“I just want more Asian talent in the business.”
Julia Kim is a casting director best known for independent films (The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Spa Night, Minari). She is also the owner of invAsianLA an industry consulting service for Asian actors, “I just want more Asian talent in the business. Hollywood in general, is a complex and tricky landscape to navigate.”
Julia shares with Asian American Film her approach to casting and how excited she is you decided to follow your dreams.
If you want your audition to stand out, Julia recommends being as off-book as possible, “It helps the actor bring their A-game. Every audition spot is a very coveted thing in this business. If you come and are not prepared, you are basically robbing another actor of an opportunity.” Being able to quickly memorize dialogue is a particularly good skill on a television set. “The writers sometimes write things the night before, and you get new pages in the morning. Actors need to be on their toes. Some people are really good at ad-libbing, and some people really stick to the page. I think when you know what’s on the page securely, it frees you up creatively to pepper it with your creativity, and that’s always welcomed,” says Julia.
Julia believes an actor’s improvisation skill can make the difference in landing a role, “When you get to that level of the audition with the higher-ups, they see what you can do with the script, now they want to see you play. Especially in television, you want an actor who is going to give you a different and fresh take every time. An actor’s ability to give fresh takes and not repeat the same delivery is really important to give to directors and producers for the success of the project.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled in-person auditions, Julia hopes to resume them as soon as it is safe, “Casting virtually is still not a fair substitute. There is nothing that can substitute being in a room with actors. There are things that we can do remotely, but body language has a lot to do with a character.”
The two most important traits an actor can have is respect and reliability. “Successful actors respect their opportunities and are reliable. We need to know that you are prepared and are going to bring value to a production. A set is a very intimate space. There are long hours and you spend a lot of time with these people. If there is a reputation that you are difficult or disrespectful, it’s a small business it will get around,” says Julia.
Discovering the right talent for a role, is what Julia’s office strives to do with every project. A particularly memorable casting experience was 2016’s Asian American coming out story, Spa Night. “We had seen a lot of actors. The lead character was having an awakening of his sexuality and identity. We had the option of casting someone who was pretty well known. We were ready to pull the trigger and make the choice because the start date was looming, but then we had this actor that came in at the 11th hour and changed our whole way of thinking. We were challenged with, do we go with the actor who has some name value and the project could ride on publicity, or do we go with this actor that really feels right for the charter? In the end, I think we made the right choice. Joe Seo won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance for Breakthrough Performance,” says Julia.
With more Asian actors starring in films and television shows, Julia is assured that the industry is finally ready to embrace Asian talent, “Now the opportunities have grown, that means more people of color get into the business and that makes me excited. I love it when I meet people who say that this was something they always dreamed of doing but they took the more stable route, and are now pursuing their real dream. I want to tell them, we need you. There are stories to be told and I am really excited you are doing this.”
Photo provided by Julia Kim