The series’ casting director Jennifer Venditti, who’s among those up for the Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series award as part of the 2022 Emmys, revealed this bit of behind-the-scenes insight in a Variety feature published on Monday.
While Zendaya was indeed always the first pick for the part, Venditti reflected on a period during which she and Levinson were taking a look at an unnamed “young woman” who had been found by her team. This individual, she added, had not previously acted but had a “similar” personal journey as the troubled character, thus creating a potentially viable creative avenue for the show.
“But with a TV show, it can be many years [of work],” Venditti noted of the eventual outcome of this scouting. “We all loved her, but when we went through the rigor of the process, we didn’t know if she could handle what it would take in terms of stamina.”
The actor in question also worked with a coach, with the underlying aim of helping them grow into the expected (and later proven) heaviness of the written material. Comparing this to what Zendaya later brought to the part, for which she also made history with an Emmy win, Venditti praised what ultimately became of the Rue character as an example of the “polar opposite” approach producing “beautiful” artistic results.
“Because here’s Zendaya, who has none of the life experiences of Rue, who was able to dig into her toolbox and access it in such a beautiful way,” she said.
Read the full Variety piece here.
Other dramas nominated this year in the Outstanding Casting category include Severance, Stranger Things, Yellowjackets, Succession, and Ozark. The latter wrapped its fourth and last season back in April, with lead actor Jason Bateman directing the divisively received series finale.
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