Another month, another outstanding Netflix Original – this time from South Korean writer and director Hwang Dong-hyuk. Squid Game has reportedly been viewed by two thirds of all Netflix users, raking in $900 million for the steaming giant.
But it’s British Netflix Original series that are consistently captivating millions of viewers, with Sex Education, The Crown, and Black Mirror among the many that have been stealing the world’s attention over the past few years. In September, the very British Bridgerton was revealed to be the most-watched TV show on Netflix, having reached number one most-streamed in no less than 76 countries after its Christmas 2020 premiere.
This means Netflix is keen as punch to commission more series, stories and streaming soirees from the UK. The company signalled as much with their investment in a major UK production hub in 2019.
So what’s Netflix’s casting process – and how does Netflix cast in the UK? Here’s what you need to know to stand a chance of featuring in a high-budget, beautiful and career-defining Netflix Original series.
Netflix is still a streaming company and – for now – doesn’t actually play a major hand in the production of its hit Netflix Originals. Instead, it commissions UK-based studios, production companies, writers and directors, which in turn get on the phone to UK casting directors.
So when a Netflix series is in pre-production, the casting director is chosen by a British production company, not Netflix. That means when you see casting news sites announce that Netflix is casting a series in the UK, what they mean is that, via a string of outsourcing, you have the opportunity to star in a huge Netflix Original production.
UK Casting Directors
Happily, this makes things quite straightforward for UK actors. You do what you always do: follow the breadcrumbs to see who’s worked with who before. As soon as a show’s announced, you should be able to work out the UK casting director who’ll be putting actors into roles.
For Bridgerton, produced by Shondaland, the casting director was Kelly Valentine Hendry, who previously worked on Fleabag and Gangs of London. Lauren Evans, the casting director who helped source Gavin and Stacey as well as the voice actors for Paddington 2, was the choice for Sex Education’s all-British cast. With a fifth season anticipated at the end of 2022, The Crown has enjoyed the services of dozens of major UK casting professionals, from Kate Bone and Charlotte Chapman to Demitra Coulson, who sourced the series' extras.
Keep the red string and pins in the drawer – just make a mental note, or keep a little spreadsheet, that’ll help you keep track of these regular casting patterns in the UK.
When Does Netflix Cast in the UK?
You’d be surprised just how often Netflix is casting in the UK. It’s not just major Netflix Original series – the big-hitters we’re all fond of – that Netflix helps produce and commission. It’s also involved in smaller indie projects, and is likely to soon have its own UK Netflix production department, too.
So Netflix, and its chosen UK partners, are pretty much constantly searching for new UK actors to cast in its series and films. The best way of staying up to date is to keep tabs on casting news and production announcements as they happen.
Getting Cast For Netflix Original Productions in the UK
So now we’ve identified how Netflix shows are cast in the UK, and how you’ll find out which casting director to turn to, it’s time to think about your approach.
One option is the cold email. As we advised in our previous article on getting noticed by UK casting directors, these are fine – but you need to get straight to the point, with a headshot prominently affixed to the top of the email so the casting director, associate or assistant knows who they’re reading about. Networking in advance helps, too.
You can also participate in open calls, casting calls via FlairBox, or the tweets of some of the UK’s most successful casting directors. So long as you’re ready to take a brilliant self-tape, you’ll be able to strike while the iron’s hot on a future UK Netflix series.
Netflix UK Series Audition Tips
Get yourself an audition for a Netflix series in the UK, and it’ll be time to let your talent do the talking.
If you’ve been following FlairBox’s tips, you’ll know that a slap-dash self-tape isn’t going to cut it. Casting directors regularly tell us that poor lighting or sound quality has their cursor making a beeline for the close window button – before you’ve had a chance to finish your first line. Check out the rest of our tips to make sure you put everything you’ve got into your self-tape audition.
Those UK actors that fit the bill will of course be invited to in-person auditions – and how nice is it that they’re back, by the way?
It’s important not to be daunted by the fact that the marketing clout and big-budget production values of Netflix will sit behind the series you’re casting for. Prepare as meticulously as you can, go through your pre-audition notes and rituals, and give it your best shot. Come out shining, and you might just get your big break on Netflix’s next big UK-based show.