I recently met Casting Director Lisa London through Ms. In The Biz’s Alexandra Boylan. Lisa is the Casting Director who put together the phenomenal cast for Alexandra’s newest movie Switched which recently completed principal photography in Kentucky this past May. From casting The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Hannah Montana to a plethora of feature films including House Bunny, Grandma’s Boy and the upcoming psychological thriller, Freaks, Lisa has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience. May I present to you, Lisa London!
Hi Lisa! So exciting to get to talk to you! Let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from originally?
I am born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I am actually a second generation native because both my mom and dad are from Los Angeles.
I know you grew up in show business and got your start working with your father, Jerry London who is a well know television director. Did you always want to work in the entertainment industry from a young age, or is it something that came with time and watching your dad in the business?
I always loved hanging out with my dad on his sets and I enjoyed talking to the actors and watching the crew work. I was always very curious on how things worked on a set so I asked lots of questions to different crew members from the Assistant Directors, to the Director of Photography, the Camera people and to the script supervisors, etc. This gave me a wide knowledge of how productions worked.
I knew that I would be in show business because I liked it so much, but didn’t know that I would end up being a Casting Director. But I got a real education from growing up and watching my dad work. It was an invaluable experience for me.
What is it that drew you to casting and how did you get started with your own casting company with Catherine Stroud?
What drew me to casting was that I was always interested in actors. I kept track of actors and what they were working on. As a kid, I even would tear at articles of actors that I liked so when I got my first job as an assistant in casting, my path all started to become clear to me.
I started my own casting company because I had worked at a studio in casting for few years as and wanted to try the independent route, “be my own boss.” Catherine worked for me for a few years as an assistant and then I took a little time off to have my son. Catherine went on to work as an assistant at Paramount Pictures and worked on Tommy Boy and The Brady Bunch Movie. Then when I was finished with my maternity leave, I called her and said, lets start our own company and we have been together for over 20 years.
What is your favorite thing about casting?
Discovering actors that go on to be stars, giving an actor their first break or an early break in their career and also putting a terrific ensemble together of talented actors for a movie or film project.
Can you tell us about your book “From Start to Stardom: The Casting Director’s Guide for Aspiring Actors”?
I wrote this book because I got asked all the time by kids, teens, parents, young adults, any age of aspiring actors, how do they get started. I decided to write this 411 guide about the business of acting and give actors of any age and/or parents, the scoop in a simple way on how to get started in the business to have the most success. It has lots of tips and tools on what to do and what not to do, how to get an agent or manager, what casting directors look for and even what goes on behind the casting directors doors in terms of how come some actors don’t get callbacks and others do.
I often feel like actors don’t realize how much casting directors are really in their corner and truly want them to succeed. Are there any misconceptions about casting directors or the casting process that you’d hear often and would love to clarify or clear up?
Casting Directors are in the actor’s corner. If an actor comes in to read for a producer or director and nails the reading, it makes us look good and that is one role done. I know actors sometimes have the idea that Casting Directors aren’t on their side or they get super nervous.
That nervousness could come from something they heard that was negative from another actor who auditioned for that CD or it could be the actor wasn’t prepared enough, so they think the casting director wasn’t supportive of them. But I guarantee you, it isn’t true! I love actors and always want to help them do the best job they can do.
On a personal note, you are BUSY!!! At Ms. In The Biz we are all about creating a purpose-filled, passionate life, and always love to hear how other entrepreneurial women in the business are crushing it! How do you balance a busy career and a full personal life?
Casting is second nature to me at this point. I just learned how to balance my career with raising my kids. I actually did both these things as a single mom and definitely it was a lot of work. But my kids are my greatest joy and I am very proud of their accomplishments as young adults now. I am so glad that I was able to manage both – having a successful career and raising my kids. Some of the projects I worked on felt like I was giving birth – where you put your heart and soul into it and then the film or television show goes on to be very successful. (ie: Hannah Montana, House Bunny, etc.) I know I had a hand in helping creating that success by putting the right actors together for the project. I am proud of my accomplishments.
Lisa, thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with our readers!
Very excited to see what amazing projects you cast next, and also can’t wait to see “Switched” (the feature film you cast for Ms. In The Biz’s Alexandra Boylan) when it comes out! The casting is SUPERB!
Instagram – @lisalondoncasting
Twitter – @llondoncasting