Alex Epstein reports on a panel we wish we’d been at:
I had a chance to attend a panel discussion on “Showrunners” at July’s Just for Laughs Conference with TWO AND A HALF MEN co-creator Lee Aronsohn and BIG BANG THEORY showrunner Bill Prady, moderated by Variety‘s Steven Gaydos. A few takeaways:
Lee likes to cast “people I can’t stop looking at.” Talent and charisma are two different things. You can’t teach charisma. But it’s not enough. You need talent and professionalism. Charlie Sheen might have been the star, but “the engine that is Jon Cryer” powered the show.
Some standups are terrible sitcom actors. On BIG BANG, there’s only a single standu, Melissa Rauch. Everyone else are professional actors, many with theater degrees, or who were child actors – all serious veterans. A day player can get by on charisma, but a recurring role needs chops.
(I cast a standup once. He could not memorize his lines for the life of him. And he wouldn’t rehearse, either. We had to make cue cards.)
Bill Prady says he lets his casting director filter actors, but he hires writers without a filter. “Sitcoms are made by writers,” he said, and agents are terrible filters. He told a story about an agent who insisted he put a script on the top of the heap. It was terrible. He called back and asked what the agent liked about the script. The agent couldn’t answer. Because, you see, he hadn’t read it.
Bill read 400 scripts to make the BIG BANG THEORY room. He didn’t read them all the way through, of course. But he read each one enough to know whether he wanted to work with the writer or not. “Only I know what I’m looking for, and I generally find it in the first five pages.”
Lee Aronsohn said he’s also hired people into the room based on their standup act, or their plays. He hired a woman based on her blog once. 2 ½ MEN does “gang writing” – 9 people in a room at once – so not everyone has to be a structure person.