As head of casting for Twentieth Century Fox Television Studios, it's Sharon Klein's job to spot that one perfect actor out of a field of thousands.
“I sit in every studio session. We did 20 pilots this year, so assuming there's seven series regulars per pilot, let's say that's 250 actors,” says Klein, who, in age-conscious Hollywood, will confess to being just over 40. “Each of my casting directors puts every session on tape and then sends it through our intranet, so I can watch them there if I need to. I also look at New York auditions every day, and I just got a new Blackberry that lets me watch video wherever I am.”
Finding that just-right person is a long-term labor of love.
One of Klein's casting successes is persuading film actor Jason Lee to take the lead in the studio's My Name Is Earl on NBC.
“You get a pilot like that, which was perfectly written, and you start going through your dream cast,” she says. “Jason was definitely one of them. I had major breakdowns, crying fits, thinking we weren't going to get him.”
That perfect match is Klein's reward for a job well done. “I fought hard for Jason, and I made everybody see it. I was passionate. That's the only thing you have that separates you from anyone else.”
Klein got her start as the assistant to former Fox chief Gail Berman when both of them worked on Broadway. “I find her as enthusiastic today as the first day she started working for me,” says Berman, who now runs her own studio. “She is one of those people with a zest and love for the business and throws herself into it with all she has.”
Klein spends her days looking at actors, while she also manages a staff and works with producers.
“I make producers get to know actors before hiring them,” she says. “It's important for the longevity of a series that we find somebody who is not only talented, charismatic and compelling but who is that role.”
She has learned the intricate ways Hollywood works; stars come from unlikely places.
“She's created a network of people and relationships that reach into all sorts of worlds,” says Dana Walden, president of Twentieth Century Fox Television. “I could call her and have my kids' babysitter audition for her. She's willing to look anywhere for talent.”