For this installment of Get to Know the Casting Director, we’re featuring someone who’s known for casting films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the Divergent series, as well as shows like Liza on Demand. With multiple projects in the works, Venus Kanani still found time to virtually sit down with Casting Networks and provide a window into the person behind all the credits. Keep reading for a number of insights into the casting director (that even includes her chosen Harry Potter house!).
Hi, Venus. Thanks for being a part of the series. I’d love to kick things off by going back to the beginning. When was the moment you knew that casting was for you?
There are probably several moments, but the first one is most memorable for me. I had started out working as an assistant production coordinator and eventually became a production coordinator. I would always spy on casting sessions happening at the production office and offer my help. A couple of times, casting took me up on it and had me run the camera, which allowed me to observe what casting sessions were like. I was instantly intrigued and realized it was much more in line with my interests and what I wanted to do. So that was my first “aha” moment, and I eventually made the transition out of production and into casting.
You’ve certainly seen a lot of success in it, with a number of impressive casting credits that include Brian Baugh’s Finding You, which recently released. What can you share about the casting process for the film?
Brian’s great. We’d been wanting to work together for a long time, and this project finally made it happen. Brian already had the female lead role [of Finley] cast as Rose Reid because he’d already done another movie with her. I cast Katherine McNamara as the nemesis type in the film and Tom Everett Scott as a talent agent to the character of Beckett. That was the male lead role of the film, which was great to cast since I already knew who he’d be playing opposite. It was a matter of making sure there was going to be chemistry between that actor and Rose since they’d be portraying a couple on screen. We got Jedidiah Goodacre for the role and everything came together pretty quickly. There wasn’t a large budget for extensive casting sessions, and I was working on the second season of Liza on Demand at the time, so we did remote casting for the initial stages. That really helped streamline the process, and then callbacks were in person to make sure everything was just as Brian had envisioned. It was a lot of fun, and we had Thyrza Ging in Ireland, who did an amazing job with casting there, as well.
It sounds like everything fell into place just right! 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 Venus Kanani?
That is a very hard question. Nazanin Boniadi is wonderful and comes to mind because she’s Iranian like I am. She is so intriguing but much more elegant than me. The zaniness and quirkiness of Drew Barrymore is very relatable, though. Casting directors sometimes wish that they could cast a magical combination of two different actors for a role and since this would be happening in an imaginary setting, let’s go ahead and say that it would be the love child of Nazanin Boniadi and Drew Barrymore. [Laughs]
That’s the first time I’ve received a “love-child casting” in response to my favorite question. Very original! I’d also love to hear some of your casting inspirations.
There’s just so much impressive work out there, but I’d have to say that indies from the 90s really got me interested in films. Pulp Fiction and Fargo are the two big ones. They just have these ensembles of people cast in unexpected ways, and there’s nothing precious about them. Everyone’s just right for their roles, and it’s kind of down and dirty. Those two movies got me interested in everything about filmmaking. I also have to mention the Harry Potter films, which are just outstanding in their casting. You can’t imagine anyone else playing those roles, and with the sheer volume of characters in that world, it’s amazing how they were all cast so perfectly. As far as recent television, Jen Euston’s casting on Orange Is the New Black is very impressive to me. The ensemble just kept growing and evolving each season, and it was such a unique cast. There were so many faces you’d never seen before, and it was just tremendous.
You’re making me want to go back and binge so many things! Before we go any further, I think our readers need to know something, Venus. What Harry Potter house are you?
[Laughs] I’m just a boring old Gryffindor.
As a Hufflepuff, I don’t find that boring at all. I have one last question for you. What’s on your watchlist at the moment?
Well, I’m still mourning the fact that there’s no more Mare of Easttown and I recently binged Ted Lasso. Everyone had been raving about it for a while, but when it comes to comedies, sometimes that turns me off. [Laughs] Maybe that’s just my contrarian nature or something, but I finally watched it and loved it. The show is just charming on every level. And I’ve been obsessed with The Handmaid’s Tale since its very first season. Plus, I recently went back and started watching Friends from the beginning.
From her original self-casting to her Gryffindor allegiance, the casting director provided a fun look into who she is as a person during our interview. And when asked which Friends character she relates to most, there was no hesitation. “Oh, I’m a Monica,” Kanani asserted. Those looking to connect further with the casting director can find her on Twitter as @venuskanani.
This interview has been edited and condensed.