HBO Max’s The Flight Attendant became a massive success for the nascent streaming service, racking up views and now numerous Emmy nominations. The Emmy-nominated casting directors —John Papsidera, Kim Miscia, and Beth Bowling — delivered an amazing cast that earned two individual acting nominations (lead Kaley Cuoco and supporting actress Rosie Perez).
For casting director John Papsidera, his credits include projects like Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Tenet, Westworld, Venom, Project Power and Ray Donovan. For Kim Miscia and Beth Bowling, they’ve worked as casting directors on the series You, Mr. Robot, Shameless, Mad Men, and Gossip Girl.
The trio of acclaimed casting directors spoke to Awards Focus about their process casting the acclaimed television adaptation of the popular novel, how the found out about their Emmy nominations, and what exciting projects are on the horizon.
Awards Focus: Thanks everyone for taking the time, I’d love to open with how you found out about your Emmy nomination.
John Papisdera: I had an inkling when I received a text from Kaley Cuoco simply saying, “congratulations!” I knew it wasn’t specifically for me, but to the entire show. I was certain when a friend and agent texted me, congrats on the Emmy Nomination! It’s always fun to receive those messages.
Kim Miscia: Yeah, Kaley emailed us a congratulations that morning – pretty nice way to find out!!
Beth Bowling: So many emails and texts started coming through at once, I was in a little state of shock.
AF: When casting the series, what direction or feedback did you receive from the show’s leadership? How did you deliver and expand on this vision?
JP: Luckily, the leadership was balanced and specific throughout the casting of the pilot. Our team had been assembled and had lived with the book and the scripts for quite awhile before we started casting the pilot.
Delivering and expanding is always a creative process where you bring in new ideas, new ways of thinking about the roles, and different versions of the characters. Then starts the hard work of convincing an entire group of diverse people to coalesce and agree around one choice. I like to use reason, artistry and threats mostly….
KM: Kaley Cuoco. Sarah Schechter at Berlanti, show-runner Steve Yockey, and EPs Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin were so great and accessible right from the beginning.
Casting is always a process of discovering the roles together – so when you’re establishing players who will recur throughout the season, it usually takes some time after seeing the role on its feet to come to a consensus on who the character is. At that point, we zero in on actors we feel will fit the bill.
BB: The tone of the show definitely does some genre bending. We had to consistently communicate the tone direction with actors and auditions.
AF: You each bring your own perspective to The Flight Attendant. Can you take us through the process of casting for the show? What goes into making a casting decision?
JP: The exact process tends to be different on every project as it depends on personalities, relationships, the material and the budget in some cases. I try to start macro and dream big while working hard to provide real solutions. I find that there is a lot of juggling and activity going on multiple levels with the creative team, the Executives and agents simultaneously.
On The Flight Attendant we started with the major roles and discussed making offers to certain actors, while at the same time reading and auditioning actors as well. It is a long time between the initial stages of casting and discussing ideas, to the stage where you make finite decisions.
Typically throughout that process we collectively learn about the characters. Actors share their talents, choices, and insight. They also educate and inform the decisions that are put in place. It is a process and I try to infuse that to the creative team. If you believe in the process and go through it with diligence, the right person for each character emerges. It takes trust and hard work to get there, but it’s very rewarding when it happens.
KM: For me, first it’s always about getting to know the creatives and reading the scripts to drill down on the tone of the show. The Flight Attendant had a Hitchcockian caper-like feel to it and once I understood the EPs’ vision, it was fun auditioning the actors who fit in that world.
BB: Casting is always a collaborative process. Auditions help inform the writing process. Each audition helps you see what works and what doesn’t work. Finding the right actor who can bring a character to life in front of you is when it becomes really exciting.
AF: On top of your Emmy nominations, your casting choices were also recipients of their own nods. How does that make you feel?
JP: Honestly, I was most happy and thrilled for Kaley Cuoco. She has gone from an actress that I admired into someone I can’t say enough about. Her leadership, her work ethic, her taste, her kindness, humanity and her talent impressed me day by day, over and over again. She is now a dear friend and I’m so proud and honored to have been invited on this journey with her and her company.
KM: I’m with John – I’m most happy for Kaley. She optioned the book, had a vision for the series, and saw it through to impressive success with her perseverance and many gifts. I’m happy for the rest of the creative team too. I can’t state enough how bright and talented all of them are and this tribute to them is so well deserved. Of course I’m thrilled to have been part of the maiden flight (I know! But I couldn’t resist!). And I love that people love the show.
AF: Did you approach casting for The Flight Attendant in a specific way at all, especially since this is a breakout role for Kayley Cuoco?
JP: I felt from the start, a sense of support and trust from Kaley Cuoco, Sarah Schecter, Greg Berlanti, the producers, the writer Steve Yockey, and the show-runner. That support goes a long way in being creative, speaking your mind, sharing your opinions and striving for the best results. They created that atmosphere and I’m grateful to them for that.
KM: We wanted to surround Kaley Cuoco, Michiel Huisman, Rosie Perez, Zosia Mamet and the rest of the cast with the brightest NYC has to offer, so we brought in actors whose experience was rooted primarily in Broadway and the theater world.
BB: I think Kayley’s passion for the project was infectious and it all trickled down from there to create enthusiasm about the casting of the show.
AF: What are some of your favorite past projects?
JP: I’ve done about 200 projects so far in my career. Certainly my work with Christopher Nolan has been my favorite. From projects like Memento, The Batman Trilogy, Inception, and Tenant. It’s like getting to work with family but in a good way. I’ve also loved working with artists like Jason Reitman, James Gunn, Zack Snyder, Roland Emmerich, Ruben Fleischer, Tim Burton, Seth Gordon, Todd Phillips, Sam Raimi, Taylor Sheridan, Matthew Carnahan, and Dexter Fletcher. Of course, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan on Westworld and Reminiscence are not only dear friends but amazing collaborators.
KM: Ahh…that’s hard… they’re like children, you love them equally but for different reasons. I’m particularly proud of having been a part of Mad Men, Third Watch, Medium, Gossip Girl, Gotham, You, The Enemy Within, Hightown, and Blue Bloods.
BB: Mr. Robot and the pilot of Mad Men. Dr. Death is currently streaming and I think it has importance in our country right now by shining a light on our healthcare system valuing profit over public health and safety.
AF: What’s happening next in your world?
JP: I’m looking forward to returning to Los Angeles from Nashville where I’ve spent most of the pandemic. I’m also looking forward to starting a few new projects for Kilter Films with Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for Amazon, a limited series about George Jones and Tammy Wynette with Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon and getting to work again with Seth Gordon on a new project for Sony and Netflix. Maybe a new art show in my gallery and getting to dine again in my restaurant in Hollywood, The Waffle.
KM: I’m excited about Harlem, an upcoming Amazon series following the loves and lives of four black women in Harlem created by the brilliant Tracy Oliver. All of that and enjoying the summer with my family on the north shore of Long Island.
BB: I am excited to be working with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa again on his reboot of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin for HBOMax.