It’s starting to dawn on me just how long I’ve been in this business. Every now and then I see something or someone that takes me back to the early years. Today, that moment happened while catching up on my saved episodes of GLEE. This moment has happened with GLEE before. When “GLEE” first premiered in 2009 I was immediately transported back to the Nickelodeon offices in NYC, the casting room or “insert stage” as we called it and a very young Jenna Ushkowitz. Jenna now plays “Tina Cohen-Chang” on GLEE. Jenna was at Nickelodeon at least once week, we saw Jenna often because she booked all the time, we knew she was special and landing GLEE proves that we were on to something.
Today’s flashback moment came when GLEE’s newest recurring character “Sugar Motta” portrayed by actress Vanessa Lengies, hit the screen. Back in 2001 I cast Vanessa in a improv show for Nickelodeon/Noggin called “Sponk.” Sponk was one of the first original programs for The Noggin Network, one of Nickelodeon’s many off springs:) When Vanessa came in to audition, I thought there was something special about her right away. Only, at that point in the audition process I had seen so many not so funny kids that I questioned whether I really loved what she brought to the table or if she only seemed great because everyone else was so bad. When you’ve seen as many not-so-funny kids as I had up until that point, you’d know why I questioned myself, if only for a moment.
The monkey wrench in this scenario was that Vanessa was from Canada. With this in mind, I let Vanessa go. I wanted her to stay and come back for the producers the next day, but asking her to stay until the next day seemed like a lot to ask someone from CANADA. I brought in my next talent, yet unable to get Vanessa out of my mind, I quickly excused myself, leaving he or she (let’s just say my memory isn’t what it use to be) with the intern and ran over to my desk and quickly called her agent.
I asked them to stay the night in NYC for callbacks the next day and they readily agreed. It was then that I learned that my gut is always right. In this case the end result was that EVERYONE LOVED Vanessa and she was cast in SPONK! My gut doesn’t always lead me to a great finish like in this instance, but it forces me to make decisions and making any decision is better than not making any. How else can you move forward?
Since then Vanessa has gone off to do some AMAZING projects and whenever she appears on my screen I can’t help but smile. Gotta love those moments:)
Here’s a link to the show open http://www.sesameworkshop.org/programs/sponk and still from the show!