Casting on My So-Called Life happened in three different stages. Two different casting directors worked on the pilot: one whose name I’m still trying to track down, followed by the late Mary Goldberg. A third handled episodes 2-19: respected Hollywood veteran Jeff Greenberg, whom I had the pleasure to speak with on April 1st.
Having made a name for himself early on with such hits as Cheers and Wings, Jeff filled the roles of every character that came after the pilot, from Sharon and Rayanne’s mom’s (Mary Kay Place and Patti D’Arbanville, respectively) to super-cool substitute teacher Vic Racine (Roger Rees) and Hallie Lowenthall (Lisa Waltz).
At the time of this writing, you can watch "The Substitute" for free on ABC.
I especially loved Jeff's memory of casting the aforementioned Rees as the title character in “The Substitute.”
At the time the actor was probably best known in the U.S. for his leading performance in the 1982 TV mini-series adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Jeff was a little reluctant to cast the Welsh actor as an American teacher without hearing him read for the part first, yet his agent was equally reluctant to subject his well-respected client to the audition process. It was during their meeting that the actor said “Do you want to hear my American accent, I’m happy to read for you.” The rest, as they say, is history. (Of course Vic Racine would roll his eyes, chomp his toothpick, and groan “how cliché” at that phrase, no doubt.)
One of the special treats of this conversation was learning about some of the esteemed actors who auditioned for roles that were later filled by the performers we now know and love. You will, of course, have to wait to read the book for those little tidbits, but it’ll be worth it, trust me. Shoot, OK, I’ll leave you with just one name....William H. Macy!
And congratulations to Jeff for 11 great years casting Modern Family! (You can follow him on Twitter here.)
So Beautiful it Hurts’ is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with ABC, The Bedford Falls Co.,or anyone involved with the making or distribution of “My So-Called Life.”