How Ali Fearnley cast the Green Party's election ad

Fearnley cast the children who performed as politicians in the Green Party's ad for the London mayoral election. The spot was created by Creature London and directed by Neil Harris through Smuggler.

Fearnley: 'Casting kids is always challenging'
Fearnley: 'Casting kids is always challenging'

Tell us about the project. I love it when Smuggler calls because it always has interesting jobs and Neil Harris is great to work with. Creature’s concept was brilliant but, of course, the pressure was there to find great kids. It was important that they could act like the politicians as well as look like them – and that is hard enough with an adult lookalike. The brief made it clear that they wanted kids who were forceful and outspoken.

How did you find the child actors? Normally, you look for kids who are easygoing on set. We needed kids who were confident, high-octane, even precocious because that tends to be a politician’s persona. I have taken time to build my relationships with agents over the years and it helps in castings like this. I always avoid cutesy model kids so this job was a dream. 

What was the biggest challenge? Casting kids is always challenging. There are the logistical issues and the casting process itself can also be quite daunting for children so I try to make it as natural, playful and relaxing for them as possible. The creatives from Creature were very involved in the casting process, which was great. We gave the children stickers with politicians’ names on so they could "pretend" to be someone else from the start. Neil worked very closely with the children, feeding them lines and ideas to play off. You have a picture in your head of what you are looking for but you also need to be open enough to see a different take on the character.

What do you look for when casting actors? Looks are always important in ads – you have so little time on screen that the first impression has to be right for the character, the client and the script. After that, it is a sense of intelligence and a likability. Acting then comes into play but lots of my directors don’t want an overly schooled performance or anything theatrical. I love to cast comedy and I am always looking out for smart, subtle performances.

What other ads have you worked on? I’ve been casting for more than 20 years and have been lucky enough to work on thousands of ads. Recent highlights would be Mountain Dew, which opened the Super Bowl this year, Bundaberg, Direct Line, Zoopla, Tango and Coca-Cola. I cast two to three campaigns a week. I am pretty excited and proud of quite a few bits of work that should be airing soon. 


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