General Hospital’s 10-time Daytime Emmy Award-winning casting director Mark Teschner sat down with friend and colleague Maurice Benard this week on his video podcast State Of Mind to talk about acting, the importance of mental health, and the art of casting.
Maurice Benard And Mark Teschner: Finding Your Niche
Benard (Sonny Corinthos) warmly welcomed the man behind casting some of your Port Charles favorites. “Let me just tell you, so I don’t get it wrong, what Rolling Stone said about him. The Rolling Stone. ‘He’s an actor’s actor casting director.’ TV Guide said, ‘Unparalleled track record in finding top new talent.’ Mark Teschner is very intelligent and very intuitive, and the fact that he makes the actors feel very comfortable when they walk into the room means a great deal.”
The State Of Mind host quickly asked for some history from Teschner. “I was born in New York City, Harlem, New York, to a hospital that does not exist anymore. On 138th and 5th.” He described his childhood, “I was raised in a suburb called Scarsdale. It’s a pretty well-known town. A middle-class community in Westchester. You got the Scarsdale Diet Doctor and things like that.
“It was great for me because I had this suburban [life] growing up [with] baseball, sports, normal public school but 30 minutes from New York City,” he continued. “So I had access to Yankee Stadium, which I went to a lot.”
The casting director went on to explain how he was introduced to show business. “My parents were very into theater and dance, so at a very young age, I was going to New York to see shows. Seeing ballet. My first Broadway show I think I saw when I was 10 years old. It was called It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman. Yes, it was a musical about Superman.”
The Road To Daytime
Teschner originally aspired to be an actor, going as far as majoring in English and Theater. “After college, in Connecticut, I went back to New York City and I pursued acting for a couple of years, maybe two and a half years or so, and I had this epiphany after another audition, that I liked the idea of acting more than actually acting.” He shared how that changed his trajectory. “I can’t tell you when or how it crystallized but something shifted in me, and then my mother, who knew a friend of a friend, and there was an opening as a casting assistant. I literally went from actor to casting assistant.”
His experience helped him in his newfound career choice. “So when an actor comes to audition, and I want to give them an adjustment and work with them, I will speak the actor’s language.” Teschner continued, “I won’t just say, ‘Well, do this or do that,’ and be superficial. I will try and connect through an organic, authentic place with that actor because they know the language to hopefully open up something in the room so that they can be the best that they can be.
“By chance, I ended up going to the ABC soap Loving and it became an account for our company,” he noted, sharing his introduction to daytime casting. “Loving was a half-hour show on ABC, created by Agnes Nixon, and they only had me there three days a week. The other two days I would go back to my office. So, I was juggling. One day I was doing theater, and one day I was dealing with daytime. Not that the actors were really different, just the process, but I really started to love casting daytime.”
Mark Teschner: Actors & Addressing Mental Health
Acting isn’t an easy profession. Both Benard and Teschner discussed the importance of maintaining an emotional balance. “I think for survival, emotionally as an actor, that is one way to process, and we are talking mental health and awareness.” Teschner touched upon why. “The actor’s life is so vulnerable. You need work. You want work. You pursue work. And you finally get an opportunity. You give it your heart and soul in the room. You feel good about it. And then you don’t hear from them.”
The casting director set up the worst-case scenario. “You don’t get cast so it goes into the void. So emotionally for an actor to sustain that you have to have the inner strength to survive and navigate the ups and downs of an acting career.
“You have to have this thick armor to survive being an actor,” Teschner declared. “Yet, when you are in the room, what is most dynamic about an actor is their vulnerability. The vulnerability is the core of the actor. I always say vulnerability creates possibility. And yet, you have to be so invulnerable to navigate the business. You have to have this beautiful open heart to do the exquisite work and it’s a journey for an actor.
The Art Of Casting
Here are some notable quotes from the compelling conversation:
* “I remember giving Luke Perry [Ned Bates] his first job, a series regular role on Loving. He was 19 years old, laying tar, building driveways. He wasn’t, at that point, the most skilled actor but he was so confident and charismatic, and that came through on the screen. That was not confidence based on ‘I’m a skilled actor’ — that was ‘I’m confident as a human being.’ And interestingly enough, the two other actors in that storyline were Kelly Rutherford [Michelle] and Teri Polo [Kristen]. All three got their start in this cute and romantic storyline.”
* “Now here’s the interesting thing because we are talking about mental health. Vanessa [Marcil; Brenda Barrett on GH] looked around the room and thought, ‘I’m not pretty enough’ and she was currently being aired on MTV as The Most Beautiful Girl in the World in the Prince video. So the most beautiful girl in the world didn’t think she was pretty enough and almost left.”
* “Once I hire them, my job is done but their job is just beginning. Every actor is different. A great example is Michael Sutton [Stone Cates, GH]. You guys had one of the most beautiful relationships on television. And it really felt like brothers in real life. It was magical.”
Mark Teschner shared more of his journey from an actor to a casting director, his early memories of Maurice Benard’s early days and struggles on the show, working with renowned producers Gloria Monty, Wendy Riche, and Shelley Curtis, the inside story on the casting of such fan favorites as Steve Burton (ex-Jason Morgan), Eden McCoy (Josslyn Jacks), Jophielle Love (Violet Finn), and what he looks for. And don’t miss more details about the casting of Michael Sutton and Vanessa Marcil. The two men covered concerns of young people growing up now, the effects of social media, the need for mental health awareness, the rise of reality show talent, and why it is so popular. Watch the full episode here.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on GH spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
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— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) July 10, 2022