British Comedy Guide

Aisha Bywaters discusses the role of a casting director interview

Aisha Bywaters

Aisha Bywaters has been the casting director on TV comedy shows such as Enterprice, We Are Lady Parts and The Baby. Following her recent win at the Casting Directors' Guild Awards (in partnership with Spotlight) and her nomination for Scripted Casting in the forthcoming BAFTA Craft Awards, we thought we'd ask Aisha to explain a bit more about what her job entails.

Hi Aisha. What does a casting director actually do?

Hi! Basically, a casting director finds actors for film, television and theatre. Our job is to look at scripts, and really work out what those roles are in the script and talk with the producer or director about how they'd like those roles to be played.

As a casting director, you spend a lot of time meeting actors, watching films on TV, going to the theatre; you have a vast knowledge of actors, so people come to you for your expertise and hopefully to get your advice, take their ideas to try and find the right people for those jobs.

We're here to help the director to find what they're looking for. Sometimes you might find what's wrong before you find the right person for the role, but that's just a part of the process.

Becoming a casting director isn't the most obvious career path. How did you get involved in this line of work in the first place?

I was in NYT [National Youth Theatre] when I was younger and really enjoyed being around other actors and the process, but I realised I didn't want to be an actor, I knew that wasn't the right thing for me.

I went to university and did a Politics degree but came back afterwards to drama. I started working for a theatre company in London, and whilst I was there, I helped the director cast a play and suddenly it all clicked and made sense: that's what I wanted to do.

I find actors and the work they do incredibly inspiring so to be a part of that... especially as I was always passionate about plays that I'd watched, shows that I'd seen and who had cast them, and sometimes feeling that I could've suggested other people, or, if I was casting, what direction I would have gone in... so really it just felt like it all clicked into place.

Then came the tricky bit of actually trying to get into casting! I did a lot of internships with lots of casting directors and after a few years of interning, I went for a job with casting director Shaheen Baig as her assistant and ended up assisting her for six and a half years.

Casting Directors' Awards 2022. Aisha Bywaters

Can you tell us more about how do you gain knowledge of what actors out there are like? i.e. How can people catch your eye?

In my job you are always looking out for actors. I watch a lot of films and television and am always at the theatre.

I go to drama school showcases, film festivals, I see short films etc. Always looking out for new talent is the main part of our jobs.

Actors often email me their CVs, and that's fine but it's hard to get those emails at the right time for when we're casting.

We usually use traditional methods such as sending a brief out via Spotlight or different channels such as social media if we're looking for certain actors.

There's no specific way to get a casting director's attention, all you can do is let me know about you! All I need from you, if you're contacting me, is to say "Hi, I'm here, this is my CV, this is my headshot, if you've got anything I'm right for, get in touch." As long as I can see you, get a sense of you and the roles I think you'd be good at playing, that's all I need. There are no tricks unfortunately!

For a sitcom pilot, how long does it take to do all the casting work?

There's never a set amount of time. With a lot of sitcoms I've worked on recently, we've always done a pilot before we've gone straight into a series. This is usually around a year in advance that we start the first level of casting to find those lead parts. It can take a couple of months to find the right people. If we're lucky enough to have the pilot picked up, then we'll come back to it and take another couple of months to cast the full series.

For We Are Lady Parts, we were looking for people who could also play musical instruments or had some musical ability to pick it up quickly and learn, so that added another layer to it which took around six months.

It always feels like, at the beginning especially, "is this going to happen?". You go on a journey to find the right cast and it never ends up where you think it will. It's half the fun of the job, finding the right people for these characters.

Congratulations on your Casting Directors' Guild Awards win for We Are Lady Parts. It must be great to have your work recognised by your peers?

Casting Directors' Awards 2022. Image shows from L to R: Jamie Demetriou, Aisha Bywaters, Pixie Lott

It was a massive shock for me to win. All the shows that were nominated were so brilliant and cast so well, I didn't expect it at all.

It always feels amazing to be honoured by your peers, people who do what you do day in, day out. So for them to think your work is award-worthy, is just very very special.

The We Are Lady Parts gang are so brilliant. Can you talk more about how you put together that cast?

Finding them was a mixture of finding people who were great actors, great at comedy and could play instruments. We decided from the start that we wanted to look at actors, comedians and musicians to really open it up, so we did an open call, looking at lots of different fields.

We saw lots of people for it, to find those key roles. We then had group castings to find those right dynamics; as well as finding the right performers for the role they also had to work well as a band so, although it was a lengthy process, it was also incredibly enjoyable.

It was so unlike any other process I've been through, one of the auditions was a performance by the group, which you just don't get every day.

We Are Lady Parts. Image shows from L to R: Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), Bisma (Faith Omole), Amina (Anjana Vasan), Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey). Copyright: Working Title Films

Auditions sound like a very vulnerable thing for actors to have to go through...

I think auditions are one of the best things about my job, seeing performers as characters, bringing scripts to life and sometimes you are so surprised by what someone does when it's not how you saw the role originally, but they just do something even better.

We all appreciate auditions are a weird situation. My job is to make actors feel as comfortable as possible but it's always going to be nerve-wracking. It's a job interview essentially, but the main thing to remember is you're not just meeting the audition panel for one job, you are meeting these creatives who just want to see what you can do, what your skills are, what sort of actor you are. It helps us to better understand how to cast you in the future.

We all want to come away from the audition feeling like it was a worthwhile meeting... and then just let it go; whatever happens, happens. That's all I really want to do, is to make it as fun and as pleasant a process as it can be.

Diversity on screen, in terms of scripted comedy shows, seems to be getting better in recent years, but there is still more to do in that area?

I think it's really important that everyone feels seen. Everyone should turn on the television or go to the cinema and feel like they are represented. That's about the stories; writers writing, commissioners commissioning things that appeal to everyone and that are inclusive.

There's always more to be done, but it feels like an exciting time for these stories to be told. It won't always be about your personal experience but there are elements of these stories that are relatable to whoever you are, which is great.

Some exciting comedy projects you've been working on are coming to screens this year... Rowan Atkinson's Man Vs Bee for example, and The Baby?

There's lots of interesting projects ahead; I can't wait for everyone to see them.

In terms of casting, everything has its challenges. I'm yet to see much of these projects past the audition process yet, but it's really exciting. I'm looking forward to the comedies we worked on last year to be seen by everyone!

The Baby. Image shows from L to R: Bobbi (Amber Grappy), Natasha (Michelle De Swarte), Mrs Eaves (Amira Ghazalla)

What are your general goals/ambitions for the future?

I want to keep working on projects that excite me, that feel inclusive, feel diverse and are telling stories that haven't been told before.

I'm looking forward to casting new talent as well as giving opportunities to existing talent.

One of the great things about casting Lady Parts is that half the cast have been working for years and these roles helped to elevate them.

I'm also so excited to start working on Lady Parts Series 2. It's so nice to be able to revisit that role.

What tips would you give to aspiring actors?

There's only ever one of you. Everything about you is unique, everything you have to offer, only you have to offer.

I appreciate it's difficult, but keep on going. Put yourself out there, believe that your time is going to come. Get versed with all the casting directors out there, follow them on social media, find out what they're casting. I appreciate sometimes the system feels like it isn't set up for you, but believe in yourself, in your work.

The best way to impress us is to show us your version of a role, don't second guess yourself or try to give us something that isn't you or that you think we might want. The right project will come for you, and we'll want to meet you when it does.

Aisha Bywaters Casting can be found via

The Casting Directors' Guild website is

Published: Tuesday 19th April 2022
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