Entertainment

Say YES to 'Glee': Casting director, a Modesto native, shares his advice

(BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com) - Robert Ulrich, casting director of "Glee" and host of the new Ogygen show "The Glee Project," a competition in which the winner gets a seven-episode guest shot on "Glee," spoke before the members of the YES (Youth Entertainment Stage) company at Valley Charter High School, Thursday.
June 15, 2011
(BART AH YOU/bahyou@modbee.com) - Robert Ulrich, casting director of "Glee" and host of the new Ogygen show "The Glee Project," a competition in which the winner gets a seven-episode guest shot on "Glee," spoke before the members of the YES (Youth Entertainment Stage) company at Valley Charter High School, Thursday. June 15, 2011

Really want it, have a back-up plan and never touch the casting director.

That was some of the simple acting advice that "Glee" casting director and Modesto native Robert Ulrich gave members of the YES (Youth Entertainment Stage) Company on Thursday afternoon.

The 1972 Davis High grad was in Modesto to talk with the group for longtime friend and YES Company director Melanee Wyatt.

The youth theatrical company includes more than 100 students in grades 7 through 12 and puts on musical productions each summer and performs throughout the year as part of the Stanislaus County Office of Education.

Ulrich came to talk to them about the entertainment business, how he got started and his work on both "Glee" and its new reality competition spin-off, "The Glee Project."

He has run a casting company in Los Angeles for the past 22, but started out as an actor. He and Wyatt, who have known each other since they were 4 years old, used to put on plays in their back yards. Since then he has casts shows like "Glee," "Dexter," "CSI" and "The Mentalist."

He has worked for "Glee" since the show started, bringing its cast of largely unknowns together to form the now world-famous mega hit. From it has grown "The Glee Project," a reality competition where the winner will get a seven-episode role on "Glee" next season.

The show premiered last Sunday on Oxygen and includes a contestant from Modesto, Lindsay Pearce, as one of the 12 competitors. Ulrich appears as one of the mentors on the show.

"It's crazy I'm in a point in my career where people want to interview me," Ulrich said about his years behind the scenes and now being in front of the camera again.

He told the students that if they were serious about acting or singing they needed to be ready to move to Los Angeles or New York.

"A good way to not want to be an actor is to intern for my office because you see all of the competition," he said. "The odds are really horrifying. You have to want it more than anything."

He told the group it's important to have other interests outside of show business, because it makes a person more well-rounded and potentially interesting to casting directors. And they should also have a back-up plan or education to fall back on if things don't work out.

Sound advice

There are also countless behind-the-scenes jobs like his — from wardrobe to lighting, sound and editing — that still allow people to work in entertainment and be creative.

"(Ulrich) was really interesting and gave great advice about going into the entertainment industry," said YES Company member Brandon Dinh, who is interested in pursuing acting.

The company performed some of the music from its upcoming production of "Hairspray," which premieres July 22. Even though the group just started rehearsing five days ago, Ulrich kept urging them on to sing more and cheered their performance.

Just like how he coaches the contestants on "The Glee Project," Ulrich gave the YES kids some simple do's and don'ts of casting.

Do be prepared. Don't come in costume. Do know your material. Don't bring props. Do try to be relaxed. Don't touch the casting director.

Though there was one notable exception to the last rule. When Lea Michele auditioned for the role of ambitious overachiever Rachel Berry, without having ever met Ulrich she walked in and slapped him in the face first thing.

"It was totally unexpected, but just showed how confident and how extraordinary she is," he said. "There are always exceptions to the rule."

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284.

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