As part of our continuing 3Questions series, I present Jennifer Cooper, a Casting Director and owner of Jennifer Cooper Casting. She has been involved in casting upwards of 85 episodes of Network television. Her television credits include the Fox drama Drive, the CBS dramas Cold Case and CSI: NY as well as the CBS Paramount pilot I Witness. She has recently added 'producer' to her credits, working with CSI creator Anthony Zuiker on his Digi-Novel series, Level 26: Dark Origins.
HBAD: So, tell us, how did you get your start?
JC: I started interning with Mali Finn Casting as a part of an Emerson College internship program for graduating seniors. While working at Mali’s office, I was given the chance to work on some amazing projects such as, The Assassination of Jesse James, Lucky you, Running with Scissors and North Country. Once my internship was complete, I was hooked and hit the ground running, and with enough begging and utilizing the contacts I had made working for Mali, I was able to get a casting assistant job on Cold Case for CBS.
HBAD: What are the most difficult challenges you've encountered on your career path?
JC: I think the most challenging thing for me personally was learning how to slow down. Everyone tells you that you have to “pay your dues” which just sounded to me like I should “under achieve” and “take a back seat”. But looking back, I think about how much I have learned by allowing myself to learn from experience. As hard as it is to swallow, there are some things you can only understand by doing them, and it takes time to garner the trust and respect needed to deserve the opportunities. Finally, understanding that striking a balance between “not taking no for an answer” and “waiting your turn” was both the most difficult and rewarding lesson I struggled to learn.
HBAD: What advice would you have for someone just starting out in this business, looking to become a casting director?
JC: INTERN! Although it sounds crazy to have spent so much money on college and then turn around and volunteer to fall deeper into debt, giving your time in pursuit of really examining what you think you might want to do will go a LONG way. It doesn’t take long in this business to make friends and build relationships, and if you’re committed and hard working, people will take notice and open a door for you. I think the trick is to be prepared to walk through it when it opens.