Over the course of nearly 100 years, Central Casting has come to dominate the TV and film industry as a major source of employment for thousands of actors across networks, studios, and streaming platforms. But current and former employees say that power has gone unchecked internally, creating what they say is a toxic workplace where complaints of racism, typecasting, and mistreatment are ignored and managers use intimidation and bullying to run the operation.
BuzzFeed News spoke to one current and 11 former employees about their experiences at Central Casting, all of whom wanted to remain anonymous for fear of retribution in the industry. Six employees said they sent a group email to company executives in June about how the company can improve the toxic work environment, took part in a subsequent internal HR investigation, and were then laid off in July and August.
The employees said they were told their jobs were being eliminated due to cuts because of the coronavirus’s impact on the company’s bottom line. But some of them were confused; prior to their email to executives, they said, they were in good standing and even praised for their performance. The layoffs felt targeted, six former employees said, which left people fearful of speaking up.
“Laying off those employees fuels the toxic work environment because it looks like a threat,” the current employee said.
Former employees said it was common for staffers to be yelled at and cry openly in the office at their desk. They also said the company buries complaints it receives from actors about work conditions on set, including sexually inappropriate behavior, as well as getting typecast into certain roles based on their race.
“Central Casting is responsible for the treatment, employment, and facilitation of careers for thousands of people, both in their own company and the people they represent,” one former employee said. “There are people who rely on them, and Central Casting couldn’t care less about what goes on there as long as they are getting their money.”
In a statement, Central Casting’s parent company, Entertainment Partners, said “we are already aware of some of these issues and are taking them seriously.”
“Our company maintains a workplace free of discrimination, harassment and retaliation and follows all applicable equal employment opportunity laws,” the agency said. “We investigate all employee complaints thoroughly, including those issues raised here, and review, evaluate and implement changes as appropriate to ensure a safe, diverse and inclusive workplace that is welcoming to all employees.”
With offices in Los Angeles, New York, Georgia, and Louisiana, the agency is the number one hub for background actors to book gigs. Its website and Instagram account boast credits on hundreds of hit shows, including Grace and Frankie, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Law & Order, Dead to Me, You, American Horror Story, Dear White People, The Morning Show, and This Is Us. The agency also lists Brad Pitt, Kristen Wiig, Eva Longoria, and Tiffany Haddish as some of its famed alumni on its website. As one former employee put it, “If you’re working background in LA, you’re working with Central Casting.”