Casting Director Elana on Casting ‘Scandal’
After countless twists, turns, and watercooler moments, Scandal ends its seven-season run tonight. We sat down with Casting Director Elana S. to talk about her experience casting Scandal.
Scandal follows political fixer Olivia Pope and her crisis management team as they unravel—and become part of—the secrets of Washington, D.C.
The casting process involves matching the background’s look to the highly-styled fashion of Olivia and her team. If you want to get cast as a Background Actor on shows like Scandal that have more of a formal look, it’s helpful to have wardrobe that works.
“Make sure your wardrobe looks amazing,” Elana said. “You don’t have to spend a ton of money on your clothes, but go out to a thrift store and get a tuxedo or a suit and get it tailored perfectly, so you look like a million dollars without actually spending a million dollars.”
Elana started casting Scandal in season five and has cast other Shonda Rhimes shows like For the People, The Catch, and Station 19. Working on multiple shows set in the same world comes with some unique challenges.
“Some of the challenges of working on Scandal, and really any Shondaland show is not crossing anyone over from show to show, or season to season,” Elana said. “If you’ve died in the past you obviously can’t come back. If you were a White House staffer you can’t be anything but a White House staffer. The challenge is making sure someone who was super featured in season four doesn’t come back in season seven with a different job.”
One of Elana’s strategies for casting Scandal is to come up with backstories for Background Actors so she can use them on different shows.
“I love creating backstories for people, especially on Scandal,” Elana said. “A lot of White House staffers that have worked for years aren’t able to work this current season [and] now I have somebody who wants to work For the People. I’m on the phone [telling him], ‘You probably got fired from the White House, maybe you moved to New York and want to get a job as a paralegal.’ I tell those backstories to people all the time.”
A highlight of casting Scandal was getting the chance to talk to actor/director Scott Foley. Elana would often joke with her Assistant Director Luke about her love of Foley’s show Felicity and thought her AD was playing a joke on her when the phone rang one night.
“I laugh, I pick up the phone, and say, ‘Luke stop messing around with me,’” Elana said. “On the phone, he’s like, ‘No, this is for real Scott.’ We chatted about how he knew the background was going to be glorious. So, if you watched the episode that took place in Cuba, that was his.”
Want to work on shows like For the People, Station 19, or have the chance to be directed by Scott Foley one day? The first step is to register with your nearest Central Casting office. Already registered? Come in to update your photo so Casting Directors know your look is current and you’re ready to work.