M-B-I-E-S or Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 2, so the only characters I had to establish for Z-O-M-B-I-E-S 3 were the three aliens. And I give a lot of credit to Disney because they wanted to cast somebody who was nonbinary or transgender as the lead alien character, A-spen. So, we made a concerted effort to reach out to the LGBTQ community for that role. As a gay person, that’s also my community, and I very much wanted to champion the casting of A-spen. We put out flyers about the role and auditioned people who land all across the LGBTQ spectrum. Eventually, we found Terry [Hu], who’s nonbinary, and they actually became the first nonbinary Disney action figure/doll ever made. Then there was Kyra [Tantao], who we really liked for A-li, one of the other alien characters. She’s also in the queer community, though, and I was nervous we wouldn’t be allowed to go with Kyra since we already had somebody from the LGBTQ community on the cast. But everyone really liked her, and we were able to go with Kyra, as well. And then we’ve known Matt [Cornett] — who plays the alien named A-lan — for years. He’s just this sweet person and was on our “shortlist” for the role as soon as we realized it involved singing. The chemistry read for the three of them was done via Zoom, and once we saw their chemistry together, it was obvious they were the right people for the roles.

Thanks for pulling back the curtain on that 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 Steven Tylor O’Connor?

I feel like this is such a hard question for a casting director, in terms of narrowing it down to just one name. Since our job involves making lists, I’m going to give you a number of choices. If this film were a hardcore comedy, I would say someone like Dan Levy. If I wanted to be very complimentary of myself, maybe somebody hot like Jonathan Bailey. And the actor Cory Michael Smith has actually already portrayed me. When I was working at NBC, I wrote a play inspired by my life, and he played the character that was based on me. My answer to this question also depends on the stage of my life we’re talking about. If we’re going with a younger Steven, then it could be someone like Joshua Bassett, Joshua Colley, Troye Sivan, or Joe Locke. If I’m casting the character closer to my age now — in my thirties — then I would say someone along the lines of Joey Pollari or Jordan Doww or Brandon Flynn. I don’t know — there are just so many actors. Chris Colfer also comes to mind because he has some of that nerdy awkwardness that would lend itself to the character. All the names I’ve listed are queer actors, by the way. I would definitely only want to be represented by somebody who is in the community. 

I love how you took that question. You’re the first casting director I’ve interviewed who provided a list, which makes a lot of sense, considering your profession. Shifting gears here, I have one last get-to-know-you question. In some hypothetical situation in which you had to choose a different career, what would it be?

I’d probably be the manager at a bank because I’ve already done it. I started working at a national bank when I was 16 and got pretty high up on the chain of command during the three years I was there. It’s not necessarily fun or exciting, but it is something I’m good at. I even wrote a book on finance for teens because I wanted to take what I learned and try to help people with it. So, if in this situation I didn’t have the desire to be in the entertainment industry, it would be a natural career to fall back on. 

From O’Connor’s passion for his work to his abilities with finance, this has been a look into the newest Casting Society treasurer, as well as the person behind all the impressive casting credits. Those wanting to learn more about the stacked list of TV and film titles on his résumé can check out the full list on IMDb. And actors interested in casting calls and industry tidbits can find them both on O’Connor’s Instagram and
Twitter pages.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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