Dixie Chassay interview: ‘The Great’ casting director

“We also all knew one another better, which is always an advantage, because it means you’re straight in with the shorthand and you can be playful,” declares casting director Dixie Chassay about the energy that permeated production on the second season of “The Great.” It allowed cast and crew to push the envelope and take more risks. For our recent webchat she adds, “We knew what this thing was, and although we didn’t know where it could journey to, it felt very alive, it felt like it had been given a really good strong base,” she explains. “The response was excellent and therefore we could really play around.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.

“The Great” returned for an even more outrageous second season late last year to a 100% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Elle Fanning stars as the titular Catherine the Great in the genre-bending Russian royalty satire for Hulu, who after initiating a coup against husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult) at the end of season 1, embarks on the show’s sophomore season pregnant with their child, while dealing with a royal court in disarray, a looming war with the Ottomans and a visit from her serpent-tongued mother Joanna, played by two-time Emmy winner Gillian Anderson.

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The series is beloved for its witty, razor-sharp and hilariously profane dialogue, the performances of its excellent cast and its lavish production values. After earning a pair of Emmy nominations for its first season, including one for series creator and writer Tony McNamara, it has unsurprisingly become a regular on the TV awards circuit, with McNamara scoring consecutive wins for Best Episodic Comedy last year and earlier this year, and Fanning scoring a Best Comedy Series Actress nomination at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards coupled with the cast’s nomination for Best Comedy Series Ensemble.

The show is funnier than its madcap first season, as McNamara and his team up the ante, particularly among the ensemble cast including genius creations like the often inebriated General Velementov (Douglas Hodge), quirky Aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow), highly strung Archbishop (Adam Godley) and close confidantes Grigor (Gwilym Lee), Orlov (Sacha Dawan) and Marial (Phoebe Fox).

As the saying goes, “the show must go on,” and while the pandemic might’ve made Chassay’s job a little more challenging, the casting director took it in her stride. “Universally it’s affected casting in that it’s moved it vastly online and it means that, for example, we didn’t meet anyone physically, which we’ve been doing a lot more of as casting has become way more global and the outreach has become much wider,” she explains. “But it just completely condensed that and made the world of Zoom, being able to meet and connect, feel more comfortable and legitimate,” Chassay says. “I think that human contact is essential. I think that we become a bit deprived if we don’t actually physically spend time with other human beings. We miss nuances and we miss stuff. But I think that as a casting director, you’ve spent so much time learning who people are and getting to know people through a screen that strangely it’s quite transferable.”

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UPLOADED Jun 2, 2022 12:30 pm