Student, Claudia Lyon did not know what a casting director was, and even less that she would one day be responsible for casting in one of the largest chains in the country.
Lyon grew up in New York City, spending her childhood in a family with roots in Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and South Asia. Her love for television and film grew over the years to the point that she found a way to get intern and assistant jobs even without a connection.
While her future in the industry was not yet clear, Lyon took a leap of faith and traveled to Los Angeles to take a temporary job as a casting assistant on a film.
“I don’t think any of us thought I was going to stay here,” Lyon said of her and her family.
But quitting was never an option for her, Lyon said.
“As the first generation, I think a lot of times you feel responsible for doing what you’re doing, not just for yourself but for those who will come after you,” she said. “I always felt that I had to make the most of every opportunity and persist.”
Over the past two decades, Lyon has become a respected voice in the industry and has overseen the casting and talent departments of WB Network, ABC Entertainment and now CBS Entertainment.
As network manager, Lyon works closely with casting directors to ensure that producers, studios and networks share a strong vision for each project.
While much remains to be done to improve Latinx’s representation in the industry, Lyon said it has seen recent progress. From a heightened awareness that Latinos are more nuanced and not monolithic to more opportunities for Latinos to be played in roles that are not specifically written with a Latinx person in mind.
Lyon knows that she is able to bring the voice of a Latina with her diverse cultural backgrounds to the decision-making room. It is a responsibility that she does not take lightly.
“We come from different cultures and different parts of the world. Some of us are first generation, some of us are second generation,” said Lyon. “I feel like I can talk about these things through my casting job.”
Questions and answers
Employment: Executive Vice President for Talent and Casting at CBS Entertainment
Projects you have worked on: The next CBS original film “A Christmas Proposal”, the series “Clarice”, “The Equalizer”, as well as ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “black-ish”.
Years in Entertainment: Over 20.
Mentor: “I’ve had a lot of mentors along the way. One person that comes to mind is a casting director named Phyllis Huffman. I was an intern and an assistant for her. She was really the person who helped me. to guide and support me as I moved from work in New York to work in Los Angeles and find my career path She has been a casting director for most of Clint Eastwood’s films during her career. “
Latino … where from? : “My mother is from Guatemala, my father is from Trinidad and Tobago. I am multicultural and multi-ethnic. I am Latin and of South Asian descent. I am also from Brooklyn, New York.”
Trope that I would banish from TV forever: “I would like Latinos to be seen as more of a thing on TV, more than a story to tell. There are so many cultures in our community that I would love to see represented, and Latinos and Latinas of different appearance. I don’t. Want to see a single portrayal of Latinos in a story, I would really like to see a fuller and larger portrayal of us. “
I think the Latinx actor / actress will be a big star someday: “It’s hard to pick one person. There are so many. But if we’re talking about someone in particular, we just cast Jessica Camacho in the first Christmas movie we’re making for CBS. She was on our show. “All Rise.” She’s really special and a rising star for TV and movies. She’s really fantastic. “
Latinx show I wish everyone had watched: “I wish more people would watch ‘One Day at a Time’. I felt like this series had it all. It had great writing, great cast. I’m truly an admirer of Gloria Calderon’s work. Kellet and what she does not only bring these stories to the screen but behind the scenes. I just thought the show was fantastic and hilarious. “
Overused line execs say when passing a Latino for a project: “I like to challenge myself when I hear ‘we couldn’t find anyone’ or ‘there was no one there.’ I hear it less and less these days because I think when someone expresses this, they know the answer will be, “How far have you looked? Where did you look? We will introduce you to other talents. “”
What I think all professionals in the industry could do to help increase the representation of Latinx on TV:
“I think there are some things. First, the story is not told and tell those stories. Mentor, invest in the talent and amplify the voices. I think if you take a few- some and do them every day, it could lead to a lot of opportunities and projects that we have never seen before. “