Theo Park recently won an Emmy for casting the hit Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso. And on top of her stacked résumé for both film and TV, the London-based casting director is also working on the upcoming Amazon series The Lord of the Rings. With a number of projects in the works, Park still found time to virtually sit down with Casting Networks and provide a window into the person behind all the credits.
It’s nice to virtually meet you, Theo, and congrats on your recent Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series win for Ted Lasso at the Emmys. Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, and Brett Goldstein also took home statuettes, as did the show for Outstanding Comedy Series. What can you tell us about the process of assembling the cast for such a successful series?
Thank you very much, and I guess it’s important to note that we didn’t know it was going to be so successful at the beginning. It just started with getting the job, and then I spoke with Jason at length. I got some notes from Bill Lawrence’s office about what they wanted and then just got on with it, character by character. It really was a case of which actors hit the right notes for that vision. Then later on in the process after we’d put together the core ensemble, we got into a rhythm, and the overall vibe we were looking for became quite clear. I think we were all quite shocked when it became so successful but were also really thrilled about it.
Certainly, and it’s lovely to see how supportive cast members are of one another off-camera, as well. Waddingham’s dedication to Juno Temple in her acceptance speech comes to mind.
It was a gorgeous moment, and it’s interesting that they get on so well in life, that their on-screen chemistry as friends is really there. I’d say there’s also great chemistry between a number of characters, such as between Keeley [Temple] and Roy [Goldstein] and Ted [Sudeikis] and Dr. Sharon [Sarah Niles], which is fantastic because we didn’t actually know that they’d work so well together. The only in-person chemistry read we did was with Hannah and Jason. So their dynamic obviously worked really well, but the rest of the actors didn’t meet until their first day on set. We were really sure that we wanted actors who were good with both comedy and drama, and I think their range helped with the overall chemistry, as well.
Those actors have such a palpable onscreen connection that it’s fascinating to hear they didn’t know one another before filming. And now, I’d love to take it back to the beginning of your story. When was the moment that you knew casting was the job for you?
There was an early moment for me when I studied film at university in the UK that sticks out. In my final year, I actually got to work on a short film, and I was responsible for the casting. It was my first experience with casting, and I just really enjoyed it. That was back in the day before the internet when we would pour over photos of actors in those big Spotlight books. I was able to get in touch with proper agencies and established actors, who even came to the university to audition for the student film. Casting it was quite an enjoyable process for me, and I knew it was something I wanted to continue doing.
That sounds like a great way to start in the business. And now it’s time for my favorite question to ask casting. If someone made a series about your life, which actor would you cast to play the role of Theo Park?
It would have to be a comedy, and I’m going to be purely aspirational with my answer. I’ll also preface by saying that I’m not likening myself to this person, but she does happen to be my most favorite actress in the whole world. All that to say, could Kristen Wiig please play me in the series about my life? [Laughs] If only I could ever be as cool as her.
That’s a fantastic choice and let’s pivot here to proud casting moments you’ve had. I’d love to hear one that you can share.
One that comes to mind is from when I worked on this movie called Cuban Fury with Nina Gold. Nick Frost plays a dancer in this British comedy set in the world of salsa, and it just has an overall hilarious concept. The script called for one compere character, the person who hosts the dance competition in the film and introduces the performers. I thought of expanding the character to be The Cuban Brothers, who are just these amazing comedians that do Cuban music. I was able to pitch the idea to the film’s creatives, who were all for it. And then when we got The Cuban Brothers, I even took a video of myself dancing in the office because I was so happy. That was a really proud moment.
It sounds like one for the books! And before we wrap, could you share some of your casting inspirations?
I worked with and was trained by Nina Gold for six years, during which I became her associate. She is probably the best in the business and is just a huge inspiration to me, as are the others I cast alongside as her associates. That includes Robert Sterne, who is just a casting genius. And then there’s Lauren Evans — she’s just fantastic and casts Sex Education, which also has Hannah Waddingham in it. So I did know about her before Ted Lasso because I was working with Nina and Robert at the time that they cast Hannah in Game of Thrones. I also want to mention Allison Jones as a casting inspiration, though. She’s just wonderful.
Park’s Emmy win provided the opportunity for the co-creator of Ted Lasso — and actor who plays Coach Beard — to also exemplify how supportive of one another the show’s cast and crew are off-camera. Brendan Hunt took to Instagram in the middle of an (American) football game to celebrate news of the accolade. In his post, Hunt sang Park’s name in the chant normally reserved for the character of Jamie Tartt in the series. From her Emmy-winning casting of Ted Lasso to her contributions for the highly-anticipated The Lord of the Rings series, we have a feeling it’s not the last time you’ll hear a celebratory refrain in regard to Park’s work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.