How Does a Soap Opera Executive Producer Choose Actors?

Susan Dansby:  When you have a principal role to cast, what do you – as the executive producer – look for in that actor?

Marie Wilson (Meg) ATWT

Marie Wilson (Meg) ATWT

Christopher Goutman:  Well, I just look for someone original, and someone with an original spirit.  I think casting all comes from the gut. You respond to a person – you respond to a person’s uniqueness and originality.

I can go down the list of the people whom we have cast that are just unique. I know that soap opera has a reputation for only casting beautiful people, but I think – quite a contrary.  We have very unique people and very often not traditionally handsome or beautiful.  The men, more so, traditionally handsome than the women, I think, because it is a women’s medium, really. We want people who are relatable, and have that relatability.

Basically, you just go on instinct. And I think that every time that I have not gone on instinct, and when I’ve had to think and rethink, is when I’ve gotten into a little bit of trouble.

Jon Hensley (Holden) ATWT

Jon Hensley (Holden) ATWT

Susan Dansby:  What do you think is the biggest mistake that actors make when they come in to go on tape for a soap opera, say that, if coming from theatre?

Christopher Goutman:  You know, many acting teaching will say this – just don’t act. Don’t act. Just be yourself. 

I know this is the hardest note to get. ‘What do you mean, be yourself? This is who I am.’ But it’s really true, you just have to strip away all the sort of actory things that you do and just listen.  I think, first of all, is a real key thing – especially for young actors. And just respond. And to have that sort of life going on inside you, so you’re incredibly active and responding and alive.

And that’s the hardest thing to do – especially for a young actor when there’s so much self-consciousness, overdoing it – there’s so much pressure. You have all these cameras and the lights and everything like that. So just to come in here, and just sort of go, ‘Well, what they want is me.’ And have that confidence. I think that is the hardest thing to do. Confidence and simplicity.

More on Christopher Goutman:

Christopher Goutman: On Working with Writers and
Saying Goodbye to As the World Turns

The Challenges of Getting Hired as a Soap Opera Director
Christopher Goutman: What it’s Really Like to be a Soap Opera Executive Producer
Christopher Goutman’s Journey from Child Actor to Director to Producer
Christopher Goutman Bio

About Susan Dansby

Susan Dansby has received four Emmy® Awards and two Writers Guild Awards for her work on the soap opera, AS THE WORLD TURNS. She is the author of HOW DID YOU GET THAT JOB? MY DREAM JOBS AND HOW THEY CAME TRUE.
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