Answer: FOX’s VP of Casting and LACHSA Alumna Tamara Hunter T/97

Tamara Hunter T/97
We see actors all the time: on screen, gracing the red carpet and, for some of us, plastered on our favorite mugs, magnets, or pullovers.  But what about the people that actual help put the actors in their larger than life roles? Though we rarely see them (they certainly don’t have Twitter followings of millions) Casting Directors have an extremely important and irreplaceable role in the entertainment industry.  Casting Directors suggest certain actors for roles, negotiate contracts, work with directors and producers, and add an “extra texture [and] level” that help move a script forward. 

As the Vice President of Casting for 20th Century FOX, Tamara Hunter knows first-hand the ins and outs of casting and the vast “spider web of people” it takes to make a film a success.  So there’s the Casting Director, the director, and the producer. That’s the creative team [and] we’re deciding who we want to audition for [a] movie. We’re all huddled together [making] creative decisions…to help facilitate the director’s story- always, always to help facilitate the director’s story. And then there’s the studio which is, in essence, the money.”

Tamara’s career is vast, varied, and requires a special eye for skill, human process, and logistics.  “You’re putting the director with the actor, with the film maker with the see if it’s a fit. And that is what’s completely fascinating to me…because you can see things that sometimes the other creative film makers don’t see. And so you may know an actor for ten years, know what they’re capable of, and the right job just hasn’t come together yet….Finally you see the right job, it comes together and it’s brilliant!”

So is being a Casting Director all glamour?  You get to call in actors of all levels and have them audition for your project.  You get to mind meld with the industry’s top directors and producers.  Well, Tamara lets us know that it doesn’t always go so smoothly.  “Sometimes you have an idea or the director has an idea and it just doesn’t click and when that happens [its difficult] because it alters the casting process… Having the collaboration with the film makers [is] the most important thing. And when that doesn’t happen [it’s] a big challenge.”

On a positive note, Tamara says the best part of her job is seeing an actor land a role.  “It sounds cheesy but it is life changing when you see someone who’s worked very hard as an actor for a long time and then they book a big job. It’s such an amazing feeling and it never goes away.”  She goes further to say that the moment the perfect actor fits the perfect role is not singular. “Everything’s in line: The director’s sitting there, we’re sitting there, and the whole room will feel it.”

Like many Casting Directors, Tamara began as an actor.  Perhaps unlike many, her love of acting stemmed from her passion for debate.  “I [was] involved in debate through middle school [and] in the first couple years of the previous high school I was attending.  And debate, as you know, and public speaking are very in sync with theatre.”  As class president Tamara made many speeches to her fellow peers and unknowingly turned those speeches into performances.  “Unbeknownst to me- I didn’t realize I was doing it- but I was turning [the speeches] into monologues.” She goes on to say the experience felt like a show.  “I didn’t quite know what was happening but I knew that I liked it.”

A major turning point came after she had given one of her speeches and as a result a student approached her and said, “Whatever you say I’m definitely on board with it!”  That experience proved to be life changing.  “It connected with theatre so well [that] by the time I started to explore Shakespeare, which is really what caught me into the world of Theatre…I was already enamored by what you could do for another person and have that experience connect you with them.”

Tamara eventually changed schools and found herself at LACHSA.  She describes her time as “magical” and says the best thing she learned was to “think boldly and be confident.”  “I think that before LACHSA you kind of have an idea of yourself as an artist, you have an idea of what you want but…as a very, very young person [the school] instills in you a certain confidence…The option to think as an artist and be bold and have great thoughts is there for your now [and] I think that’s why LACHSA’s so special…You hear it a hundred times: You go to a normal school [and] that opportunity just might be stifled. [LACHSA] allows that [freedom] to open up in you. And you leave thinking ‘Hey, I may never do this again but now I have the tools to do it if I want.’ That’s pretty amazing.”

Tamara certainly had the tools to pursue acting but, as her graduation date from UCLA drew nearer, a change had begun in her.  “I sort of had a little bit of a crisis… I wanted to always help the actors, I wanted to be around them, I wanted to have them in my life but I was struggling with whether or not I wanted to continue my journey myself.”  She found acting itself was no longer fulfilling but “fortunately the casting thing started to begin to [form] as a little seed” in her mind.  “I had an internship with an independent casting director and it was there where I saw how casting is…a producer’s job.”  It was a perfect match.

Tamara’s path proves that sometimes the unexpected journey has its vast rewards.  Twelve years in the business later, she has creditssuch as The Avengers, Chef, and Godzilla, to her name with many more to come.  Despite her immense success, Tamara sums up life in a few simple words: “All you can do is try to find stuff that makes you happy.”