‘I May Destroy You,’ ‘Industry’ casting director Julie Harkin: Discovering new actors is ‘something I am always driven by’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

HBO’s “I May Destroy You” and “Industry” are two very different shows, but casting director Julie Harkin approached both in a similar way: shining a light on new or little-known talent.

With “I May Destroy You,” Harkin was instructed by creator, writer, co-director and star Michaela Coel to “give opportunity to people that wouldn’t necessarily get given the opportunities that we were giving them,” she shares during Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: TV Casting Directors panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). “Michaela was a very open collaborator who just wanted to push inclusivity in terms of how we cast the show but also how everybody behaved behind the scenes. … She said to me very early on, ‘Go find the African-American, Black actors who have not had any screen opportunity to date and find me the actors of color who have not had their moments onscreen.'”

While Coel’s Arabella is the lead of the limited series, her two best friends, Terry (Weruche Opia) and Kwame (Paapa Essiedu), are vital figures whose own experiences with sexual assault are explored. Opia, who co-starred on the British series “Bad Education,” “was the first person I thought of” for Terry, Harkin says, and Essiedu was also a “no-brainer” to play Kwame for her. The added bonus: He had gone to drama school and was friends with Coel, who hadn’t thought of her pal for the role, which Harkin chalks up to Coel wanting to cast (no pun intended) a wide a net as possible. “I think I was very Irish and forceful and direct to her in my opinion of who should get the part and she respected that,” Harkin adds. “The chemistry that they have offscreen translated onscreen. It was the heart and soul of the whole show.”

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For “Industry,” Harkin was tasked with assembling a group of actors to play young graduates in the cutthroat world of investment banking in London. The plan was always to go for unknowns. “I don’t know how you could’ve done it any other way,” she states. “I think the excitement about going on and creating an ensemble of new actors is something I am always driven by. … I wanted to do that job for that reason.”

The cast is led by Myha’la Herrold, who plays Harper Stern, a New Yorker who relocates across the pond for an opportunity at Pierpoint & Co. A graduate of the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, Herrold had mostly done theater and her biggest onscreen credit was a guest spot on Amazon’s “Modern Love.” The search for Harper had gone on for a year when Herrold sent in a self-tape.

“She just completely popped,” Harkin recalls. “It was just one of those golden moments where sometimes you’ll read a character in a script and go, ‘Oh my God, this is so difficult, I don’t know how we’re ever going to find this,’ and it’ll appear to you straightaway. And then other times something will take a long time. Looking  for Harper took a long time but, my God, when she arrived, it was like there was no one else.”

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