When it comes to casting, we’re really invested in representation and pushing diversity as far as we can. For instance, with American Girl, our client has always been receptive to our suggestions of featuring girls from all walks of life in terms of a unique look, variety in body types, and so forth. But when we’re in a position to really push it (think: girls with casts, in wheelchairs, or with developmental disabilities, etc.), we’re lucky to have a partner who’s just as invested in creating ads that reflect the real world. Meet Julie Tallarida, owner and casting director of Trigger Chicago.

Casting unique characters

When it comes to bizarre or hyper-specific requests, Julie has done amazing work for Grey House over the years. She’s helped us cast everything from a sumo wrestler to people with Down Syndrome. During a recent conversation, she gave us a run-down of her latest bookings: “We just cast drag queens; we cast wonderful kids with severe disabilities, like cerebral palsy and spina bifida. This week, we’re casting for real teens for Nike Air Jordans and families for Weber Grill. We love to book real families. We also love the goofy, quirky, funny stuff.”  She cited a recent job for the Field Museum that called for “vikings,” for which she pounded the pavement in search of burley, viking-esque men with scruffy beards. 

Casting real people (who look like real people)

Casting for specific roles like sumo wrestlers is “easy,” Julie says, since it’s simply a matter of putting the word out. (Did we mention she has over 8,000 Facebook followers? The woman is connected.) But mostly, her jobs are much more open to interpretation — and this is where she shines for a lot of our clients, to real construction workers, real teachers, real gritty people, real people with hair loss, real people of a certain age, these people are Julie’s specialty. (She notes that her partner, Sarah Sapien, handles the lion’s share of Trigger’s professional actors and modeling agency castings.) “Oftentimes, when you’re casting people that aren’t models, it’s fresh and compelling ,” Julie says. Plus, they’re thrilled to make an easy $1,000. So as long as a photographer is willing to take a few extra minutes to offer direction, some “real people have better instincts” than models, Julie says. “I always look for people that are telling a story behind their eyes. If you’ve got a story and it’s in there, it doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 66, that story comes through in the eyes, and it’s just so easy to direct.” 

Real talk

Showing real people in advertising is still a relatively new concept in the industry, and Julie knows better than anyone of the challenges that go with new territory. “I will lose a job over [legitimacy] arguments because I am very bull-headed about it,” she says. “If you want a same-sex couple, they’re going to be a real same-sex couple — not two models that happen to be same-sex.” She admitted that she just fought this fight for a local campaign…which ultimately decided to cancel the shot. “And that’s fine,” she says. “If you want to cancel, that’s fine. But I’m not faking it.”

Trust above all else

Especially when a casting calls for a particular type of person — an acrobat, a basketball player who can dunk, an all-female jazz band — we rely on Julie because she’s built her reputation on trust. Those 8,000 Facebook followers? They’ve all worked with her in some capacity. They know she’s legit, so they’re happy to put in a good word. “It’s taken years and years and years to procure this platform,” Julie says. “People want to help people — often because they know there’s some money behind it — but more important than that in the long run is the trust. Trust is everything.”

So whatever the ask, be it “off the charts” or from “a tale as old as time” — Julie gets it done. And that is just one reason we love having her on #TeamGreyHouse.