Great casting is one of the things best defined by what it is not. There’s an alchemy to the assembling of a cast — particularly a larger ensemble — that can only be achieved with luck and a sharp eye. And while the 2022-2023 TV season saw plenty of larger-than-life performances and jaw-dropping transformations, these four first-year series managed, in wildly different ways, the same balancing act of star turns and sharply delineated supporting roles. Here are four series worthy of Emmy Award consideration for their feats of casting.
Tony Gilroy’s gritty sci-fi/spy thriller is the adult, character-driven “Star Wars” many of us have been waiting for. But Cassian’s origin story would not have been as brilliant without the talented ensemble cast built around Diego Luna by casting directors Nina Gold and Martin Ware: Stellen Skarsgård as the eccentric antiques dealer organizing the Rebel Alliance; Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma, the Imperial Senator who stealthily finances the fledgling group; Kyle as Syril Karn, the Deputy Inspector obsessed with Cassian’s capture; Denise Gough as Dedra Meer, the ambitious supervisor for the Imperial Security Bureau; Fiona Shaw as Cassian’s adopted mother Maarva, who urges him to join the rebellion; and Andy Serkis as Kino Loy, Cassian’s fellow prisoner and the floor manager at the Imperial factory facility who eventually aids in their daring escape. What made their performances unique, though, was the unusual structure of three-part episode blocks that provided character arcs for greater emotional impact. —Bill Desowitz
“A Friend of the Family” (Peacock)
Nick Antosca’s based-in-fact drama about a kidnapping as unlikely and bizarre as it is harrowing walks a tonal tightrope in which it keeps from going so dark that it alienates the audience, yet never trivializes or softens the real-life story on which it’s based. Casting directors Carrie Audino, Tara Feldstein, Chase Paris, and Laura Schiff put together the perfect ensemble to deliver Antosca’s delicate vision: from Jake Lacy as the series’ persuasive and chilling villain to Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin as the beleaguered parents of his victim, the performances here are uniformly surprising and moving. —Jim Hemphill
“Mrs. Davis” (Peacock)
“Mrs. Davis” doesn’t walk a fine tonal line; it walks like seven tonal lines in different corners of the multiverse simultaneously, one of which is in the style of “Looney Tunes.” It’s a challenge getting actors who can balance the show’s needs for multiple variations of slapstick and heist comedy, Western and fantasy quests, sly technological commentary and gentle religious search for meaning — to say nothing of the fact that one of them is playing a version of Jesus Christ who spends his time running a metaphysical falafel restaurant. Yet each of the major players (from Betty Gilpin’s nun on a mission to destroy a world-changing AI to each of the actors who portray that AI by proxy) feels, like all great casting choices, destined for their role. Victoria Thomas casts a lot of films and TV shows, but “Mrs. Davis” offered some especially tricky challenges she makes look as effortless as a good magic trick. —Sarah Shachat
“Welcome to Chippendales” (Hulu)
Hulu’s “Welcome to Chippendales” included as many ersatz ‘80s hunks as it did was no mean feat (we can discuss the shifting ideals of male beauty at a different time). But what moved the limited series about the creation of the male strip club chain onto another plane was the key quartet casting director David Rubin put at its center: Kumail Nanjiani, Annaleigh Ashford, Murray Bartlett, and Juliette Lewis. All four provide a complementary zip to the others, whether it’s watching boss-employee Steve Banerjee (Nanjiani) and Nick Da Noia (Bartlett) spar or Steve’s wife Irene (Ashford) snort cocaine for the first time with costume designer Denise (Lewis). They spar, they bicker, they create — even within the heightened reality of an ‘80s drama, they feel like uneasy co-workers. And then a murder happens, and the jagged camaraderie takes a jarring turn that only highlights what has been lost. —Mark Peikert