Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Women like Jennifer Rudnicke are making “Herstory.”
Jennifer Rudnicke started her casting career as the assistant to Cherie Mann in 1993. After working for other casting companies and starting her own Jaz Casting, she partnered with Mickie Paskal in 2002 to form Paskal Rudnicke Casting. They cast for TV and films such as Fargo, The Trial Of The Chicago 7, Lovecraft Country, Transformers 3 & 4; Feature and Independent, Commercial, Voiceover and Print.
ALSO READ: MORE REEL WOMEN
What’s your origin story?
I was born and raised in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. In high school, I joined the Drama Club and found a true love in being a part of it all; acting, stage makeup, building sets, etc. After one semester in college as an Acting Major, I realized I loved actors but not acting and turned my focus to stage management. I have a Bachelor’s from Illinois State University in Theatre. After graduation, I worked in several different Chicago theatres stage managing and became a member of Actor’s Equity.
How did you get into Casting?
Casting in a sense, fell into my lap. I was stage managing a show at Victory Gardens and one of the actors was also a talent agent as Lily’s Talent Agency. I had mentioned I was looking for a summer daytime gig as I was not going back to do work the Illinois Shakespeare Festival like I had in the past and he said they could use help at the agency; answering phones, filing and such. After a short time there, my world opened to how much on-camera work there was in the city which was fascinating and they offered me the role of talent agent. I wasn’t completely loving it and knew something was missing and had become close with one of the casting directors in town, Cherie Mann. She said why not try casting and hired me as her assistant and that was it, I was hooked.
Who were your mentors?
I feel like there are many. My high school drama teacher, Thom Smith who gave me the opportunities to explore theatre and instilled in me that I could do whatever I wanted to in theatre. So many of the Theatre professors at Illinois State University who gave me the support to get to where I am today, without them I would probably have left theatre and moved on to some other career. Joe Drummond, best Stage Manager, who showed me how to really do it right. Cherie Mann, who taught me how to be a casting director and business owner and my dad, Ronald Rudnicke, who talked my entire life about owning a hot dog stand. Unfortunately, he never did, but it gave me the strength and desire to be a business owner, just in casting and not in hot dogs.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Partnering with Mickie Paskal in 2002. I had my own casting company, Jaz Casting at the time and when her previous partner was moving to LA, I came in and now 20yrs later, I’ve had some of the most amazing casting opportunities and some of the best laughs.
What drives you to create?
Knowing in just a small way I have the ability to help change the life of an actor, whether it’s to help them book their first commercial or get them a series regular on a TV show. But mostly honoring my dad and seeing the pride in my mom when I can tell her about the new thing I’m casting and showing my kids that you can find a way to have a career in something that you actually love.
What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?
Fortunately there are many finally, but some of my personal favorites are: Ozark, Never Have I Ever, Sex Education and the upcoming Shining Girls
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.
Happy Hour- I know it’s too late but Betty White
What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?
It is still an unfortunate reality that womxn in this industry often still find themselves contending with all-male supervisors or decision makers. It can feel inflexible and sometimes unwelcoming. Casting is a collaborative department with the writer/director/creators. Sadly, we are still sometimes treated like technical button-pushers, and not like creative partners. We can be bullied, addressed unprofessionally and treated like assistants rather than collaborators.
If being a woman is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Self-doubt. I’m always wondering if I should have done “it” differently or done something more
How has having the superpower helped you?
Being a woman has allowed me to approach my work with an understanding that I do need strength and passion to excel but it can come with compassion and that compassion doesn’t make me less successful
When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?
Maybe a bit cliché, but spend time with my husband and kids (9yrs & 5yrs) whether it be family movie night or going swimming, etc. Of course, a good glass of red wine always helps. 🙂
Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
In 5 years, Paskal Rudnicke Casting has grown into having two separate departments: TV/Film + Commercial. In addition to continuing our location casting, we serve as the Main Title Casting team on several series and films. Down the line – when I’m not casting, I’m also producing independent features.