Soulstice Casting Co-Founders Jazzy Collins (CSA) and Kaymie Mattison are spearheading a movement to champion diversity and inclusion within the unscripted and commercial casting spaces. They have over a decade of experience bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of some of television’s most beloved reality shows, including America’s Got Talent, The Bachelor, and The Bachelorette franchises, Love Island, The Circle, Married at First Sight, MasterChef, Wife Swap, and Let’s Make a Deal.
Recently, Soulstice Casting celebrated the release of Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrls, a reality show featuring music legend Lizzo as she searches for her next group of big, badass dancers. The casting earned Collins an Emmy nomination in the “Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program” category. She is one of the first Black women to be nominated in this category, alongside Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrls’ senior casting producer, Blair Kim. The casting process for Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrls was a joyous declaration of body positivity and is a testament to Soulstice’s mission of promoting BIPOC inclusivity.
We spoke with Jazzy and Kaymie about their unscripted and commercial casting company, Soulstice Casting, the legacy they are building for BIPOC in media, and Jazzy Collins’ Emmy nomination for Lizzo’s Watch Out For the Big Grrrls.
Awards Focus: Jazzy, as an Emmy-nominated casting director, what do you see as the keys to your success in this business, and can you highlight the particular challenges and joys with casting Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls?
Collins: My key to success is to always think outside the box when casting. In reality TV casting it’s very easy to pigeon-hole yourself into casting the types we’re all used to seeing on TV. People want to see themselves on TV, so it’s important to me to highlight marginalized groups. I had such a blast being able to cast an entire cast of plus-sized women. In my career of casting, I’ve never had the opportunity to work on a project like Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls before, so this was very exciting.
The biggest challenge for me was having to give dance critiques over phone calls rather than in person. Being a dancer myself, I understand how dancers need to see choreography and critiques in person. Having to explain it over the phone for them to then self-tape was incredibly difficult, but these women made it work every single time!
AF: Do you remember the moment that you decided to pursue a career in entertainment, and can you share with readers some of the jobs you took along the way to arrive where you are now?
Collins: Ever since high school, I’ve always found myself behind a video camera. I always thought I wanted to be on set, until I actually was on set for the first time and I realized it wasn’t for me.
When I went in for an interview to be an office production assistant for a game show called Let’s Ask America, they asked if I would be interested in being a casting assistant instead. I took the job and never looked back. Since then, I have had the opportunity to work on America’s Got Talent, The Bachelor and Bachelorette franchise, Love Island, The Circle and so many more.
Mattison: My plan was to be a lawyer. Prior to taking the LSAT, my sister, Coi Mattison suggested I give casting a go. She was already 5 years or so in the game. She knew I’d be great. I have always loved people and TV, so what better match!
My career started with Let’s Make a Deal, with the phenomenal Wayne Brady. I went from street recruiter to set producer in just a month. I went from Set associate producer for CBS studios to casting producer on Wife Swap and got my big break as casting director with Bunim-Murray Productions. We are almost at my 10-year anniversary.
AF: Jazzy, given the sheer number of series on the air now, it’s incredibly hard to break through and you’ve done an incredible job. What do you think made this series and your work resonate with voters? Could you walk us through the types of conversations you’d have when casting the show?
Collins: Thank you! This show spent the time having tough conversations on TV that many shows shy away from. This show highlights body positivity, the struggle of having natural hair as a Black woman, living as a trans woman, eating disorders, and shattering the stereotypes of what society places on plus-sized women.
When casting these women, I took my time with interviews. There were times I was speaking to women for 3-4 hours on Zoom. It was so important to me to hear every facet of their story to make sure it was represented well on TV. People are more than a box that you put them in and I’m so happy this project highlighted everything around these women besides them just being dancers.
AF: Kaymie, what is one of your most rewarding projects to work on? Was there a lightning in the bottle moment?
Mattison: My proudest project would have to be Long Lost Family on TLC. That casting run was 9 months, which is lengthy for casting. Having the ability to help people, from foster care to kidnappings, reunite with their families was an indescribable experience.
My lightning in a bottle moment was working on Married at First Sight, my first go in 2017. Finding strangers to trust you and marry another stranger in just a few minutes is something that took a lot of hard work and long hours to accomplish. I’m very proud of my work there, with Donna Driscoll and the team with Kinetic Content. They gave me the confidence and support I needed. One of my couples, Shawniece Jackson and Jephte Pierre, are still married to this day!
AF: Let’s dive into the formation of Soulstice Casting. What was your goal with the launch of the company?
Mattison: For many years, Jazzy and I were getting calls for the same shows for years and said, why not just combine forces and conquer? After learning there was no duo, female-owned African-American casting company in the U.S, we knew we were the ladies for the job. We started around early March and had our first network show by May 2022. Knowing there is very little minority representation in the casting world, especially in the more senior positions, we don’t take this task lightly. It’s been a magical whirlwind so far and we are excited for what’s to come!
Collins: With Soulstice Casting, the sky’s the limit. We want to continue working on projects that tell stories from marginalized groups and make sure Soulstice Casting is the first choice for networks and production companies to work with for decades to come!
AF: Jazzy, you’re one of the first African American nominees in the reality casting category. Can you take us back to that moment and how your colleagues, friends, and family reacted?
Collins: This is still such a wild statement for me to hear and read. It’s been an absolute whirlwind ever since I heard I was even nominated. My family and friends were absolutely thrilled and so proud. But when we all noticed that I was one of the first Black nominees – and specifically the first Black Casting Director to be nominated, we all took a moment to reflect on how this industry is starting to see a shift.
This is the 6th year of the Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program category and there are already diverse candidates up for nomination. It makes me incredibly excited to see the future of the Emmys and I’m honored to be a part of this history.
AF: Kaymie, has there been a proudest moment for you in terms of a job you landed, or a casting choice you made, especially in terms of advancing diversity and representation on screen?
Mattison: Being able to land MasterChef, as a senior casting producer was MASSIVE for me. I won a culinary scholarship in high school and attended the Restaurant School of Walnut Hill through C-Cap. C-Cap is a program that allows high school students, typically inner city and disadvantaged students of color, compete to win scholarships with major culinary arts schools around the United States. MasterChef was my inspiration.
There is very little representation of well known, POC chefs in the culinary world. Being able to meet so many eager, hungry home chefs was an honor; but being able to elevate the underrepresented was my duty. But I also must note, Soulstice Casting as a whole, is a very proud legacy we are creating. We pride ourselves on having a multi-lingual, person of color team. Being able to zoom and see the beautiful array of ethnicities is indescribable to us.
AF: The episode “Curves and Confidence” was particularly strong in its message, do you have a favorite moment from this season?
Collins: My favorite episode was “Naked.” The choreography by Chawnta’ Marie was absolutely incredible. It really resonated with me when Sydney spoke about posing nude with her natural hair. I, like her, struggled with insecurities of being a Black woman with natural hair. I always wished to look more like my Caucasian friends and have straight, bouncy hair.
I remember getting my first weave in middle school just to look like them! It wasn’t until the past decade I came into loving and appreciating the beauty of my natural hair. Since society has pushed a Euro-centric standard of beauty for such a long time, many people of color struggle with insecurities of who they are.Watch Out For The Big Grrrls takes a deep dive into what society has done to plus-size women and how we can rise up above it all.
AF: If you have the privilege of accepting a trophy on the Emmy stage, who would you take that time to thank outside your collaborators on the show?Collins: What a moment that would be! I would love to thank my mom, dad and my sister Sabrina for always being my biggest cheerleaders in my life and my career. I would also love to thank my husband Shane, who I love with all my heart and has always pushed me to be a better person every day.