Skip to main content

'Jury Duty' Auditions and How the Cast Landed Their Roles

Jury Duty casting director Susie Ferris takes us through her casting process that all started as a blank canvas. From the first audition tapes submitted by Susan Berger, Edy Modica, Mekki Leeper and Ron Song to reaching out to James Marsden to join the show to play "a heightened version of himself," Susie breaks down the intricacies of meeting David Bernard's vision through her stellar casting. Director: Funmi Sunmonu Director of Photography: AJ Young Editor: Tajah Smith Producer: Juliet Lopez Line Producer: Romeeka Powell Associate Producer: Emebeit Beyene Production Manager: Andressa Pelachi Production Coordinator: Kariesha Kidd Associate Talent Manager: Paige Garbarini Camera Operator: Oliver Lukacs Sound : Gray Thomas-Sowers Production Assistant: Ariel Labasan Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor Post Production Coordinator: Jovan James Supervising Editor: Kameron Key Assistant Editor: Lauren Worona

Released on 08/22/2023


We all kind of started talking about James Marsden.

And the more you talk about him,

there's no reason not to hire him.

You just cross your fingers and hope that he says, Yes.

No, no! Oh, my god.

Something's wrong.

I'm as sober as a judge.

[jurors chanting indistinctly]

I'm gonna make a movie out of the movie that's being made.

This is [bleep] scene.

Hey, Vanity Fair.

I'm Susie Farris, the casting director for Jury Duty.

And today we're gonna break down how we cast the show.

[whimsical music]

Normally when you're casting a scripted show,

you'll start with a breakdown of all the characters

that you're looking for.

In this particular instance,

we didn't have any character breakdowns.

It was really a blank canvas for me

to stretch my casting muscle and figure out

the best people who could populate a jury.

Dave Bernad and I had an existing relationship.

He called me to say, I have a comedy for you.

It's an ensemble comedy, we don't need any names.

You can have a really good time with this.

It's kind of The Office meets The Joe Schmo Show.

My reaction was, it sounds really great.

Thank you for calling, again,

and why don't you send me the script

and I'll read it and then we'll go from there.

At that point he said,

Why don't we all just jump on a call?

And that's basically when I learned

that there was no script.

[whimsical music]

I will arrest every last one of y'all.

[Barbara] Has sativa in it and Dexedrine.

[Barbara claps]

Our first step diving into the whole process

was two basic breakdowns that we had.

One was just for 'male juror'

and the other one was for 'female juror.'

And the only requirements really were that you were 18 plus

so you could legitimately serve on a jury.

We did say improv skills would be great.

That was really all.

We asked people to tape themselves

and we gave them two prompts and they could choose

one of the characters to be

and to send us a tape no longer than 60 seconds

of them talking in that character.

Yeah, I came out here in the 70s with my band.

We were gonna make it big

and then something happened in the 80s.

Odessa was overdoing the drugs and we broke up.

There's always a right actor for the right part

and we got so lucky that that this was her part.

What she was doing in her self tape,

we thought maybe we were gonna have

an old rock and roller type female.

They ended up having the character

go in a different direction.

That was just an example of

we love the character of Susan Berger

so we're gonna find something to make it work for her.

[Plaintiff] Shows my gross sales

for the calendar year of 2021.

[Lawyer] And what do you notice

from July to December 2021?

Edy did not have a character description

that we had asked her to play.

She was just responding to one of the prompts

that we had suggested that actors give us.

And what I love so much about Edy is that

she made a really bold choice and committed to it

to the nth degree and it really worked.

The next day Craig comes home

and he got a Free Willy tattoo.

I decided to wear my fake breasts plate.

They're a G cup. They're a hundred dollars.

When casting directors are often saying

to actors, Make a choice,

it may not always be right for the role

but when it's right, it's right.

And she's undeniable. She's 1,000% committed

to having just a strong sense of self.

Basically, I was just trying to come up

with super interesting, kind of quirky, normal-seeming

people who you would see on a jury in Los Angeles.

Every shape and color and size and age,

and make it feel as real as possible

so that we didn't give up the whole thing

before it even started.

We got a thousand and some for the jury pool

and then when we started to get a little more specific

about the judge and the prosecutors,

we got another 500 there 'cause we were asking

for those people to actually have legal backgrounds

so that they were okay with legal jargon

that they were going to have to come up with themselves.

