Emmy-Nominated Unscripted Casting Director Moira Paris on “The Traitors”
Posted on: Aug 08, 2023
Reality Casting Director Moira Paris thrives on showcasing a broad spectrum of talent and ensuring that underrepresented voices have their place in the limelight. Her dedication to authenticity and representation is at the core of her particular approach to unscripted casting. Moira has played an instrumental role as a casting producer on multiple teams and her wide range of work has been on display throughout the years in television shows such as The Traitors, Love Is Blind, The Circle and Top Chef.
Moira was nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Casting in a Reality Program for the 2023 season of The Traitors. She sat down with me to tell me about the nomination, her journey up until this point and provided advice for anyone looking to get into casting.
How does it feel to be nominated for an Emmy for your work as a casting director on this season on The Traitors?
It’s really cool. As a casting director it’s really hit or miss if we’re included in the nomination, because there are only four spots and it’s a huge team. It ended up working out really well that I [was recognized] and I’m very excited about it. I’m still on cloud nine. It’s a really amazing team too, it could not be better. Casting is very much the unsung hero of this business.
What are some of the challenges you faced when it comes to casting for The Traitors?
Because it’s a first-season show, you’re trying to get bites when you’re interviewing about strategy and they’ve never seen it. I would ask questions about similar shows a contestant might know. For example, “Okay, tell me, what is your strategy for Survivor? What is your strategy for Big Brother? What are any of these strategies?” They’re familiar with the concepts of those shows and typically say something like, “I like so-and-so from season 2, and I like how they did this.” It’s more about trying to describe the show to someone who’s never seen it, since it’s new. It’s based off of a Dutch version. I will say that Traitors was one of my favorite shows to cast, by far. The challenge is, with any first season show, specifically a strategic show, making sure you find people who understand strategy enough that they can make it on the show and do well.
What did you look for in contestants for this season? How did you conduct research?
With a first-season show, you are the one doing the digging and you’re the one reaching out. I love a diverse cast, because that gives so many different viewpoints. You’re finding people who are the gullible types, because you need that [on the show], too. You’re looking for people who are strategic game players and you’re looking for people who have layers, because if there’s someone who’s just surface-level, you’re not going to get much from them in terms of being vulnerable or something coming out later in the season. For example the contestant Shelbe, who was someone I cast. She’s a single mom and she missed her daughter, and that was a big part of her storyline. Not that she was falling apart, but she couldn’t be in the game as much, because she was missing her daughter and that is just one layer of her.
That type of storyline garners empathy from the audience.
100%. A lot of people could prey on that too, especially in a social strategic game, “Let me get Shelbe on my side,” or, “Let me throw Shelbe under the bus,” because she was already doing it to herself. She was taking herself out of the game a little bit. It could be empathy and you could be using that as part of your strategy, or it could be just another part of your story.
How did you filter people out?
Anyone who says, “I want Instagram followers,” is a hard pass for me. If they’re just there for only that reason, they’re not there to really play the game. There are some people who just really love reality TV and competition shows. Like Michael Davidson, who was this southern gentleman from Kentucky, he was also one that I helped cast this season. He loves reality TV—it is something that him and his grandmother bonded on when he was younger. He has just been trying to get on a show and this was just the perfect show for him. You want characters that people are going to love, but you also want characters that people are going to love to hate or they’re going to hate to love. You want characters who are not afraid to say what they feel and go and do whatever they want. You need people like that to keep it fun, fresh and exciting.
What was one of the toughest casting decisions you had to make in your career?
Any dating show, for sure or any first-season show like The Traitors or how I did season one of Love is Blind. That concept was so new, it was tough to describe to potential cast members. Finding someone and being like, “Hey, let me tell you about this brand-new show about you going into a room. There’s going to be a wall, you can’t see through it, you’re going to propose before you see them, and then you’re going to get married six weeks later.” There are definitely some difficult shows where you’re like, “Okay, I just have to take what I can get.”
Could you share one of your favorite casting moments of your career?
There are some moments when you’re interviewing someone where you’re like, “This is magic, this is the easiest interview I’ve ever done.” Moments where you’re having a really great conversation and I know I can see them on the show. One of my favorite shows to cast was my first, which was Hollywood Game Night. I was an assistant making peanuts, but I would help cast people that would make me laugh so hard I would cry. I think if someone can make me laugh so hard I cry, or I get up out of the chair because I’m reacting to something they said, then we’ve got great chemistry. You know what’s funny, I have this photo of me as a kid that my daughter found recently, I put it on my bedside table and I just haven’t moved it. I was looking at it last night when I was about to go to sleep and I was like, “Man, that little girl has no idea what’s in store for her.” Look, I’m from the middle of nowhere, North Carolina and it’s inconceivable that I’m nominated for an Emmy.
What would you say to someone who’s just starting out down this career path?
Honestly, if you’re trying to network, send that message, shoot your shot. I think there’s so many times we stop ourselves and talk ourselves out of even trying. If there’s someone that I want to reach out to for a show, let’s just say they have 2 million followers, I’ll think to myself, “They’ll never see this.” The reality is, they usually do and they’ll get back to me. That’s my biggest advice is to someone. “Shoot your shot,” whether that be someone you want to cast on a show, someone you want to interview, someone you want to work for.
This interview has been edited and condensed.