EXCLUSIVE: It may have been his biggest starring role to date, but until now, the actor who worked as an undercover operative for the Los Angeles City Attorney to bust an alleged ring of casting workshop scammers has remained in the shadows, identified in court documents only as James R.
James R., it turns out, is actor James Runcorn, who’s appeared mostly in minor roles in minor films including Airman #1 in The Night Santa Got Lost, Bearded Man in Holding Patterns, Jogger #2 in Mr. Blue Sky, and Texan Bar Customer in Karate Kill.
Runcorn worked the casting workshop case under the direction of Deputy City Attorney Mark Lambert; the probe to date has yielded one misdemeanor plea agreement, a $70 fine and 150 days of community service. The trials of 24 other defendants are pending. The sting has also cast a pall over the entire workshop industry.
“I’m not certain what I can talk about at this time,” Runcorn said when first contacted by Deadline about his role. “I have to talk to Mark Lambert and see if I can say anything. I don’t think I can until the trials are completely over.”
Calling back a few minutes later, Runcorn said: “I was instructed that I’m not allowed to say anything at this time. I’m a witness in this case and in any other cases that may be pending.”
When contacted, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s office said Lambert “can’t speak to specifics of ongoing criminal cases.”
Sources familiar with the case say Runcorn wore a fake cast on his arm when he attended more than a dozen workshops — the cast concealed a device to record conversations with the targets of the investigation. Those recordings are now part of the official record in each of the cases.
“This investigation was conducted very thoroughly,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in February when the charges were filed. “It was conducted by an investigator who was actually an undercover informant for this office. This informant attended 13 workshops by five companies. The results were then verified by an independent expert.”
The charges claim the defendants violated the state’s Krekorian Talent Scam Prevention Act, which makes it a misdemeanor to charge actors for auditions or employment opportunities. Earlier this week, Bradley Sachs, owner of the now-defunct Actors Alley casting workshop, pleaded no contest to one count of violating the law, and was placed on 36 months of summary probation, during which time he agreed not to be involved in any talent training service.
An Indiegogo defense fund, which has raised $31,000, says that “The right for casting professionals to teach classes for actors has been an ongoing battle for over a decade. We believe actors benefit from the educational value of workshops and classes conducted by casting professionals. We offer professional advice, coaching, guidance, constructive criticism, insight into our process, realities of the business, and a safe space to practice one’s craft. The casting community has been unfairly targeted. We stand by our colleagues and we believe they will be vindicated.”