I got to sit down with Olubajo Sonubi of OAS Casting over lunch and speak about his involvement in local casting, as well as his biggest pet peeves when it comes to his job. He was honest and kind, which is something we should all value in this market, and it was a great pleasure to pick his brain about his personal take on casting. Many thanks to Bajo, and I hope you enjoy this segment.
For more information on Olubajo Sonubi, please visit his website.
5 QUESTIONS, A PIECE OF ADVICE AND A PET PEEVE
w/ OLUBAJO SONUBI of OAS CASTING
1. What are the challenges of going from casting on The Vampire Diaries to Containment or the pilot, the Untitled Paranormal Project?
The biggest difference tends to be the creative team behind it. That’s the biggest change. Regardless of whether you’re switching genres, you have different people who have different tastes for their projects. And then obviously the other consideration is, what kinds of actors work better for what projects? Ultimately, the fact is that even when you switch from the Untitled Paranormal Project to Containment, to The Vampire Diaries, there’s a type that will work for any of those. It really depends on what kind of spin the actor can put on it for that certain genre. It’s all about the actor and the choices they make.
2. What surprises you the most about working in our market at this particular time?
What surprised me the most is actually what everyone would say: the amount and volume of work that has come in. That was a good surprise and a very welcomed surprise. Another thing is having our market keep up and adjust to those transitions. Some things are happening faster, others slower. The level of talent has definitely grown, and we’ve had an influx of talent from LA and NY that has forced local talent to step up their game, and I’m appreciative of that. But there’s still a lack of expertise, and we still need to get better. That’s not a complaint, it’s just part of the job. I think the challenge is all of us getting used to that, managing our expectations from people who come from LA and from here.
3. Everybody approaches casting through a different lens, so how does your actor’s eye inform you as a casting director?
It goes without saying that I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to use a degree I earned every single day. Given that I have an acting background, I believe it gives me a better rapport with the actors. Just with the by product that I’ve seen so many plays, been in so many plays, and been in acting classes, I think I have an eye for what comes off as authentic and believable in acting. I feel confident that I can identify someone who can act, and sometimes I recognize that I just don’t like their choices. That has nothing to do with their ability or level of talent.Even if someone disagrees with me, it can be about taste at that point.
4. What’s coming up next for you?
I’m a free agent at the moment, since we’re wrapping up with The Vampire Diaries, and we finished up the Untitled Paranormal Project pilot. We’ll see what happens with Containment. There’s a short I’m doing for a friend, it’s a small project. But I’m not really sure what’s on the horizon next, so I’ll wait and see.
5. What’s the first thing on your bucket list?
Strangely enough, mine is very industry related.
Ultimately, my goal is to be able to tell interesting, universal stories. What’s very personal to me are stories that include more people of color and women. Basically, voices that don’t get heard that often. That’s one of the challenges I see and it’s maybe because I’ve spent a lot of time working in the industry with women. I don’t know what it’s like to have a non-female show runner. Julie Plec is someone I work with. It’s not odd to me, it’s what I’m used to. I hope that it spreads over the industry, where the same kind of universality which is afforded to a lot of stories told from the west, Caucasian stories in general, I hope can be given to anybody.
People think Black Americans have it bad… I’m thinking about Asian Americans and Latinos… When is the last time you saw an Asian American as a romantic lead? At least here in America, that shouldn’t be the case. And I’m wondering what part I can play in order to make that happen. If I end up being able to direct or produce one day, these are the kinds of things I’d want to work on. I don’t know where the industry will take me; I’m really enjoying casting right now.
Travel wise, I’d love to hit every continent at some point. I’m from Africa, I’ve been to North America. I have not been to South America yet, or Australia, or Europe.
6. What’s your biggest pet peeve as a CD in terms of actors?
I have three big pet peeves. One is not following directions. And I get it, I know it can be complicated, and it can vary with the casting director. I hope at some point it becomes a standard. But when we ask for you to label the file, understand that it’s not for our health. It’s a fairly simple, small request. That’s what bugs me. It slows us down, and since the turnaround is so quick, it doesn’t make it easy. Separate the files. I need you to do those things, and it annoys us when that doesn’t happen.
Speaking of self-tapes, landscape not portrait. Please. You think the word would have gotten around by now. Get yourself a good reader, someone who can move back and forth with you. Sometimes your reader kills it if they don’t know what they’re doing.
This is my other thing, too, I have what I think is a very approachable and friendly demeanor. But what I think actors don’t know now is that when you come to see me in the room, don’t try and cross and shake hands with me. It’s a small thing, but I will initiate. It’s a common courtesy. It wasn’t happening before, but the reason why I mention it is because it’s happening more and more. I get it; I understand, but especially during flu season. You need understand it from our perspective. It may be one handshake for you, but it might be my 50th.
7. What’s the biggest piece of advice you have for an actor?
As an actor, you need to understand basic business skills. Starting from simple budgeting; it’s a really good idea. It’s fairly general in our society that we don’t do that, but when you get to a certain level, you should know how much you earn per day. Along with that, you should have an understanding of marketing as well. You are an entrepreneur, and if you don’t have that mindset, then you need to surround yourself with people who do. Your agent only gets 10 percent, so that means 90 percent of the work is still on you. You need to understand that a lot goes into it.
When your agent reaches out to you, you need to reply ASAP.
Get a better understanding of the industry as a whole as quickly as you can just to understand the part you play in it. We’re in the age of HULU and YOUTUBE; look up a clip of the show before you audition for it. That’s part of the business and marketing aspect, pick up a business book and take those things and apply it to understanding the market, and the product you’re selling: yourself.
If you get an opportunity to work behind the scenes in any capacity, you should take it. That goes back to understanding the business and understanding what role you play in it. If you can get even the smallest role, take it so you can learn more.
Image: Courtesy of Olubajo Sonubi