NEC Rep Meets VP of CBS Diversity Institute NY

  • HEAR NEC REP Interview Re: CBS TV Diversity Institute w/ Barbara Asare-Bediako and Marie McKinney on: WHCR Soul Lounge 90.3 FM with “The Night Watchman” 1am – 2am tonight Fri 9/4-5/09

    CONGRATS TO CLINTON LOWE!! Clinton Lowe called in to audition for CBS TV show: The Good Wife by CBS VP of casting after being one of 10 NEC Rep members selected for CBS Diversity Institute!!

  • August 27, 2009. 10 members from the NEC Repertory and….cbs diversity 9 09 Marie McKinney, program coordinator and instructor at Negro Ensemble Company, were invited to meet with CBS-TV, Casting Vice President,  Fern Orenstein to participate in The CBS Diversity Institute’s one-on-one coaching on: best practices for marketing the actor’s talent, presentation, and landing roles on “episodic” TV.  VP of CBS Diversity, Ms. Orenstein, Manager of CBS Diversity,Barbara Matos, >SVP of Diversity at CBS, Josie Thomas and other Casting Executives from CBS Hollywood and CBS NY are responsible for casting TV shows like, C.S.I, N.C.I.S, The Unit, Peace Maker, among others. 10 NEC Rep actors met with 60 other selected actors from NY Actor’s Unions and African, Latin and Asian American NY organizations.  The CBS Institute took place in 2 sessions on August 26th and 27th at the CBS Offices in New York at 51 West 52nd Street. The program has five components designed to provide participants with access to the decision making process in network television both in front of and behind the camera. Actor’s Career workshops and Talent Showcases; and Director’s and Writer’s Mentoring Programs are part of the initiative. CBS provided  Soap Opera diversity, casting events earlier this spring.
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    This Institute comes on the heels of much criticism from the NAACP and periodicals like Black Enterprises magazine and the Huffington Post:

  • The Huffington Post  explains:
  • “The number of minority actors in prime-time shows has remained flat or even dipped in recent years, decreasing from 333 in the 2002-03 season to 307 in 2006-07, according to the report. The number of minority writers working during the 2006-07 season was 173, a drop from the 206 employed during the previous season, the report said.”
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    The CBS Diversity Institute was launched by  Barbara Matos, director of Diversity at CBS and CBS NY and LA Casting Executives.  The workshops provided an opportunity for each Actor to get personal, career coaching from CBS’s VP of Casting, Fern Orenstein. Her coaching provided  actors with marketing techiques and presentation coaching to help them gain access to TV auditions so that they can consistently land TV roles.

    —-NAACP Diversity Report—-

    Ms Orenstein stressed that most episodic TV programs cast 2 or 3 lead roles, while the bulk of the work goes to 15 to 20 actors in supporting roles. Characters who help tell the story are cast most frequently. Specific roles like mechanics, teachers, doctors, social workers detectives, the neighborhood girl , etc.  Most actors submit cookie-cutter, glamour, head-shots, which often show little or no acting, in hopes of getting a role. Lead roles are few and far between. 80% of the roles on episodic TV are those of blue-collar workers, service people, health and banking professionals and executives. Why not determine which of these roles you are most likely to land at the audition? Then, gear your picture, colors and photo backgrounds to look like that profession or way of life.

    —-NABJ Special Reports:

    Network Television Station O&O Management Diversity Census—

  • A great shot shows an actor, acting the part! When casting staff look at pictures, they wade through hundreds of little thumbnails,  Ms Orenstein explained.  If your head shot wins a click to enlarge it, if it is clear in the thumbnail size first. If your picture has the same color background as the foreground or if your picture is dark or worse, black and white or unprofessional looking, it hasn’t got much of a chance. Keep in mind, casting people must look through hundreds of tiny pictures for one role. Then multiply that times 20 for one show. Add the stress of a 1-2 day deadline.
  • This explains why some actor’s are not getting called in. Have  2 or 3 pictures, that portray different professions.  Choose professions you can easily land faster than the actor next to you. Choose colors and backgrounds that suggest the role you are going for, without literally having the badge, stethoscope or wrench in hand. Perhaps your friends say you look like a teacher AND a banker.  Get 2 or 3 shots with the facial expression, colors, clothing and background to match each walk of life. If you are the yacht owning, socialite type, spare no expense on the suit. And yes, color photos with the definition and clarity of a professional photographer are a given. Perhaps start with a special skill you have. Let’s say, you speak Farsi. Could you play a believable  terrorist? Feels like borderline stereotyping? Perhaps. Remember, these characters have a few seconds to establish who they are and forward the storyline. Like in any business, branding is what gets you in the door.

    Mondo Times covers 23,000 news media outlets in 212 countries.

