Creating the Cast Ensembles of Only Murders in the Building, The Morning Show, Girls5eva

Increasingly, television series are assembling dazzling “dream teams” of well-known and accomplished actors, each capable of carrying their own solo show. Not only do such series attract viewers with their impressive rosters, but the casts also feel energized knowing their A-games will be matched move for move by their co-stars.

“I was overwhelmed, in a good way,” Selena Gomez says of joining comedy icons Steve Martin and Martin Short in “Only Murders in the Building,” only to learn Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Tina Fey, Sting and an array of additional top-f light actors would fill out the cast. “I’m on set and I’m playing piano, and Sting’s playing what I’m playing with his guitar, and I’m just like, ‘What is my life?’”

Gomez, returning to acting after a hiatus, admits being surrounded by such a wealth of talent and experience was both challenging and inspiring. “It does require a lot of stepping up to the plate,” she says, noting she felt supported and protected by the veterans. “I would always ask them questions if I thought a line was weird or if Steve thought it was funny that I did a certain thing. I have to say, as my first thing back, it was so exciting.”

Casting director Tiffany Little Canfield says not only did “Only Murders” offer the allure of the headliners, the show’s approach to the murder-mystery genre proved compelling catnip for name talent. “Even if you’re not the killer, there’s so much fun in setting you up as a potential suspect, it makes all of the supporting roles really juicy in a way that you don’t often see,” Canfield says.

Because “The Morning Show” was led by actors and executive producers Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, casting director Victoria Thomas says it was “a lot easier to aim high” for its ensemble, including Steve Carell, Billy Crudup, Mark Duplass and Julianna Margulies, who joined in Season 2. “You just try to add on, person by person, to keep the quality up and keep the interest up, and hopefully it attracts other like actors.

“As evidenced by Julianna joining us, the success of the first season led to the ability to add even more great people in the second,” Thomas continues. “Actors reached out who wanted to be a part of it.” Witherspoon and Aniston’s wide-reaching, top-tier Hollywood connections were also a boon: “If there’s someone that we want to ask to do the show, and they’re a ‘friend of the family,’ it’s nice to be able to go to Reese or Jen and say, ‘Hey, could you help us out and let them know we want them to do the show?’” she says.

“What’s so wonderful about these hour-long dramas that have the budgets and the scope is you get to see the rest of the bench fill out,” adds Duplass, who’s seen the profiles of other regulars rise after working alongside the name talent. “Karen Pittman is a perfect example. She’s been putting in killer guest star or recurring roles forever, and then she comes in somewhere between No. 5 and 10 on the cast list in the first season, and she’s so goddamn good that you just can’t not write for her. And then her character starts to become a star in Season 2.”

If there’s any downside, he says, it’s that “there’s never going to be enough for everybody to do. But it’s an embarrassment of riches when you have a bench like Vicki [Thomas] assembled.” Renée Elise Goldsberry still marvels at her first Zoom script read for “Girls5Eva,” so surprised to learn that she’d been teamed with Sara Bareilles, Busy Philipps and Paula Pell that she briefly wondered if they were temporary fill-ins recruited by producer Tina Fey to help the show find its legs. “The whole cast, they just felt like such clutch players,” she says.

“I have always likened my acting game to my tennis game or my ballroom dancing game: With a really good partner, I play up,” she continues. “That’s how I feel about this group of women in our show: They are so uniquely gifted that I am inspired in the scenes to just take big risks.”

“What’s amazing is that they all come from such different backgrounds, and yet they’re the perfect chemistry put together,” says “Girls5eva” casting director Cindy Tolan, who always hopes for the best in her casting choices but recognizes that an unpredictable alchemy comes into play. “You think that Paula Pell and Busy Philipps are going to be great together,” she says, “but then you watch it and you’re just staggered by how good they really are.”

When casting director Ross Meyerson was building out the cast for “Dexter: New Blood,” he knew he had to “make sure that every actor we cast could hold their own in a scene with Michael C. Hall. “That is no short order, as Michael brings so much to his work,” Meyerson says.

He recruited admired performers from Clancy Brown to Jamie Chung and Julia Jones, noting that before scripts were even written, agents were clamoring to place clients opposite the series’ star.

“It’s a lucky position to be in, to be associated with a character in a show that can attract the kind of people that we’ve managed to attract once again,” says Hall, who counts himself a longtime fan of veteran actor Brown. “He’s been someone I’ve admired since I was in high school, watching him when he was just a young man. I pinch myself, being associated with something that attracts someone of his caliber, and on down the line. Everyone’s fantastic. And that’s what we do: just an instant new family.”

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