Casting director means to widen local talent calls

Casting director Marisa Ross

Last weekend, 24 of the most important and influential talent agents and casting directors — from places like Dreamworks, Comedy Central, Fox, ABC and CBS and famous talent agencies — came here for a showcase of Chicago’s comedic and diverse talent.

The guests enthusiastically attended the second Scout Chicago Festival, at the invitation of its creators: Chicago’s newest casting director Marisa Ross and Brooke Shoemaker, talent manager at Beverly Hills-based Principato/Young Entertainment, which had opened an office here last February and recruited her from Gray Talent Agency. 

The guests were treated to non-stop established comedy shows, a solo performance staged by iO Theatre and a first-time ever diversity showcase produced by Ross and Shoemaker.

“You know something is a success when you already start planning next year on the Monday after everyone left,” Ross laughed.  “I’m really proud of what Brooke and I have achieved and I am excited to keep growing it into the future.”

Marisa Ross Casting to bring focus on Chicago talent

In August, the casting director of all nine seasons of CBS’ comedy series “How I Met Your Mother,” will officially open for business in August, in Charna Halpern’s new $5 million iO Theatre Building in the Clybourn corridor.

Ross is an Arizona native who went to LA right out of college and spent 16 years there, racking up casting credits on more than 50 TV shows and movies. 

Her specialty is TV comedies. “I love the pace of TV and I love when people make me laugh. So that combination has been awesome,” she says.

“I also realize that Chicago is a much smaller market than LA and that casting directors here must handle all sorts of people. I’ve also cast commercials for McDonald’s, small budget horror films to big budget features and lots and lots of TV.  I’m excited to see what will shoot in Chicago.”

What brought her to the Midwest three years ago was her husband, an economics teacher, accepting a tenured position at Northwestern University.  As the parents of three young boys, they agreed that Evanston was an ideal environment in which to raise a family and Ross found Chicago to be “a very enjoyable place to work.”

With her LA commute having ended last fall with the finale of “How I Met Your Mother,” Ross’ focus will be entirely on “making sure Chicago talent is always on everyone’s mind.”

“When working on projects in LA it’s always a given that people will do a search in New York as well,” she explains. I would like Chicago to also get the chance to have a search.

“By doing that it encourages our home grown talent to stay in Chicago providing there’s enough work here and they are being seen for outside work.  

“I am also hoping that more TV comes here and I will do whatever I can to encourage that.” 

Ross can be reached at“No reason to collect headshots now,” she says as the family gets ready for a six week vacation. “But I will have an opening party the end of August to meet everyone.”