‘Famous Cast Words’ explores the exclusionary world of casting calls

‘Famous Cast Words’ explores the exclusionary world of casting calls
(L) William Jackson Harper. Photo: Sela Shiloni. (R) Jillian Mercado. Photo: Casey Vange.

“Famous Cast Words” returns April 21 and 28 with two special episodes starring William Jackson Harper and Jillian Mercado

Seeking “a non-magical Negro. He embodies what an Uncle Tom is.”

Yes, you read that casting call right.

Breakdowns — the brief character descriptions used in casting calls — are a basic element of the entertainment industry. They capture how the industry imagines a wide variety of characters; and they reveal how constricted this imagination can be when it comes to BIPOC, women, disabled folk and other marginalized populations.

Join host Lynne Marie Rosenberg (HBO’s “High Maintenance”) for two special episodes of the ALL ARTS series “Famous Cast Words.” Set to premiere at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on April 21 and 28 on our broadcast and streaming platforms, the episodes feature intimate discussions between Rosenberg and her celebrity guests: William Jackson Harper (NBC’s “The Good Place”) and Jillian Mercado (Showtime’s “The L Word: Generation Q”).

In their individual episodes, Harper and Mercado each reveal the joys and troubles of their acting careers, detail their experiences navigating their identities within the entertainment industry, and react candidly to a number of horrific character breakdowns written for actors with similar backgrounds.

Together, Rosenberg and her guests lay out the ways in which discriminatory casting calls cripple the potential of the entertainment industry, while also discussing how the descriptions weaken our ability to accurately perceive each other and ourselves.

Below is a full schedule of artists and episodes. Check back here for more updates as the series specials roll out.

You can catch all the films on the ALL ARTS YouTube, Facebook, website and streaming app.

April 21

William Jackson Harper

Actor William Jackson Harper discusses the trajectory of his acting career, from his beginnings in PBS’ “The Electric Company” to his critically-acclaimed role as Chidi in NBC’s “The Good Place.” He delves deeply into the social impacts of the media’s negative and stereotypical portrayals of Black men. Watch out for a special appearance by his pup, Chico.


April 28

Jillian Mercado

Model, actor and activist Jillian Mercado describes breaking into the modeling industry and representing people with visible disabilities. She tackles the importance of casting actors with disabilities in roles portraying disability and vivaciously demonstrates just how much talent the world is missing out on when the entertainment industry disregards accessibility and inclusion.

Top Image: (L) William Jackson Harper. Photo: Sela Shiloni. (R) Jillian Mercado. Photo: Casey Vange.