It is with pleasure to sit down with Beverly Pomerantz and dig deep into the life of a casting director. Her busy schedule barely allows time to give an interview, but, NSAEN, was lucky to get an interview between casting calls.
What have you learned about people as someone who has witnessed all types of personalities?
I have learned that everyone has a story. Just by interviewing contestants you can get a sense of who they are and why being on a game show is so important to them. Some people want to win to pay their rent or pay bills, others to just have fun and most of them want to travel and maybe buy a home (which has happened many times with the contestants I have interviewed. It’s great seeing their lives change.
What was your path into television and how did you end up as a casting director?
I was very shy growing up and really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I started working for banks and I came out of my shyness by talking and helping customers. As much as I enjoyed working at banks (as I started having fun with the customers) I realized that I wanted to work with people in a good mood, not people being upset with the bank. I called a friend and mentioned I was looking for a new job. She said “can you be dressed in half an hour,” I said yes. I went to Merrill Heatter’s home (he created the fun game show “Hollywood Squares”) we spoke for a few minutes and I got hired to work in the front office. A few weeks later I was asked to work in the game show casting department and as they say, “the rest is history.” My first 3 days auditioning contestants I was so nervous that I had to hold my elbows on the table so it wouldn’t shake up and down. After the 3rd day, I realized that even though I was more nervous than the contestants, they thought they were more nervous than me, so I decided to have fun with it. I was very blessed to work in this business for over 35 years and still working.
You are known as the casting Queen of the Game Shows, what inspired you to target game shows?
I had a very tall boyfriend who was 6’7” and thought he would be perfect as a contestant for “Match Game” He auditioned and was selected. I then went for an audition and found the process not that much fun but thought someday I would love to audition contestants and make the process entertaining for them which I know I have. I have had many of them say to me that even if they don’t get selected, they had a great time. That warms my heart.
Historically many women in the business have been challenged with equality and respect within the entertainment industry. How difficult was it for you to make a name for yourself?
I remember casting a game show and the producers wanted a man to be the host while auditioning the contestants. I spoke up and said that I would be able to hold the auditions also, so they agreed to watch me do the interviews and playing the game with them and I got the job. I’m very good at finding great contestants for game shows, especially when I’m out in the field like markets, shopping centers, movies, etc. I know exactly what they are looking for.
When you are casting for a specific show, what are your expectations and what qualities do you look for?
You always want to make sure the contestants know how to play the game and are very outgoing and talkative with lots of personalities. If they are shy or quiet, then, of course, they may not be the best contestant. I remember a girl came to audition for “Hollywood Showdown” and she came in on a wrong day. I didn’t have the heart to have her come back and had a feeling that she would not be a good contestant but auditioned her anyways. It turned out she was great, and a contestant canceled her taping for the following day, and I booked the new girl and she walked home with $15,000.00. It’s never good to make a fast judgment as you never know what energy they may have when they audition. I have so many funny stories to share.
In your opinion, how has casting changed over the past 35 years?
For many of the game shows I have cast, besides auditioning the contestants and I always been at the studio. A lot of the gameshows hires a casting department to audition contestants, but they hire a separate staff to be at the studio. The most fun for me is being at the studio with the contestants to help them and root for them.
Once you take on a new project do you already know what you are looking for and what you are expecting from your contestants?
Basically yes, but things can change when you are auditing them. What you thought you wanted may be different what and you are happy you can make changes at that moment.
How do you plan and prepare for your casting calls?
You call everyone and set up their audition and hopefully, they call you back to confirm. If they don’t call you back within a day, I may call them again, but if you don’t hear back, you just move on to other people.
When you discover a talent that might not fit into one of your current projects, do you keep a mental note of that person for later?
I always keep their records in case they may be better for another show.
After years of casting, what is your biggest pet peeve when talent comes in for an audition?
If I’m casting a movie they need to look like their headshot, not have one that’s over 5 years old. Also, for contestants, if they have a bad attitude, which happens on occasion I send them home without taping the show. I had a contestant come into tape when the producers wanted him to pay attention at rehearsal, he was too busy reading the paper. When I mentioned that to him in a very nice way, he became rude, so I sent him home. There is no room for rudeness on the set.
How has technology affected the industry, and do you also use Skype or Zoom to audition?
Skype can be used but I prefer to audition contestants in person if possible. You get a better sense of them.
How do you find time to give lectures in schools and organizations with a busy schedule like yours?
When asked, I make time. It’s great to educate people on how to audition for a game show. I used to teach a Game Show Seminar and play practice games with hopeful contestants so they would understand the process.
You have worked on many popular game show hosts, from “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader with Jeff Foxworthy, Family Feud with Ray Combs and Richard Dawson, All-Star Blitz with Peter Marshall, Classic Concentration with Alex Trebek, Catch 21 with Alfonso Ribeiro, Common Knowledge with Joey Fatone, just to name a few. Are you considering writing a book about your life as a casting director?
I would love to write a book. Growing up in Hollywood and working in television I have many stores to share. I have photos of so many contestants on different shows.
Your calling was to be a casting director, however, if you would have to choose a different profession, what would you like to be?
That’s hard to say, but defiantly working with people. Maybe a teacher or working in a big hotel. Maybe even being a travel tour guide since I love traveling.
What does the next chapter of your life look like?
LIFE “Live It Fully Every Day” as we never know what the next day brings. Maybe cast a few more shows, volunteer time to different charities, do more traveling and just enjoying what life has to offer.
With the last question, what advice would you give to those starting out in entertainment and how do you get casting agents to pay attention to you.
‘Think outside the box. I went to an interview for a show on MTV. Where I arrived there, everyone was in their 20’s and 30’s interviewing for the position. I went to the producer, shook his hand and said” I’m 24 and I wear sparkles” and got the job. I was over 40 at the time. Let the company know how you can be an asset to them.