‘Euphoria‘ casting directors share their secrets and what they look for in an audition.
The new HBO series “Euphoria” is a fresh take on the high school experience. The show features new talent among famous stars including Zendaya. Two of the casting directors for the series, Mary Vernieu, and Jessica Kelly, spoke to IndieWire about casting the series and how it offered them the rare opportunity to cast unknown talent on a premium cable series.
Kelly says that she and Vernieu received the project in an unusual situation. She explains, “It’s very rare to get a script or an entire series at HBO where they tell you they don’t need any names, just whoever is best to make this story.”
Casting unknown talent was a great opportunity because of how important casting plays in the entertainment industry and how it is quickly changing. Vernieu says, “In this day and age the opportunity to discover people doesn’t happen that much anymore. You want someone who has some value. It’s a wonderful artistic process for us, to be allowed to dive in and find these characters.”
Kelly says that they were able to cast the series based on talent. She explains, “We have a great combination of some cast who have never acted before and someone like Jacob Elordi who came from Australia. It’s watching tons of tapes from all over the country, knowing what Sam likes, and bringing in different people and trying different things.”
It was essential to have some familiar faces to connect audiences to the show. HBO cast Zendaya as the lead role because of her fame and how she would transverse audiences’ expectations of her. Vernieu says, “At first I thought she wouldn’t do it, it’s such a departure. It was something so far from her persona. She’s got a lot of fans. Getting her people to take a minute to read it and pass it on: ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’ It’s a complex character. At the last minute, she read it and wanted to do it. But she knew from the beginning what to do with it, how important it was. She’s a smart girl.”
Verineu says that she is not expecting actors to do very well in the audition room. She explains, “A perfect performance in the room is not what we are looking for. We are looking for moments of brilliance, those flashes that show where it can go. Auditions are artificial, it’s really hard for the actors, hard for everybody—in a room, two chairs, not in the scene. What it’s really about when someone comes in? Is it an essence, is it organic? Do they feel like the character? You see the flashes, that one moment, ‘Oh my God!’ Once you send them off to do the movie or TV show, then they can go deep, access deep feelings, have layers, it can resonate. You’re looking for a person who has more to offer than what they’re showing.”
That said, sometimes an audition is so amazing that it is apparent from an audition that the actor is right for the part. For Angus Cloud, who plays Fezco, Vernieu says, “He did not have to come in. We saw the search tape — no question — he was the character, 100 percent, and even though he’s a drug dealer, he has so much heart. You can see who he is; he’s a natural. These kids, they’re young. They don’t have to be doing anything. They’re trying to figure out what they are doing.”