All Madison Junod wanted out of a summer internship a couple of years ago was the chance to gain a little experience.
She was at the right place at the right time, though, and the Georgia College and State University senior hit the internship jackpot. After picking up her diploma Saturday, she’ll go back to work as a casting assistant for the online hit “House of Cards,” which is now prepping for its third season on Netflix.
When Junod was first seeking her internship as a sophomore, she had no idea she’d be working on what has become one of the most-talked-about television shows out there. When she walked into the office of Karen Berman, chairwoman of GCSU’s theater department, all Junod wanted was an opportunity to learn more about the casting process firsthand.
“I wanted to work over the summer, and I knew she had casting experience,” Junod recalled. “I drove up to (the Washington, D.C., area) notknowing anything about it. ‘House of Cards’ was a huge project to be working on.”
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Junod came to GCSU as a theater major, but she only had experience on the acting side. While in school, she learned the behind-the-scenes aspects of mounting a production and helped Berman cast the university’s performance of “Hamlet.”
Berman reached out to contacts she had in the D.C. area, which helped Junod land the internship with a well-known casting director there.
Junod was assigned to work with the person casting “House of Cards,” a political thriller based on a 1990s British miniseries. Because it was Netflix’s first foray into producing original television, no one in the industry had any idea whether the series would take off, even with big stars such as Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright signed on.
Three weeks after Junod started her internship, her supervisor quit, leaving a big gap in the casting process. Rather than hire someone new, the producers turned to Junod to handle the job, which was to hire actors in the D.C./Baltimore area to work as background actors and featured extras for roles in the series.
“I was so proud and excited for Madison,” Berman said. “She called me in July (of 2012) and said, ‘I’m not coming back ever!’ I said, ‘You’d better get your degree.’ She came back and got her degree.”
Junod impressed enough people that summer that when the production hired a new casting director for the D.C. area for Season 2, Junod was hired again as a casting assistant.
There also are casting directors for the series in New York and Los Angeles. Part of Junod’s duties include coordinating with those offices. Her office will be given a series of roles to cast, and Junod’s job is to find the actors to fill them.
Kimberly Skyrme, who runs the casting company that took over the D.C.-area casting for Seasons 2 and 3, said Junod has shown a natural affinity for finding actors for the series, sometimes in unusual places.
“If you work hard and do a great job, you’re going to be recognized for it,” Skyrme said. “She was really taking the initiative, and I hired her for the remainder of Season 2. You really learn a lot of skills that will help you later. ... She has an effusive personality, and this is a job which you need good people skills. You’re dealing with people who need attention and information. By the time they arrive for their audition, they have the feeling that someone is invested in their career.”
Junod said she puts out the call for specific roles, either as background players or featured extras -- extras who have lines of dialogue in an episode but who aren’t guest stars -- and goes through resumes and head shots in order to bring in a group of actors to audition.
“A typical day starts at 9 a.m. if we’re in the middle of casting,” Junod said. “We have 10- or 15-minute auditions, and we might see up to 60 actors in a day. They’ll get a script and we’ll work on different takes. We’ll then upload the footage to New York and L.A.”
Junod said David Fincher, the show’s executive producer, cares so much about every aspect of the series that he’ll weigh in on casting choices for extras, even if they have just one line of dialogue.
“I find I agree with most of their choices” when the extras are cast, Junod said.
Though she hasn’t completely given up on acting, Junod said it has taken a backseat to her desire to work behind the scenes of “House of Cards” and other future productions. She said she hasn’t been tempted to cast herself as an extra in the series.
“Personally, I see that as something of a conflict,” she said. “There was one time in the office in Season 1 where they needed to cast a role and I was the right age.”
Junod was asked if it came down to it, would she consider taking the role? She wavered, then said she would if it was a worst-case scenario. Fortunately, she said, they found another actress.
Now that she’s set to graduate, Junod will have time to seek work on other productions when she isn’t working on “House of Cards.” She said she wouldn’t mind working in Georgia’s ever-growing film industry and help actors she has met find work.
“I know so many actors in the state,” she said. “I’d love to cast in Atlanta, where I can at least give something back.”
Right now, though, her main focus is “House of Cards.”
“I don’t like to think that far ahead,” she said. “It’s one day at a time, one job at a time. The universe will send me to where I need to be.”
Berman said she thinks Junod will own her own casting company one day -- which could help benefit the college’s drama department as a whole.
“Theater is so much about networking,” Berman said. “I’ve told (my students) that we now have a person in the field -- that’s a big deal.”
“She’s exactly what all of the students aspire to. With each person who becomes successful, that’s another person our students know who can help them into the business,” Berman said. “That’s very valuable for Georgia College, having someone in the business, especially as good a person as Madison.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.