Good afternoon Mr. Gregs.

It's true, isn't it, sir, that you were once arrested

for masturbating in a public movie theater?

That's correct, isn't it?

Yes, that's true.

[whimsical music]

He said that Trevor was a really nice guy

but then it came out later

that he masturbated his penal off at The Grove.

For callback, it happened during COVID,

so everything was a self tape

in the beginning for the first step.

Which actually worked really well for our purposes.

And then we had a really wild callback

which was set at a focus group company.

So the focus group pulled in half the people

and then we had the other six people

per group would be actors.

And they were the actors that we wanted to call back.

He watched a trailer for West Side Story

and it was really just meant to be a conversation.

One of our producers was the moderator

and would just ask them questions and get them talking

to try to figure out the chemistry of the cast.

That was the big intention behind

having a focus group callback.

One of our producers, Nick Hatton,

had worked with Sasha Barron Cohen a lot

and he was very used to sort of trying

to figure out scenarios like this in his previous work.

They were given prompts the night before by the director

about what sort of type of character he wanted them to play

within the framework of during the focus group.

And it was fascinating. It was wild.

That's where some of the actors actually really

cemented their place on the jury, in our minds.

Sadly some of the people who we had really high hopes for

didn't really rise to the occasion.

Susan Berger, who played Barb,

was one of the standouts of the day.

She was hilarious.

She started talking about being a freegan

which none of us knew anything about

but apparently a freegan does not like to spend money

on anything, specifically food.

A freegan will go around sort of,

as we knew it, dumpster diving.

She committed to this.

It was such a strong choice. It was incredible.

We were sure that she was definitely

making it onto the jury.

[whimsical music]

Fashion-wise, does it look okay?

♪ Margarita, mar-margarita ♪

I gotta arm wrestle James?

[jurors cheering]

The whole casting process was about 12 weeks.

We started late October and I think by December

we had an idea of who our jurors were.

That's when the writers started figuring out

who their characters were actually going to be.

Who's she there with?

She's there with her friends.

Brenna, Francisca, and her friend Cody who I don't know.

But they're all just like, nice little girl group.

Is Cody a girl?


Are you sure about that?

She might be there with a different guy.

That's [censored].

Mekki Leeper is one of my favorite jurors on the cast.

He was actually also a writer on the show.

Once they saw his initial self tape,

they were thinking that he was a post-college kid

and that he had come from a religious background,

a really conservative upbringing.

My girlfriend and I have our six month anniversary trip.

We're gonna Miami because my friend Derek said

that God can't see what happens there

'cause of the humidity.

Cassandra Blair read for a couple roles.

They are rude as hell.

I told number 12, I said, Sir, I cannot let you leave

this room until six o'clock in the morning.

It is now 4:45. You got an hour and 15 minutes.

He was like, You don't have no authority.

You look like a bus from the Cheesecake Factory.

Initially we were thinking maybe

she would be a good bailiff.

She also read for a juror

and she came to the focus group as well

and she was really great.

Just sort of deadpan and calls a spade.


Yes, ma'am.

What's RBI?

Reddit Bureau of Investigations.

I mean, yeah, I'm into true crime, documentaries,

podcasts, all that stuff.

So when I got the summons I was like, Hell, yeah, finally.

But nah, this case is dumb.

[Susie] I love Ron Song.

My mom and I used to watch it on television

on Thursday nights on Court TV.

Ron Song, in life, does not speak that slowly.

His tape just really cracked us up.

He also was one of the actors who cemented his role

on the jury from his focus group callback.

When asked the question, who would he take

to the premiere of the movie,

he kept repeating it very slowly

that he would take his mother

and then kept pressing that, only if he had to.

He would never wanna see this movie.

And he was just hilarious.

We all walked away and we felt like,

okay, he's definitely a juror.

Tick that box. Who's next?

When we got Alan Barinholtz's self tape,

I was so over the moon.

This is exactly what every single

casting director wants all the time.

All we want is for somebody to come in and nail it.

I've got two rules, make that three rules now in my court.

The first is follow my orders.

The second is, don't bullshit me.

And the third, no dick pics.

He showed us that he can speak legalese,

he can come up with very funny things off the cuff,

but they seem really natural to him

coming out of his mouth and I love his Chicago accent.

