Being a Cast Director

Lynn Stalmaster was born in Omaha, Nebraska but moved with his family to Beverly Hills, California. His career interests were in TV and movies. After a brief acting career, he moved into the production side of the business. He eventually ended up in a casting.

Stalmaster was noted for pushing young actors into roles that gave them the career boost that they needed. Can you imagine the movie The Graduate without Dustin Hoffman in the starring role? Or Superman without Christopher Reeves? The TV mini-series Roots would not have been the same without LaVar Burton in the lead role. John Travolta would maybe never had a long acting career without the start that Stalmaster helped him get on the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter.

Lynn Stalmaster cast over 400 movies and TV shows. This included four Academy Award Winning movies and many of the most popular TV shows at the time. He was the first casting director to win an Academy Award. When he was given the Academy Award, the actor Bruce Derm said: “Lynn gave me and my entire generation the opportunity to dare to dream that we could make a difference or matter.”

Creating the opportunity to dare to dream should be a mission for all of us. As each of our careers mature, we need to become casting directors for young people who just need the opportunity to show how they can perform. Just imagine the joy of seeing some succeed who might never had the chance without your efforts.

As casting directors, we are often confronted with the caste system that still exists. While we have made strides in improving diversity, and inclusion, there still exists a caste system where candidates are being considered for certain roles. Certainly race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, and other biological factors are influenced by the caste a person belongs to. But there are other dimensions to our caste system. These include the school you went to, your social status, your religion, your political beliefs, and other factors which should have absolutely no role in qualifications for a role. Finding the right person for a role should not be influenced by privilege.

Each of us should do our part in fighting caste systems which deny opportunities to dare to dream. Just imagine how different our society would be if everyone of us were principled casting directors? How many Dustin Hoffmans, Christopher Reeves, or LaVar Burtons might we discover? Just imagine what each of us can do to break apart the caste system that denies roles for many who might be well suited for a role? Just imagine how each of us can become more aware of human talents that may not be evident to others?

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“You never know where or when you will find the answer. And I’ve found the answer in some very strange places” – John Paul Warren (author and minister)

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