Casting Associate Allycia Atania-Jones On How To Make It In The Entertainment Industry
Making it in the entertainment industry continues to be a major goal for many people. There’s something about the fame that attracts the masses. However, it’s no secret that, historically, show business has not been as giving in terms of opportunities for Black actors, directors, and filmmakers. For decades, Black actors were forced to portray stereotypical characters to share their talents with the world. Today, opportunities have increased for Black entertainers. But there is still a call for diversity in the types of roles they are being given, as well as requests for films and television shows that accurately depict our culture. For us to see our stories on the big screen, there has to be more of us working behind the scenes demanding that our stories be told and that Black actors be given a chance.
Allycia Atania-Jones, 32, is behind the scenes doing just that. She works in casting at NBC. Jones has committed herself to the work it takes to ensure that we see more diversity in film, television, and theater. She is adamant that Black representation in every aspect of this business is vital.
“Writers write about what they know,” Jones says. “If you find that the parts are bleak for Black actresses, or any group of people, in general, it’s mainly because the writers don’t share the same experiences as you. No one can tell your story better than you. We need more women of color writing, editing, directing, and producing the stories that hold truth to their experience. I challenge everyone to create their own magic. Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. Make your own.”
Jones started her career as an actor, studying the craft for 10 years. While in college, she began to develop an interest in sociology, which gave her a deeper understating of her love of acting. “Sociology is the systematic process of how society affects people,” she says. “As I studied sociology, I started seeking ways to understand the human condition as it translated to acting. What environmental changes influence the human experience? How would you communicate with others if this event occurred in your childhood? The more I learned about acting I found myself wanting to be an acting coach and teach technique from a mental point of view. Casting allowed me to be part of this process, championing for the actors, but involved in the business process of what is needed to bring the story to life.”
So Jones hit the ground running, seeking opportunities to break into the industry with the hopes of serving and rallying for the actor while lending her gifts to help create beautiful stories. Her hard work and perseverance landed her in the right places at the right time among the right people.
“My first internship landed me on the Paramount lot interning at Scott Rudin Productions,” Jones says. “I learned so much at his production company about navigating relationships, reading scripts, writing coverage, and how to be meticulous in my work. One of my favorite tasks was researching actors for one of the projects. I’ll never forget it was the Ryan Phillippe film, Stop-Loss. After a while, one of his producers asked me what I wanted to be, and without hesitation I said, ‘I want to be a casting director just like Avy Kaufman did for Stop Loss.’ Three months later, that producer wrote an introduction letter for me to intern at Avy Kaufman’s office. I commuted from Washington, D.C. to Manhattan every single week to intern in her office for six months.”
Today, Jones works in casting for NBC Universal, one of the top media and entertainment companies in the world. But she wants to be clear that the entertainment industry is not just glitz and glam. It is a lot of work.
“Everyone thinks of casting as fun, glamorous, and hobnobbing. Honestly, it could be all of those things, but on most days, it’s about putting in the sweat,” Jones says. “After I leave a nine-hour day, I head to the theater, comedy show, or a showcase, to scout for new talent for another two to three hours. You have to watch everything on TV and see everything in the city to learn the community, and you will spend most of your day doing what you need to do to get the job done.”
But in spite of her workload, Jones remains true to her mission of serving the actor. She has some advice for budding Black actors looking to get their big break.
“You never know who knows who and the receptionist at the front door today may have a decision in your career tomorrow. Treat everyone with respect and dignity,” Jones says. “Be professional. Show up early, keep a positive attitude, know your lines. You are in control. When you get to that audition, just let loose. Don’t hold back. Last but not least, listen. If you are given feedback, listen, and make the adjustments. This is the first test in seeing if you are directable.”
With young Black women like Jones making her mark in the entertainment industry and advocating for our actors to be seen and our stories to be heard, we will surely continue to break barriers and have our faces front and center.