A brush with the starsWhen Debbie DeLisi walks up to someone and says “I know this is going to sound weird but I’m really a casting director …” it is a moment for possibilities. The actress with Douglas County roots gets a kick out of giving unknown talents a shot.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
When Debbie DeLisi walks up to someone and says “I know this is going to sound weird but I’m really a casting director …” it is a moment for possibilities. The actress with Douglas County roots gets a kick out of giving unknown talents a shot.
“We love it, casting raw gems,” said DeLisi, whose maiden name is Kaszynski. The Lake Nebagamon native and her husband Adam have been doing it for years. Their stories are filled with big names, lots of travel and the search for that special “anointing,” where actor and character mesh.
Debbie and Adam “absolutely know their stuff,” said Kara Wayne, a freelance producer in the Twin Cities. While working with Edelman Productions and Magnetic Productions, she turned to the DeLisis to help cast hosts and homeowners for the DIY and HGTV networks.
“They’re fun, genuine, upbeat people and they have a wide net coast-to-coast,” Wayne said. “They ask the right questions. They’re very good at vetting people, interviewing, getting information.”
Despite the glamour of Hollywood and New York, Debbie and Adam, who hails from the Twin Cities, don’t forget their Midwestern roots. They recently auditioned an Oulu boy who became a finalist for a role in a Sony film they cast. Debbie gave a shout out to Superior contractor Mike Mattson who auditioned for the host of “I Hate my Bath.” Just because you’re a beginner, or you come from a small town, DeLisi said, doesn’t mean you can’t make it in the business.
The DeLisis were instrumental in casting four Minneapolis men, who happened to be friends in real life, in starring roles for the upcoming Tom Hanks film “Captain Phillips.” All were unknowns, and now they’re headed to the big screen.
“I just love those stories,” Debbie DeLisi said. “You never know where they’re going to come from.”
They found the hosts to helm DIY’s “I Hate my Bath,” “I Hate my Yard,” HGTV’s “Design on a Dime” and more. The folks grabbing money on an elevator in a new Minnesota Lottery commercial were cast by the couple. And Debbie assisted casting director Rachel Tenner in the search for a girl to play the role of Mattie Ross in the Coen brothers’ film “True Grit.” The search turned up an unknown, Hailee Steinfeld, for what turned out to be an Academy Award-nominated role.
Debbie, a Northwestern High School alum, caught the acting bug while attending the College of St. Scholastica. She headed to Minneapolis with a grad picture and a dream. To date, she’s spent years on both sides of the business —acting in front of the cameras and theater audiences as well as finding the perfect people for roles. Along with casting, Twin Cities native Adam is a musician. The two complement each other well, Wayne said — Debbie’s enthusiasm paired with Adam’s laid back approach. The couple has held auditions in posh hotels and studio lots as well as done guerrilla-style casting from living rooms and sidewalks. Sometimes, Debbie will see a face in the crowd, on a train or in the mall and walk up with that signature line, “I know this is going to sound weird but …”
Sunday from 3-5 p.m. the couple will hold an actor’s seminar and question and answer session at Perkin’s restaurant in Superior, 103 E. Second St. They will share the insight they’ve gained with actors of all levels about how to get started and what really goes on behind closed doors during casting.
“It shouldn’t cost a lot of money to start in this business,” Wayne said.
Along with an overview for beginners, the couple will offer direct feedback on headshots and resumes, identify what works best in getting hired and break down key components in creating a lasting impression. It’s all about truthfulness, said Debbie, who’s often tapped to cast period pieces. The fee is $45 per person or $85 for two people. Registration is required in advance by calling 212-330-9357 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.