Jazzy Collins: What Goes Into Being A Casting Director?

Jazzy Collins Photo. Image Credit to Shane Collins.
Jazzy Collins Photo. Image Credit to Shane Collins. /

Jazzy Collins, CSA is a two-time Emmy-nominated Casting Director. Working with various shows including, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Love Island, The Circle, The Traitors, and Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrls. Jazzy Collins and her company Forced Perspective, have worked to make a mark in the casting industry, while Jazzy Collins has also made a name for herself in declaring her desire for diversity in casting and behind the scenes.

Culturess: How do you go about casting a show?

Jazzy Collins: Where do we begin? So basically what happens is a network or production company will come to myself or come to my company, Forced Perspective, and reach out and basically say ‘Hey we have this show. We need casting.’ They’ll give us kind of an idea of what they’re looking for. From there it’s my responsibility and my team’s responsibility to really figure out who meshes well as a cast, who would pop on the screen, but also be responsible to provide stories of people of all different types of backgrounds. So by doing that we’re scouting. We’re finding people on social media, we’re finding sometimes people on the street. I will have my casting associates look for people who would be a good fit for the show.

From there then we have our producers who interview. They will spend sometimes up to an hour talking to people and seeing if they’re a good fit for the show. Then from there, it moves over to the casting editor’s stage. The casting editors will spend time, they’ll edit everything down, into a nice, maybe, two-minute video for the network and production to review, and then from there I, as the Casting Director, I’m the biggest cheerleader for all of these folks that come through the door. So I will be talking with production. I will be talking with network and we’ll figure out who we think would be a good fit for the show and then boom, you see your beautiful television show that you absolutely love and are excited about or maybe is your guilty pleasure.

Culturess: How do you work toward making Hollywood a more diverse and creative place?

Jazzy Collins: Something that I noticed when I was growing up when I was watching a lot of TV shows, I noticed a lot of people were stereotyped rather than actually exploring their stories of who they are. So for me, it’s really important to explore different cultures, explore different backgrounds, and really learn about what other people are like, because obviously I am my own self, I am a black woman. I only know my experience but it’s my responsibility as a Casting Director to share other stories that are outside of it. So what I do is make sure that we’re interviewing a diaspora of people. We’re not just sticking with what we know. I make sure my teams are fully diverse so we have different people from different backgrounds.

So then they know they can tap into their communities but they can also tap into others. From there we make sure that we are intelligent about casting people. We’re making sure that there’s no stereotypes that are being said or used. It’s our responsibility to really learn about these cultures so I make sure that every casting that I ever do is diverse. I make sure it’s not the same five people that are walking in the room. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, different jobs, different environments, and that’s how you make a beautiful cast.

Culturess: What is the difference between casting actors for a murder mystery type of series versus shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette?

Jazzy Collins: So unscripted is you’re finding people off the street, plucking them, and then they end up being stars. In the scripted, these are actors that are trained. They are learning, they understand how a scene works, and they’re coming into this and auditioning for whatever that movie is, so that murder mystery that you were talking about. So that’s the biggest difference, that it’s just people that are regular people and then there are people that are actual trained professionals acting for a movie or a show.

Culturess: What influenced your decision to write an open letter in 2020 calling for a more diverse cast and production team for The Bachelor franchise?

Jazzy Collins: So Black Lives Matter movement was really a full force at that point and I was someone that I really felt that there needed to be a change in the industry but I didn’t know how to get it out there. So I wrote up this letter thinking that like my five friends on Instagram would see it. But in actuality, it ended up being picked up by the Press and a whole bunch of people ended up seeing it and responding to it.

But really the most important thing in that I called for was to have more diversity behind the scenes and I’m starting to see that now. I’m starting to see that’s more something that a lot of production companies and networks are working towards and I think it’s really important for us to do. It’s easy to just throw these people on TV and just go you’re filling a quota but if these people are going to be sharing their stories and sharing who they are and being vulnerable, it’s really important to have people that are there that look like them behind the scenes.

Culturess: How do you think casting choices in representation impact or influence viewers?

Jazzy Collins: I think being able to see yourself on TV is so much more exciting or being able to see a culture that you may never have access to because maybe you live in a small town is so exciting. I know for myself when I worked on The Circle and we cast our first deaf contestant, that was my opportunity to really be fully involved in working with the deaf community, and I learned so much that I never would have unless we tapped into that community. So it’s really important to continue doing that moving forward and casting all this representation and we can have that and be exposed to it because then it’ll seem more normal.

Culturess: When you cast actors for The Traitors what were you looking for?

Jazzy Collins: My team works specifically with the real people. We didn’t do the actors or any of the celebrities so I can talk a little bit more about the real people casting.

Culturess: How does it feel to be a two-time Emmy nominee?

Jazzy Collins: It definitely feels like a dream come true. Also, it feels surreal at the same time. The first nomination I was like ‘there’s no way.’ I fell on the floor and was very dramatic about it when I look at it. But then the second time around I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m actually doing this.’ People care about or actually appreciate the work that we’re doing and I think that is really important, especially casting side. Reality casting kinda gets a bad rep. A lot of people are like ‘Aw, it’s kinda like the step-child of TV.’ So it’s really amazing that the Emmys spends time to actually nominate and give us the opportunity to win awards for what we’re doing and it’s just an honor to be nominated not just once, but twice.

Culturess: Which project that you have worked on was the most difficult or challenging?

Jazzy Collins: Probably the most challenging that I worked on was Born For Business for Shopify Studios, which I believe also aired on Peacock. We were looking for business owners with all different disabilities. I think when people immediately think of disabilities they think of something visual, and I think it’s really important to be able to cast those disabilities that aren’t visual because they’re a lot of them, even anxiety. We had someone we cast that she had something that she really suffered with, which was anxiety, and I think that a lot of people suffer with that and that, making sure we had we had all of those stories down.

We were making sure we were being really responsible about telling these stories, but also being eye-opening, it was a tough one. There’s also a lot of people who aren’t business owners that do have disabilities, so even just finding them was tough. But overall I think we did a fantastic job and it was obviously one of my favorite shows even though it wasn’t one of those sparkly shows that a lot of people know of. I’m really happy and really proud of the work that we did.

Culturess: What is the most important thing to you about casting a series?

Jazzy Collins: I think the most important thing about casting a series is being able to tell stories that haven’t been told before. I think it’s really easy to fall into the same tropes of the types of people that we see on TV because it’s easy to do. But I like being able to explore a story or explore someone that you normally wouldn’t have access to. Which is why when I worked on the Lizzo show, it was something I was so excited about because we see dancers. We watch them on America’s Got Talent. But we don’t get to see a group of full-figured women dancing on a network ever. So that was something I was really excited about. I’m super happy that I was a part of that project as well.

Culturess: You have a big role in the creation of these shows. What is it like to see your work come to fruition when it airs?

Jazzy Collins: It always really exciting to see your work on TV. I think that’s something that I always dreamed about when I was a kid was like creating something and then seeing it on a bigger platform. Honestly, the thing that’s really exciting for me is seeing how these characters develop from the first time you meet them until all the way on the show because you have any idea of how you think everything’s gonna play out and a lot of the time that doesn’t happen on set. So it’s always a really fun surprise to see these characters develop and become these people that we love watching.

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