The Acting Podcast

Ep. 48: John Frank Levey, Casting Director: Finding His Role

Show Notes: Season 1!

Show Notes: Season 2!

Show Notes: Season 3!

John Levey loves his job. He loves actors. He loves storytelling. He loves diving into the worlds each character inhabits. He’s been loving it for 40 years and is one of the masters of this passion profession, having won multiple Emmys and Artios awards, putting actors into groundbreaking roles on some of the most popular television shows of all time- E.R., The West Wing, China Beach, and Shameless, to name just a few. Listen in as Risa & Steve have an honest conversation with the legendary John Frank Levey.

“I just grew up at a time where I couldn’t name one female director…or not a single woman would get on stage to accept a producer award at the Oscars…representation matters because if you don’t see it, you don’t know that you can do it. Being a woman on the other side of the camera was not something that I ever saw.”
-Ellyn Jameson

“Then the desperation went away and I had an ease in audition rooms that I’d never had before because I had a life outside of wanting someone to pick me.”
-Dominic Burgess

“It happened entirely because I was following the path that was put in front of me without a tremendous amount of judgment around it. And I’m a judgy motherfucker…if I can do this, anyone can.”
-Johnathan McClain

“Walk into every room, and everything you ever write, and everything you create, and just make it you, just authentically you. And most of the time, the people who’ll respond to it will love it because you’re being yourself and there’s only one of you in the world. And it feels amazing when you put yourself forward and people reward you for it.”
-Caroline Lindy

Guests & Resources:

John Frank Levey’s IMDb

Listen to other related episodes: 

  • Episode 23: - Mary Queen of Casting: A Candid Conversation w/ Mary Vernieu
  • Episode 38: - Richard Hicks, CD: We’re All In This Together

Check out John’s book, RIGHT FOR THE ROLE: 

While there are many books that catalog Hollywood—from the classic to the profane, gritty to salacious—few tell the tale of how entertainment’s biggest names became the biggest names.

Right for the Role shares the story straight from an insider who’s been central to that process for decades. Four-time Emmy-award-winning casting director John Frank Levey hasn’t just witnessed some of the world’s greatest acting talents make it in Hollywood; in many cases, he’s had a major hand in it.

As the casting director for numerous iconic TV series, including ER, The West Wing and Shameless, Levey saw firsthand that household names like George Clooney, Anthony Edwards and Allison Janney had “it”—and then watched their “it” propel them into the stratosphere.

In Right for the Role, Levey manages to tell a story of life among the glitterati while never losing his exuberance for being a part of the process. Through his colorful tales of meeting incredible talent early in their careers—including Josh Gad, Lucy Liu and a just-out-of-Julliard Jessica Chastain—Levey documents his transformation from a novice casting director to one of the greats in the field.

Beyond teaching readers how to spot what it takes to make it in Hollywood, how casting has changed since the 1980s (when telephones had cords!) or how to live in a world of glamor and gusto, Levey’s stories also show how to play a central role in a show’s success without losing a sense of wonder.


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