  • You may be thinking: “I’ve spent thousands of dollars to learn to play different characters .  That’s what acting is. Isn’t it?” I heard once that the highest compliment to an actor is: “I didn’t recognize you at all in that show!” Has the art of acting degraded to a color scheme? Have deadlines become more pressing than creative intuition and historical innovation? Where does this leave the die-hard, “artist-first “ actor? “I guess that’s where theatre comes in”: she confesses. “This is TV. Save the creative latitude for the stage. AND act the part in your head shots, so that casting knows what you feel comfortable playing. Then, use the TV paycheck to master your art.
  • “Real” diversity will emerge when we reintegrate all faces back into history where they belong. I’d like to see some of my Afro-Native American, farm owning, ancestors in a Western, along side their Asian neighbors, who built the railroads. Yes, it is so important to tell our own stories.
    Clad in jeans and a 70’s, East Indian top, Ms Orenstein casually coached with each participant answering each of their questions and concerns. Some good news!Casting, like most other business processes is now internet driven. This is good news for us, because whether your picture is submitted by your agent, manager or through Actor’s Access. It’s first come first served. This gives the diligent actor a chance to be seen, even without formal representation.


    Asian, Native American and Latin American organizations were invited to send representatives to the CBS Offices at 51 West 52 St in NYC. Among the NEC Rep members chosen to represent NEC were: Sam Encarnacion, Edward K. Robinson, Ryan Johnson, Barbara Asare-Bediako, Tanya Everett, Jillian Walker, Kimberlyn Craword, Jamil Mangan, Clinton Lowe and Quester Hannah. ABOUT NEC REPERTORY

    Article Continued Below…




    NEC Rep was re-launched by Negro Ensemble Company’s Award Winning Instructors, Marie McKinney, Erik Kilpatrick, Leslie Lee and NEC’s Artistic Director, in honor of Robert Hooks, Douglas Turner Ward and Gerald Krone, who started the NEC Training Program in 1967.
    The NEC’s original Training Program included Acting, Comedia del Arte, Ballet and African Dance, Mask Work training.  It fostered the careers of Frances Foster, Rosalind Cash, Arthur French, Hattie Winston, Graham Brown, Ester Rolle, William Jay, Theodore Wilson, Clarice Taylor, Damon Brazwell, Glen Turman, Norman Bush, Julius W Harris.


    Others who were involved with The NEC, in the late 60’s were, writers: Richard Wright,  Alice Childress, Derek Walcott, Wole Soyinka and Lonnie ElderIII, Ray McIver, Ted Shine, Errol Hill, Louis Sapin, Peter Weiss also Lloyd Richards and dancer/costume designer, Judy Dearing and project coordinator, Edmund Cambridge. The NEC’s training program instructors were: John Blair, Lonnie Elder,III,  Ron Mack, Margaret Harris, Luther James, Louis Johnson, Michael Schultz, Charles Vincent, Steve Carter, Cleo Quitman, Gloria Schultz, Robert McCauley, Lloyd Richards,Kristin Linklater.


    The NEC Repertory Program offers a solid training program to professional actors. They receive training as a prerequisite for the program, which helps to advance their careers and promote partnerships and self-reliance. The NEC Rep Intensive training is  based in Stanislavski, Michael Chekov, Cicely Berry, Bea Richards techniques, and  are infused with comparative studies of  literature and history including Shakespeare, classic African and Latin American playwrights and folk arts. The actor can step into classic and contemporary works for stage and in media, while having a strong sense of self and their specific place in history.

    Character development, atmosphere, dramaturgy, voice production and articulation, history of the diaspora, dance and movement, classical styles of singing versus traditional Native American and African placement are some of the topics covered in the workshops.  Private and semi-private coaching for beginners is available by request. Meanwhile, NEC Rep professionals must audition and be accepted to the program.
    Some Negro Ensemble Company’s Alumni include: Laurence Fishburne, Adolf Caesar, Lynn Whitfield, Angela Bassett,  Samuel L Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Keith Davis, Ruben Santiago Hudson,  Giancarlo Esposito, Ching Valdez, Carole Maillard, Alvin Alexis, Michelle Shay, it’s current Artistic Director, Charles Weldon…the list goes on..
    PBS American Masters features The Negro Ensemble Co.
    Email Audition Requests: for NEC Rep to:——————————————————————————————

    “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “The Young and the Restless” are casting actors of color who are 18 years and older.
    Eligible candidates are asked to submit resumes and photos online at Hard copies can also be mailed to Fern Orenstein, CBS Daytime Diversity Initiative, Cole Ave Studios, 1006 N. Cole, Hollywood, CA 90038.
    Deadline for submissions is Nov. 28.
    Candidates will be pre-screened by the network casting department in December, and the casting directors of these CBS daytime dramas will read actors on a regular basis starting in January.
    For information regarding the CBS Diversity Institute and Casting, go to
    –Penny TV

    The CBS Diversity Institute


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