Arts & Entertainment


Mira Nair

Lesson time 15:34 min

The relationship between director and actor is built on trust. Learn what it takes to cast the right actor and get them to reveal their true spirit on camera.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Find the Right Casting Director • Create an Affectionate Casting Session • Get to Know Your Actors’ Spirit • Create an Alchemy Between Professional Actors and Non-Actors • Test Your Non-Actors • Get Actors to Trust You


When I began to make films, we had no casting directors, really, to turn to in India, especially. Casting was done informally through the grapevine of actors, through people you knew, performances you may have seen. So I operated like that, you know, pretty much casting on my own, and then was very relieved to have found, you know, casting directors who could help widen the search and corral the troops, in a sense. Of course, casting directors help a lot, so long as one shares a sensibility with the casting director that you choose. It is their work to have the eye to really scope the place and bring to you the most untraditional, perhaps, of ideas, and sometimes the traditional ideas as well. And, of course, in Hollywood, casting directors really have access to the talent. That makes life easier as you get to make bigger-- more, you know, films that need commercial names. It is really a joy to work with a casting director because they bring-- they should bring to you, and they often do bring to me, unexpected choices that really illuminate a scene to be made almost differently because of the talent that is being presented to you. But I have done it both ways. I am always, you know-- I'm-- I never forget a great performance. I remember seeing Shefali Shah in "Satya," this independent Indian film. And I just was so riveted by her that, without meeting her, I called her up and asked her to play Ria in "Monsoon Wedding." It's unusual that I would not-- that I would do that, you know, cast an actor before meeting them. But sometimes, the talent is so explosive, you know, that it's very exciting to do that. [MUSIC PLAYING] Make your actors feel comfortable, you know? Have them enter a room and not feel judged. Of course, they are there to be judged. But your work as a director to make them feel that they can breathe easily, that they can-- that they are loved, in a sense, you know, allows an actor to bring to you unexpected things because they are comfortable. When an actor brings something different to you that you did not expect to hear or see, respond to that. Listen to that. Receive that. Take it further. Make it feel like it's a double-- it's not just the actor on display and-- being questioned and judged, but that you, too, are part of that process. I like to do that. I like to create an equation between the actor and myself so that we are both on a journey, even if it's just an audition, to take us to a place that could be revealing and could be exciting and could give me, as a director, ideas on how to either use this person or how to even enhance the character as it is written. Even though actors are so resilient and so used to being kind of rejected and, you know, asked to do all kinds of things in very impersonal surroundings, I-- because I think I was an actor and I really love actors, I really go out of my way to make sure that the atmosphere that is set allows them to feel that they can breathe easily and do w...

About the Instructor

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Mira Nair

The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.

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