The final day of aTVfest, Saturday, Feb. 3, continued the festival’s focus on the work that goes on behind-the-scenes of television with a special panel featuring a casting director, David Rapaport, and two actors, Danielle Panabaker and Kendrick Sampson, from CW’s “The Flash.” Rapaport shared how he and his casting office break down process when it comes to auditioning thousands of actors for a single role, which was the process Panabaker and Sampson went through to earn their respective roles. 

Rapaport said he was an intern in college for a casting director, and it was during that time he experienced his first professional casting session.

“It was really eye-opening, mostly because it’s such a fascinating social experiment to see how different people walk into a room,” Rapaport said. “How they say, ‘Hello.’ How they start a scene. Some people take five minutes to put their bag down and get their sides out and take a sip of water and some people just go right into it. It was also fascinating to me to see how different people interpret the same material. I was hooked onto it right away.”

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Rapaport sharing his experiences as a casting director for “The Flash.” Photo credit: Emilie Kefalas.

When it comes to the casting process, Rapaport said it is not unlike dating. Many of the programs he uses when agents and managers submit actors to him are actually similar to a dating app like Tinder.

“You see 1,500 submissions for one character and I’m basically acting as a liaison, a matchmaker between the producers and the actors,” Rapaport said. “It’s my job to go through with the producers’ likes or dislikes for the type of person, and on my side, it doesn’t necessarily have ‘I like long walks in park.’ It has resumes and pictures and demo reels and I try to match the essence of a character that we’re looking for with the essence of the actor through their material.”

The timeline for the casting process varies, especially for television series, according to Rapaport. For “The Flash,” he and his team had three months to cast the pilot. When the CW ordered a full first season, Rapaport has 8 to 10 days to cast anywhere from two to 22 characters per episode.

“It’s a really really fast process,” Rapaport said. “It’s a numbers game. What happens is the director and writer will hand us a script. The new characters are in the script, but there’s very brief breakdowns. It’s like, ‘We’re looking for a man in his twenties and a woman in her twenties,’ and again I’m looking for the heart of what that character is and how I can best match them to the actors that I know.”

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Panabaker listens to Rapaport discuss the casting process during “Casting for the CW” at SCAD aTVfest. Photo credit: Emilie Kefalas.

From there, Rapaport said he and his office release a brief to agents and managers in the business alerting them of what they are casting. Those agents and managers then submit around 2,500 actors per role.

“We narrow that down to about 50-100 people that we then we weed out through pre-reads, self-tapes and then in-person producer sessions and meetings,” Rapaport explained. “We narrow those choices down to one person that we then send to the studio for approval. They send that to the network for approval. And then it comes back to us to negotiate the deal. It’s a fast process. We see a lot of people. There’s a lot of people making different decisions. It’s never quite where you started from.”

Panabaker, who plays Dr. Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost on “The Flash,” said her audition for the role happened very quickly, with the whole process taking less than week.

“I remember I was in New York, and I flew back and I think I met with David Nutter, the director of the pilot, and then read for you and Andrew and a handful of people on a Tuesday,” Panabaker said. “I read for you guys on Tuesday, went to studio on Thursday, and tested on Friday and got the call from Greg Friday afternoon that I got it.”

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Sampson recalls his audition experiences for Rapaport during the 2018 SCAD aTVfest. Photo credit: Emilie Kefalas.

Sampson plays Dominic Lanse/Clifford DeVoe, a character with dual personalities, which he said he was not aware of when he auditioned. Both he and Panabaker said prior to landing roles on “The Flash,” they had been auditioning for Rapaport for years.

“I don’t even know when it was but there’s another one a few years ago…where I went in and [Rapaport] had all the lines memorized and was acting out the scene with me behind the camera and afterwards I was like, ‘You’re my favorite casting director ever,'” Sampson said. “So every time, I go in and have this long conversation, and then don’t get the part. And then finally with ‘The Flash,’ my agent said, ‘Well he called.'”

In that vein, Rapaport said he has never cast some of his favorite actors.

“It’s not just my decision,” Rapaport said. “There are so many cooks in the kitchen making these final casting decisions. I’m always on the lookout for new talent. Always. I will say I have a good group of people I do love and will help them until they book something.”

By Emilie Kefalas.