Warner Bros. Television has selected its inaugural group of 10 acting students for a new initiative designed to connect the studio with emerging actors whose final year in drama schools was curtailed or negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many of the traditional year-end networking opportunities canceled or suspended, including student meetings with studio, network and independent casting departments and showcases, WBTV Casting launched its “Actors in Training” program over the summer. The virtual initiative drew more than 6,800 actor submissions from 280 programs worldwide, with headshots, resumes and virtual introductions reviewed by WBTV Casting.
A select group of applicants were then invited to submit auditions and meet with casting executives, and the top 10 were then offered the opportunity to meet with WBTV development and programming executives, as well as Warner Bros. Television–based producers.
WBTV Casting’s search included outreach to approximately 400 undergraduate, graduate and conservatory programs across the United States, Canada, Australia and the UK. It included traditional top-tier institutions as well as schools and training programs in historically underserved and underrepresented communities.
Here is the WBTV Casting “Actors in Training” Class of 2020, with bios provided by the program:
- Ahmed Elhaj is a graduate of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He has lived in London for a large portion of his life and has been interested in acting since the age of 14. (Reps: Bloomfields Welch Management);
- Anele Phindile Mahamba is an actress born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. When she was 16, she moved to London by herself to pursue acting. When she turned 18, she auditioned for Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where she has been training for the past three years and recently graduated;
- Corey Mylchreest is a recent graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He would describe himself as quite physical and musical, playing a variety of sports and instruments. Although he has immense love of both theatre and screen, film holds a dear and special place in his heart. He also loves a good pun… (Reps: Independent Talent Group);
- Filipe Cates trained as an actor at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Born in Lisbon to Portuguese parents and a half Indian mother, he is fluent in English, Portuguese and Spanish. Filipe also trained as a classical pianist at the Nossa Senhora do Cabo Music Conservatoire in Lisbon, for eight years, while rowing in national competitions. He is also a member of the London Philharmonic Choir. (Reps: Waring & McKenna);
- Hayward Leach is a third-generation Brooklynite of Caribbean heritage, a lover of storytelling, and a recent graduate of The Juilliard School. He is passionate about stories showcasing the cultural diversity of this country, with psychological complexity and deep humanity. Eventual goal: write, produce, and act in his own series. (Reps: Untitled Entertainment, Buchwald);
- Ilia Isorelýs Paulino is a 2020 graduate of the Yale School of Drama, where she honed her acting skills and grew immensely as an artist. She hails from the beautiful island of the Dominican Republic, where art and culture combine to create an explosion of life. She is hungry to wok and to start healing the world through laughter and craft. (Reps: Authentic Talent and Literary Management);
- Jessica Whitehurst is a native South Londoner and graduate of the BA acting course at Rose Bruford College. She is a young, bright actress, who was due to be participating in the Sam Wanamaker Festival 2020 at the Globe Theatre before the pandemic hit. Her purpose in acting is to inspire, to get more people who look like her on screens, and to help little kids believe that their dreams are possible, through hard work and determination. (Reps: Global Artists);
- Lebogang Fisher, or “Lebo” (pronounced Leh-boo), is a South African actress and director. She is a recent graduate of both the New York Film Academy (New York campus) and Rhodes University, having doubled majored in Drama and English literature. The name “Lebogang” means to be thankful, and she has been, time and time again, for the opportunities she has had. If not for the pandemic, she would have been playing Ophelia in a South African production of Hamlet at The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town later this year. She believes in putting South Africa and other South African artists on the map in front of a worldwide audience. (Reps: M R Management, Stella Talent);
- McKayla Fontanez is a Los Angeles–based actress, originally from Orlando, Florida, who recently graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She loves to paint, soak up the sun, and sing really badly in the shower for all of her roommates to hear. Her favorite roles to play are a combination of a preppy girl-next-door cheerleader, and an emotional and damaged rebel;
- Sylvie Marinkovic is currently in her last year of training in the BA Acting Programme at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. She was born and raised in Switzerland to parents originally from Sarajevo, Bosnia. She speaks German, Swiss German and English fluently, as well as Serbo-Croatian and French. With her passion for languages, theatre and literature, she found her way into drama when she was only 11 years old and played the lead in the European movie Cure: The Life of Another, earning a Best Actress nomination for the Swiss Film Prize. She has worked in TV and films in Europe, and has always had an affinity for fantasy.