Netflix launches in-house casting department

Bridgerton
“We want to discover new and authentic voices from underrepresented communities," said Netflix. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)

Netflix is taking a DIY approach to boosting the diversity of its casts. The company announced Wednesday that it has set up its first in-house casting department.

“We want to discover new and authentic voices from underrepresented communities and help our existing talent find their next great opportunity with us,” the Los Gatos, Calif., firm’s announcement said.

Netflix named five hires for this effort: Brittany Grooms, director of casting for film; Rich Leist, director of casting for unscripted content; Cesar Rocha, director of casting for series; Shiondre Austin, manager of casting for animated series; and Cymbre Sklar, manager of casting for animated film.

“Our goal is to provide additional resources to our creative team as they seek to cultivate the largest talent pool for our productions while continuing to work with outside casting directors,” said Netlix.   

That posting and an accompanying graphic cites past successes in not lining up the usual suspects for a series or movie: Mexican actor Alejandro Speitzer, a star of multiple Spanish-language series, and South African actress Pearl Thusi, who starred in the local series “Queen Sono” and will appear in the upcoming film “Wu Assassins: Fists of Vengeance.”

Netflix has increasingly emphasized growing its international audience while looking to expand its U.S. audience outside its traditional base — see, for instance, its winning $100 million+ bet on showrunner Shonda Rhimes, which has already yielded the breakout drama “Bridgerton.”

The news comes a day after Netflix reported a particularly disappointing second quarter, with just 1.54 million new paid subscribers — and a drop of 400,000 subscriptions in the U.S. and Canada. That growth was barely above half of the 3.98 million subscribers Netflix picked up in Q1.

In a research note reacting to Netflix’s earnings, MoffettNathanson noted that the Asia Pacific and Latin American markets generated only half to two-thirds of the revenue per user of the combined U.S.-Canada market. But the overall competitive picture continues to favor Netflix: “Netflix still has very limited competition outside the U.S. and it will take years for those competitors to even find the scale, funds and energy to compete.”