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Photo by JC Olivera, Credit Field, courtesy of Susie Farris.

Susie Farris Pulls Back the Curtain on Casting ‘Jury Duty’

There hasn’t been a show as unique as Amazon Freevee’s Jury Duty in a long time, and this year’s list of Emmy nominees reflected a general appreciation for the fresh series. Coming off its Outstanding Comedy Series nomination — along with a nod for the show’s writing and for James Marsden’s work in the supporting actor category — we wanted to speak with the casting director behind the project that’s half The Truman Show and half The Office.

Susie Farris, who was also recognized by the Television Academy in the Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series category, took time out to virtually sit down with Casting Networks and pull back the curtain on casting Jury Duty.

How does one cast a series in which all the actors are clued-in to the show’s premise, with the exception of one non-thespian? The latter, of course, refers to San Diego solar contractor Ronald Gladden, who thought he was on a real jury for a televised trial.

Should you be wondering how Farris went about casting the rest of the jurors — as well as other players in the mock trial — and found actors who could remain believable in such a situation, you’re not alone.

The casting director noted the commitment that the juror roles required since the actors had to remain in character whenever they were around Ronald — many more hours than what is shown in the final edit of all the footage — so they didn’t give away the true premise of the trial.

However, there was one moment in which the camera caught Rashida ‘Sheedz’ Olayiwola, Officer Nikki on the show, accidentally calling a juror by the name of the actor who plays the character. Farris expressed how the actors, writers, director, and producers all pitched in to cover it up. “Everybody at that point was really working together to make sure that they made it to the finish line,” she added.

So, to cast thespians capable of accomplishing such a feat, Farris recalled how her team went through thousands of self-tape auditions in which actors improvised around two different scenarios they were given. And the casting director shared about a key part of it all — putting the pieces of the puzzle together to flesh out the courtroom.

“You had to feel like you were walking into a jury in Los Angeles, which is a city with a lot of diversity,” she said. “We wanted different ages and colors and sizes and shapes, and we wanted it to feel, obviously, as real as possible so that Ronald could go on this journey and then learn what it was all about.”

Farris’ previous credits include titles like Mr. Robot, Elf, Wet Hot American Summer and Physical, and before the interview wrapped, she detailed how the casting process for Jury Duty differed from any other project she’d worked on. You can hear that insight and many more — including a certain situation from episode five that is her son’s favorite scene in the whole series — in this on-camera installment of Pulls Back the Curtain.

This video interview has been edited and condensed.

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