Photo courtesy of Chrissy Fiorilli-Ellington, CSA.

10 Questions with Chrissy Fiorilli-Ellington, CSA

Casting Networks

Chrissy Fiorilli-Ellington, CSA has been casting for the better part of 20 years. With credits that include: Die Hart 2: Die Harter, The G Word With Adam Conover, a litany of podcasts and gobs of commercials, she has a wealth of knowledge to share.

Whether spending time with her family or reading the latest book by a casting director in her collection, Fiorilli-Ellington can find the silver lining in just about anything.

1. How did you start working in the industry?

I started as an intern at Telsey + Company in New York. This was back when submissions were paper, and I think all I did the first day was open mail —but I was hooked right from the start.

2. What inspired you to work as a casting director?

I studied acting in college, and have always had a knack for connecting people. Learning it was possible to make a living using both of these skills blew my mind.

The seed was probably planted back in college while watching the documentary series The It Factor on Bravo, in which they followed actors in NY and LA. My favorite parts were seeing what happened in actual auditions and when they’d talk to the casting directors. I found the whole process fascinating.

3. What would you say to those aspiring to work in your field?

The CSA’s Casting Assistant Pathway Program is a great place to get started. Also, watch as many TV series and movies as you can. If you have a favorite performer, find and watch their earlier work as well —it’s good to be aware of how careers grow over time. I also think this is a valuable exercise to try with a supporting or character actor, versus only studying the career path of movie stars.

There are so many great books written by Casting Directors, and (nerd alert) I have read and own almost all of them. Some favorites include A Star Is Found, Casting Qs, Confessions of a Casting Director, Can I Ask You a Question? and Right for the Role.

4. How have the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes affected your work?

First things first: I support both strikes 1,000%. I’m married to an actor and have seen firsthand how pay and residuals have changed over time. As for my work, I’ve been pretty lucky as I cast commercials as well as theatrical projects, so the well might be running low, but isn’t completely dry.

I was a few weeks into a theatrical project (written well in advance of either strike!), and we were in the middle of applying for an Interim Agreement when they announced [that] WGA-penned projects shooting in the U.S. were no longer eligible.

I have to admit that sudden change really caught me off guard, and am now on pause indefinitely. In the meantime, I’ll keep casting short films and any other non-struck projects that come my way.

I’m also a big believer in “if you want to change your future, you have to change your present.” I have no control over when the strikes end, but I can set myself up for success in the future by doing things now like having general meetings, grabbing coffee with agents, catching up on so many shows and movies, attending comedy shows, and setting up new organizational systems for my office and in the house (our garage has never looked better).

5. If you could cast yourself in any role from any time in the history of film or TV, what would it be?

Something that was made in the ’90s, was on for several seasons, has been in syndication forever, is still airing today and had a long stretch of time making residuals that actually kept a family afloat. (Laughs) Is that an answer? I guess I’m saying Elaine on Seinfeld (Fun fact: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and I share the same birthday).

6. What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of work?

I love to travel and spend time with my family.

7. What is one of your favorite acting performances to date?

Tom Pelphrey’s work on Ozark was some of the finest acting I have ever seen. I literally just got chills by simply thinking about it. His monologue in the car? Chef’s kiss.

8. Who is an industry professional you admire and why?

Gayle Keller. I worked in several offices back in New York, but never for Gayle. The projects she works on are right up my alley, and she always makes such interesting and nuanced casting choices. Bonus: She’s nice. What’s not to love?!

9. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?

“A rising tide lifts all boats.”

10. What are you looking forward to in the industry in the coming year and beyond?

Higher pay and less robots!

This interview has been edited for clarity.