I've been working on a new story, The Impersonators. It's the tale of a boy who decides to make a documentary about a group of Hollywood Impersonators whose movie gets a whole lot more interesting when a second version of each character he interviews shows up on the Strip.
Stuart (the boy) is the hero, or protagonist, of the story, but it's definitely an ensemble piece. There's Thwakman - the superhero with the speedball wrists, Jimmy Jopplin - a sepia-coloured silent film star, Mighty Muse - the aging queen of the rainforest, Phil, the Purple Blob - a guy named Phil who's dressed as a purple blob, and Melinda Waters - the world's most famous mer-person.
So how do I make sure to deepen and round out each of the other characters who isn't the lead?
I like to cast the movie in my head.
If the story were to be rewritten as a script, who would play each part?
This can help to identify descriptive features for the characters, as I imagine real people moving and talking instead of abstract beings taking on their motions and thoughts. Helpful! But that's not why I cast it.
Nope. I cast to think about the press tour.
What would those a-list actors say drew them to the parts? (Cuz lets face it, if you're imaginary casting your imaginary movie you're taking the biggest stars you can think of.) They're not going to admit it was an easy payday or they have a crush and wanted to play the romantic interest of a star that's bigger than them (do actors choose their movies for any of these reasons?). On the press tour, they're going to talk about one thing: the complicated being who's body they encompassed for their three months of filming.
The themes they developed.
The growing their character did.
So, I ask myself, is this secondary role now meaty enough that Meryl Streep is going to want to play her? And if not, I've got to keep thinking.
And Meryl, if you're reading this, have I got the role for you!