Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney
Yesterday, Deadline posted a Funny Or Die video made by American actor Brian Guest in response to the proliferation of Australian actors being cast in broadcast pilots this season. His “agent” tells him at one point in the video, “You’re doing great work, you’re just not Australian.” As Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva pointed out, this has been a sore topic for Hollywood talent agents and their American-born clients this season as the nets bet heavily on actors from Down Under. So what’s all the hubbub about?
At least 23 Aussies have been cast in pilots this season, an unprecedented number. Some are unfamiliar commodoties Stateside like Luke Mitchell, Bob Morley, Chris Egan, Lincoln Lewis, Rick Donald and Luke Bracey, who were all regulars on the Seven network’s long-running TV soap Home And Away. Others are established names like Miranda Otto, Jacki Weaver, Toni Collette, Melissa George, Rachael Taylor and Anthony LaPaglia.
One factor driving the upsurge is that U.S. producers are tapping Australian-based casting agents to source talent. Kirsty McGregor, hired this year by 20th Century Fox TV to work on all its drama pilots, was instrumental in casting Donald in Fox’s CBS comedy pilot Friends With Better Lives. Another is the growing trend of Aussies to submit audition tapes online without the need to go to Los Angeles to try out in person. “Technology allows Australian actors to self-test and be seen by American casting directors with little time delay, so they can be considered for projects whilst often being in Australia or another country,” says Morrissey and Associates’ Mark Morrissey, whose clients include Bracey, Lewis, Morley and film actors Jai Courtney and Chris and Liam Hemsworth.
McGregor, who focuses primarily on finding actors for lead roles as it’s easier for them to secure U.S. working visas that way, says, “The U.S. now has easy access to actors around the globe because of technology and that is what is being utilized. The studios have the money and the opportunity to find the best actors from everywhere and they are doing so.” Oz director Cherie Nowlan, who is helming ABC’s Murder In Manhattan pilot, adds, “Australian actors are fresh to American audiences, great looking and often have been trained on our soaps from a young age and/or are drama school graduates with theater experience.” But, “The qualities we look for when casting an actor are the same regardless of their native accent: Acting chops, camera savvy, charm and professional attitude.”
This prominence in pilots mirrors the Aussies’ ongoing success in U.S. and international films and TV series, spurred by regular networking between U.S. agents and managers and their Australian counterparts. “The American managements are all looking for the next big thing,” says veteran Oz casting agent Faith Martin, who is retained by ABC and AMC. She put Daniel Henshall (Snowtown) into AMC‘s pilot Turn, which co-stars fellow Aussie Meegan Warner. Martin is concerned however by the risk of a talent drain when actors who are fresh out of drama school seek U.S. reps. ”You have to slow them down and advise them to get their feet on the ground and get some marks on the board here.”
Management 360’s Gabriel Cohen in part credits the grounding many young actors get in Australian soaps and in drama schools. Home And Away‘s Mitchell got the lead in CW’s The Tomorrow People three weeks after he arrived in LA for his first pilot season tryout after three years on the soap. Meanwhile, Bracey and Lewis are in ABC’s Westside; Egan and Emma Booth will feature in ABC’s Gothica with Alias vet Melissa George; Morley and Eliza Taylor scored roles in CW’s The Hundred and Caitlin Stasey and Adelaide Kane have roles in CW’s Reign. Further, Oscar-nominees Weaver and Collette are in CBS/Sony’s The McCarthys, and CBS’ Hostages, respsectively; Otto and Bojana Novakovic are cast in Fox’s Rake, a remake of the Oz legal drama; Rachael Taylor is in NBC’s untitled Rand Ravich drama pilot; Fringe‘s Georgina Haig is in CBS’s Reckless and U.S. TV vet Anthony LaPaglia returns in Fox’s Boomerang.