The 2022 Semiramis Award for Excellence in Casting will be presented at the prestigious Torino Film Festival in Italy on 26th November. Running up to the event, we are posting interviews with all of this year’s nominees. Please meet Los Angeles Casting Directors Deborah Aquila, Lisa Zagoria & Tricia Wood, in conversation with ICDN Advisory Board member Florentina Bratfanof. They, along with Lisa Lobel & Angela Peri (Boston Casting) were nominated for the U.S. film CODA (directed by Sian Heder).
How did you start work for this project? How long did you work on the casting?
We started casting CODA back in 2017 when the film was set up at Lionsgate and we were their casting consultants at that time.
As the casting process is an extremely collaborative affair, please name three people that supported this casting process and why.
I would say Patrick Wachsberger, first and foremost because he really understood what this film could be and mean to people when he got the rights to La Famille Belier. Patrick supported the goal of casting authentically and helped us see that vision realized. Sian, our incredible writer/director–trusted us to do the work necessary to achieve that authenticity. Marlee Matlin was the anchor of our family. Once Marlee committed, we start the process in earnest, of building our CODA family unit.
One of the great qualities of this movie is the casting ensemble. It really features an amazing mix of deaf and typical actors, the feeling of them, as a family, with all the highs and lows. How long did it take for this mix to come together?
Our search for Ruby was the longest and most exhaustive. We started the process in 2017, exploring a wide variety of ideas. In 2019 when the film was officially green-lit, we continued the search for our RUBY. We were very far down the road on a choice, when I was having lunch with an agent friend of many years, I mentioned that we were still considering new auditions for the role until the final decision had to be made later that week. My friend suggested Emilia, her client, who was shooting another project at the time. I asked if she could tape as quickly as possible, in her downtime from the show. Sue made it happen and we had her audition in 24 hours. When we viewed that tape, we called Sian and asked her to pretty much drop what she was doing and watch it. We knew we had found our RUBY. I first saw Troy in BIG RIVER on Broadway, then again opposite Marlee in SPRING AWAKENING. Troy auditioned in 2017 and then had his callback for Frank 1 ½ years later. Since he already had a long history with Marlee, the chemistry between them was beautiful and very real. Daniel was the perfect Leo to Emilia’s Ruby.
Can you tell us about a difficult moment in the casting process you managed to overcome? What happened?
I think probably we’d all agree that the most difficult moment of the entire casting journey was when the film almost didn’t get made because there were people who wanted to hire hearing actors to play certain deaf characters. We were committed to casting this film, as Sian wrote and envisioned the characters, AUTHENTICALLY. This beautiful story was honored by those wonderful actors. It was a wonderful experience to have been a part of and that journey.