Ally Capriotti Grant and Pamela Vallarelli interview: ‘Queer Eye’ casting directors

Ally Capriotti Grant and Pamela Vallarelli just accrued their fourth and third Emmy nominations, respectively, for their work as casting directors on the fifth installment of Netflix’s structured reality series “Queer Eye.” “It makes us feel like people are watching, people are talking, [and] people are having conversations — and that’s the whole point of the show,” Grant says gratefully about being recognized by TV academy. In our exclusive video interview (watch the webchat above), she and Vallarelli also shed light on the significance of the fifth season’s location, on their approach to finding contestants, and on some of the season’s stories that touched them the most.

In the fifth season of “Queer Eye,” which was released in June 2020, the Fab Five (Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski) head to Philadelphia and its outskirts to give guests emotionally charged, heartfelt makeovers. Vallarelli explains that after being in the South and Midwest of the U.S. for the first four seasons, the creative team behind the series wanted to go to a place that “would feel fresh, feel different, have new types of stories to tell, and [feature] different types of characters and personalities.” In that regard, the Northeast, including parts of New Jersey and other parts of Pennsylvania, gives you “a little bit of everything,” Vallarelli adds. For Grant, who is from Philadelphia, this was a particularly special season as she, in the process of scouting Philadelphia and some of its suburbs, rediscovered her own hometown.

“It’s like a dance,” Grant says about the casting department’s twofold approach to finding candidates. In addition to accepting applications and nominations — which are sent in by predominantly candidates’ friends and loved ones — they have people in their New York office making phone calls and scouring social media, as well as people, like Grant and Vallarelli, on the ground scouting the area. Grant explains that being on the ground is especially rewarding because they are able to meet and communicate with people who may not watch or be aware of the show. “It’s always fun when you get someone on the show that has no preconceived notions and is in it for the first time,” Grant highlights. Overall, however, “there’s no one way to do this job,” Vallarelli accentuates, revealing that they attempt to do different avenues of outreach as they never know where or how they’ll find the most suitable, unique potential contestants.

Casting a diverse group of people and thereby shining a light on an array of different stories is of utmost importance to the casting department, Grant and Vallarelli expound, emphasizing that they are always on the lookout for previously untold stories. While they admit that narrowing down their many contestants to ultimately just a handful is undoubtedly challenging, Vallarelli explains that what they’re looking for in a final candidate is likeability, vulnerability, and the potential to transform. “We want to know other people’s opinion of this person,” she adds. Hence, they reach out to a candidate’s friends and family members to get an all-around picture of who they are and to understand why other people believe he, she or they should be considered for the show.

Having nabbed back-to-back victories in 2018 and 2019, “Queer Eye’s” casting department is now eying its third victory in the Best Reality Casting Emmy category. If it pulled off its third victory at this year’s awards, Grant would earn her third and Vallarelli her second Emmy to date, as Grant was credited for both past wins and Vallarelli exclusively for 2019’s. “Queer Eye” is also nominated for five other awards this year: structured reality program, reality/competition host, cinematography, directing, and editing.

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UPLOADED Aug 3, 2021 5:27 pm