It feels like that's like a character in and of itself.

I love his age and his life experience.

It was magical. It was perfect.

I was so excited to send it to the producers.

And the second I did, I said, This is our guy.

And everybody agreed with me.

He was living in Chicago at the time

and he wanted to come here

and play with us for this whole length of time.

And he's actually since moved here and he's pursuing acting

which is a whole second career for him

that he wanted to do years ago, I'm told,

and he's fantastic.

There were a lot of actors who we saw for the jury pool

in the beginning and then some of whom we ended up loving

in terms of who they were and what they brought to it.

But they didn't necessarily end up

on the jury, specifically Whitney Rice.

She came to the callback

to the focus group and she was hilarious.

She committed to being a very fancy lady

who didn't really have time for this

and she was headed to the airport

and everybody there got really flustered

trying to figure out the quickest routes

for her to get to the airport.

Everybody was so in it with her

that she was gonna maybe miss her plane.

She didn't end up on the jury

but she ended up being the plaintiff in our show.

And we were really looking for them

to bring interesting things to the table

to sort of be quick on their feet

and be funny in a very grounded way.

And I think it would've been really different

had we had actors coming in the room for us at first.

There wasn't anything for me to read or interact with them

so we got to have a good sense of what kind of thing

are they gonna bring to the table.

Because with improv, they didn't have

any dialogue in the show.

They had beats that they were supposed to hit

but they were gonna have to come up

with all of this dialogue on their feet.

I don't know if you remember what I was wearing yesterday.

I had attachments to-

I saw what you was wearing yesterday

But if you wanted to use them-


You know what though?

I do want to say I feel like you're a low-key genius.

'cause the stuff you be saying...

[whimsical music]


That means top secret, for my eyes only.

Casting James Marsden,

we approached it in the same way that we would

approach normal scripted casting roles

on anything else that I've done.

We started with a really big laundry list

of celebrity names, started to whittle it down,

just thinking who the public might like,

who we thought might be game to do something like this.

And also someone that we thought would be really fun

to work with and and be fun to watch.

Dave Bernad and Jake Szymanski, our director,

and I had worked with James Marsden before

on something called Tour de Pharmacy.

We all kind of started talking about James Marsden

and the more you talk about him,

there's no reason not to hire him.

You just cross your fingers and hope that he says, Yes.

Have you ever served on a jury before?

Yes, ma'am.

Was that here in Los Angeles?


Where was it?


In France?

Yeah, it was the film festival.

I mean a civil or a criminal jury.

Oh no, no, sorry. Okay.

We got really lucky.

Dave Bernad is friendly with him and reached out

to him first before we made an official offer to his team.

And Dave sort of explained the nature of the show,

how we were looking for this guy to be the hero

and for the celebrity to play a very

heightened version of himself.

And James thought that it would be fun and we got lucky.

[whimsical music]

Yesterday the judge chose a foreperson.

He appointed me as it, no surprise there.

Ronald wasn't cast yet at the point of the focus group.

That casting was happening with the producer simultaneously.

We had to be somewhat secretive about what it was

because we didn't wanna give up what the whole show was.

We really wanted to make sure that any of the candidates

in the Ronald pool wouldn't hear about this thing.

We were pretty secretive and they were sort of

sending in tapes blind.

When they got a call back for the focus group,

that's when I really laid out as much as possible

to the agent's representative saying,

Okay, so this is the type of show it is.

It's gonna be mostly improv and there's gonna be

one real guy who's gonna be the hero.

He's not gonna be the butt of any joke,

but he's going to be the hero.

And try to let them in on as much as possible.

There's always something crazy that comes up.

Damn it! Goddamn it!

[phone thuds]

[Judge] Mr. Morris.

I was blown away by how the show turned out

and I was just amazed that these actors

were able to pull it off.

I mean, it's such a huge feat staying in character 24/7

to really have to just be on for such a long period of time.

Your guard has to be up and that can't be easy.

Feel like I don't really want it.

Oh, my god.

Of all of the human organs that have suboptimal design,

the heart is the most flawed of all.

I love that we were able to find people undiscovered

to most and give them this really big opportunity.

I love that they're having their moment.

Thank you, Vanity Fair, so much for having me.

And I hope that you enjoyed seeing behind the curtain

of the casting process on Jury Duty.

[classical music]

Starring: Susie Ferris