Ellen Lewis interview: ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ casting director
“Casting anything is a risk,” admits “The Queen’s Gambit” casting director Ellen Lewis in our recent webchat. She continues, “Any project I’m starting I am always anxious. You have to work very hard, like with anything that any of us do. I don’t know if I’d call it a gambit but every casting job is hoping for the best.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
The Netflix limited series is written and directed by Scott Frank. It tells the story of chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), who contends with addiction and loss on her quest to be the world’s best chess player.
Lewis previously worked with Frank on “Godless” in 2018. She says, “For ‘Queen’s Gambit’ Scott created an incredible world. When I read it, I thought it was a phenomenal story about a very complicated young woman. Scott made a world where Beth’s challenges, struggles and accomplishments shone through her journey and the people that surrounded her. Anya carries this piece, and you are drawn to her, but everybody who surrounds her is compelling and interesting in their own way and makes her story that much richer.”
Working on “Gambit,” Lewis explains that “we did not have Beth when we started which is kind of great. We were able to sit with Scott and explore ideas. Anya clicked as soon as Scott watched the wonderful movie called ‘Thoroughbreds.’ It is then creating a believable world and people who somehow instinctually seem to fit together.”
This year the casting director has received an Emmy nomination with casting partners Kate Prance and Olivia Scott-Webb for Casting a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. Lewis won this category in 2004 for “Angels in America.” In casting a series she reveals, “We are the first person who’s interfacing with the director. I’m looking to fall into the world, whatever that may be. If I believe the world, I think something is really well cast. It’s far more challenging than I think people think it is. Casting is an easy thing for people to think they can do because they like actors and they know actors, but it becomes much more specific and pointed and instinctual.”