Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I read somewhere that 90 percent of acting is casting. The idea was that plenty of actors are capable of performing well in the right role; the trick is matching the actor to the role.

I'm struggling right now with a mismatch between actors and roles.

For economic reasons, I need to reduce the number of roles in a given area. Most of the work in that area will still need to get done, so the responsibilities will need to be redistributed. That means the remaining roles will change, in varying degrees. But the alignment that makes the most sense on paper doesn't match the actors. In effect, I'd have to ask Meryl Streep to play Bill Clinton. Great actor, great role, but no.

One school of thought says that you play to the strengths of the people you have. When you have the right lineup, that can work really well. The catch is that people leave, and then you're stuck with roles that don't really make organizational sense. ("Wanted: The Next Dave." Good luck with that.) And you don't want to have to reorganize every time someone leaves.

Another school of thought says that you keep personalities out of it, and go with what makes sense institutionally. If that means firing Meryl Streep and hiring Tom Arnold, then that's what it means. But I have a hard time believing that the path to prosperity is to kick out the Meryl Streeps and to promote the Tom Arnolds.

So I'm stuck.

Obviously, I'd rather not have to go this route at all. But necessity is a mother, as they say, and it won't go away just because I wish it would.

Worse, in this situation, defining the roles is part of the solution. It would be easier if the roles were pre-defined. "Okay, who here does a good Arkansas accent?" But in this case, the roles themselves have to be changed. Tipping them one way or the other can affect the casting decisions. And while it's attractive, at one level, to define the roles to work around the best actors, the roles still have to cover the work of the plot. Even if I've got a bevy of heroes, someone has to be the villain.

I don't have a snappy conclusion to this one. Some decisions are just no fun at all.