Spring arrived yesterday, bringing the end of the annual two-month mad dash known as pilot casting season. Heading into pilot season this year, there was a lot of concern that the proliferation of original scripted programming on cable and digital platforms would put an additional strain on broadcast pilot casting, further depleting the talent pool. Going head-to-head with the casting of more than a dozen cable and digital pilots/series — including multiple-pilot slates on TNT, Amazon and FX and high-profile series on Netflix, USA and WGA America — the broadcast networks escaped mostly unscathed, successfully casting more that 80 pilots/direct-to-series, with only three comedy pilots rolled because of difficulties finding actors.
Related: Pilot Season 2014: The Overachievers
This pilot season brought an additional wrinkle, with Fox’s Kevin Reilly declaring in January that his network plans to bypass the traditional pilot cycle going forward. There were more straight-to-series and limited/event series orders this season, and several networks started casting a handful of projects early. But overall, it was mostly business as usual, with thousands of castings sessions crammed into eight weeks that resulted in the casting of more that 1,500 roles. We saw Oscar winners and nominees like The Help‘s Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer (plus Halle Berry earlier in the season) come to television, TV stars like David Schwimmer, Patricia Arquette, Mary-Louise Parker and Josh Duhamel make a return, and the casts of cancelled shows Happy Endings and Nikita be sought after.
Related: Primetime Pilot Panic!
As we close the book on this year’s casting season, let’s hear from the women (and a man) who were in the middle of it all, leading the casting charge at the broadcast networks. I asked the exhausted heads of casting (“I need a vacation,” one of them exclaimed) Tess Sanchez (Fox), Keli Lee (ABC), Grace Wu (NBC) and Peter Golden (CBS), plus Lori Openden (the CW), whose network doesn’t compete directly with the Big 4 as it targets younger talent, to answer questions about the challenges of this pilot season, progress on cast diversity, their and their competitors’ biggest casting coups, the season’s biggest discoveries, and the toughest roles and types to cast. (Find out how many child actors Fox saw for the Bruce Wayne role in Gotham.) Here are their answers: