The Power Struggle: Actors vs. Casting Directors

The power dynamic between actors and casting directors can be debated til the end of time. While both actors and casting directors play crucial roles in the industry, the power dynamic between them is not always equal.

Casting directors are responsible for selecting the actors who will play the various roles in a production and/or who will be introduced to the director for consideration. They have a great deal of power in this process. In some cases, casting directors may have specific requirements for the actors they’re seeking, such as a certain age range, ethnicity, accent or physical appearance.

Actors, on the other hand, may have little control over the types of roles they’re considered for or the specific productions they’re able to work on. This power imbalance can be particularly challenging for actors who are just starting out in the industry and may not have established relationships with casting directors.

How Do Casting Directors Make Decisions On Who Gets Cast for a Role?

To make casting decisions, casting directors typically hold auditions where actors can showcase their talent and suitability for a particular role. Auditions may involve reading from a script, performing a monologue, or demonstrating a specific skill required for the role. Casting directors also consider an actor’s past experience, training, and overall fit for the project.

In addition to auditions, casting directors may also rely on other factors such as industry relationships, recommendations from agents or managers, and personal experiences with an actor. They may also conduct background checks and research an actor’s reputation and public persona before making a final decision.

Casting directors use their expertise and judgment to make decisions that will serve the best interests of the production and its stakeholders, including producers, directors, writers and audiences. The casting director will present a small list of actors to the director. In some cases, especially if the CD has a long-standing positive relationship with the director, the CD will choose the final actors.

So since this article is about power…


Mel Brooks, Rick Moranis and George Wyner in Spaceballs

Influential Casting Directors…a Quick Bit

Marion Dougherty: Often referred to as the “godmother of casting,” Dougherty was a pioneer in the field of casting for film and television. She helped to launch the careers of many actors, including Dustin Hoffman, Robert Duvall and Glenn Close.

Lynn Stalmaster: With a career spanning over six decades, Stalmaster is considered one of the most respected casting directors in the industry. He has cast some of the most iconic films in history, including Fiddler on the Roof, Tootsie and Spaceballs. (OMG, I love Spaceballs! Have you seen it? Produced by Mel Brooks.)

Allison Jones: Jones is known for her work in comedy, having cast hit TV shows like The Office, Parks and Recreation and Veep. For 2023, she was the CD on the Barbie movie. She has a knack for discovering talented comedic actors and helping them find success in the industry.

Does An Actor Lose Power When Nervous?

Actors – what’s the difference between auditioning for a casting director you’ve never heard of vs. a casting director who worked on blockbuster hits, such as the ones listed above? Well, if you read the sub-title, you’d know the answer. Did you get an A+?

When an actor is nervous, it can affect their performance, making them appear less confident and less able to showcase their talents. This may lead the casting director to have doubts about the actor’s ability to handle the role or to work well with the rest of the production team.

It’s important to know that nervousness is a common feeling among actors, especially during auditions. Many casting directors are aware of this and try to create a supportive environment to help actors feel more comfortable and confident.

Argh – I’m going to go on a tangent here. I keep telling myself to stop but it doesn’t work!

Some actors are able to channel their nervous energy into their performance, using it to create a more intense and compelling audition. It’s also worth noting that a strong audition tape or resume can help to mitigate any nervousness that an actor may feel during an in-person audition.

End of tangent! :)

So yes, an actor loses power when nervous.


Margot Robbie as Barbie. Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures | © 2023 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

The Power of the Actor

There are many actors who have gained significant power and influence in the entertainment industry, both through their talent and their ability to leverage their success to make meaningful changes in the industry. Here are some examples:

George Clooney: Clooney is an Oscar-winning actor, writer and director who has also become a powerful force in Hollywood as a producer. He’s used his influence to support a number of charitable causes, including human rights and environmental causes.

Oprah Winfrey: While not primarily known as an actor, Winfrey has appeared in a number of films and television shows over the years. She’s perhaps best known for her daytime talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which made her one of the most influential and powerful women in the world.

Margot Robbie: Robbie has leveraged her success in the entertainment industry to make meaningful changes through her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. One of the key ways she has done this is by championing and producing projects that feature female-centric narratives and diverse talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Why am I bringing up how George, Oprah and Margot have influence over the world? How does this relate to power between an actor and a casting director?

Well, now let’s flip the table. If a casting director is casting a film and they want to audition the likes of an A-lister, perhaps now it’s the CD who loses power.

How an Actor’s Popularity and Talent Can Impact Casting Decisions

Actors who are well-known can help to secure financing and distribution for a production, making them more attractive to producers and directors.

Many casting directors and filmmakers will prioritize talent over popularity, as they recognize the importance of finding the right actor to bring a character to life.

That said, there are cases where an actor’s popularity may be more important than their talent. In some instances, an actor may be cast in a role simply because they have a large following or because they’re seen as “bankable.” This can be particularly true in the world of blockbuster films, where studios may be more concerned with securing a big name star than with finding the best actor for the job.

The Power Dynamic Between Actors and Casting Directors

The power dynamic between actors and casting directors is complex and multi-faceted. As noted, casting directors hold significant power in the early stages of the casting process. They’re often the first point of contact for actors and are responsible for making initial decisions about who should be considered for a particular role.

Casting directors are also tasked with negotiating contracts and salaries with actors, which can be a critical factor in determining an actor’s compensation for a role. In some cases, casting directors may be able to leverage their power to secure more favorable terms for a production, including lower salaries for actors or more creative control for the director or producers.

On the other hand, actors hold their own form of power in the casting process. Those who have achieved significant success and recognition in the industry may have more leverage when negotiating for a role, particularly if they are able to command higher salaries or have more say in the creative process. Additionally, actors who have a strong personal brand or a large social media following may be able to use that influence to their advantage, helping to attract attention to a production and generate buzz.


The power struggle between actors and casting directors is a real issue in the entertainment industry. It is important that both parties understand the power dynamics at play, and how they can work together to create a successful outcome. In order to make sure this happens, actors must be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, while casting directors should focus on helping them reach their goals. Additionally, communication should be open, honest, and respectful between the two parties to ensure that the process runs smoothly.

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