For over 20 years, Grant Wilfley Casting has had a hand in casting some of the most high-profile films and television shows around.
Founder and casting director Grant Wilfley holds a special place in his heart for the Hamptons. In addition to casting Hamptonites in background roles for countless films and series, Wilfley splits his time living in Manhattan and Southampton. We spoke with Wilfley about his casting agency, career and life in the Hamptons.
Wilfley has an extensive background in the arts. “I started casting right out of college through an internship,” he says. “I studied performance and technical film and theater, and I really enjoyed casting because it combined both aspects. I’ve had my own company for 21 years. We do television shows, commercials.” Wilfley attended SUNY Binghamton and spent his final year-and-a-half at Hunter College in Manhattan. “So much about this industry is about getting your foot in the door. I moved to Manhattan in 1983, and I started coming out to the Hamptons in 1986. I did the ‘share’ with a bunch of friends in East Hampton, and in 2001, I bought a home in Southampton. So I consider myself both a Southampton resident and a Manhattan resident.”
Many of the films Wilfley has worked on over the years have been set in the Hamptons, New York and Long Island. “We just wrapped The Other Woman, starring Cameron Diaz. We shot that in the Hamptons, including a couple of scenes at a beach house and the whole ‘beach scene’ there,” Wilfley explains. “And we just wrapped [Hamptons-set TV series] Royal Pains in Westhampton and Bellport, and other various locations in the East End.” When casting scenes set in the Hamptons, Wilfley looks for a specific “type” of person. “When we cast Royal Pains we’re looking for real ‘Hamptonites.’ It’s a very specific style, mannerism and aesthetic that we’re looking for,” he says with a slight chuckle. “They’re usually very well-groomed and look preppy and very monied. But we also look for other types, [such as] the regular people on the streets. But when we’re casting for a party, it’s usually a glamour set with a very specific wardrobe.”
Wilfley has an ever-expanding group of “regulars” when it comes to shooting scenes in the Hamptons. “We have a nice little pool of talent here that works on a regular basis. We always post notices with Dan’s Papers and the other newspapers when we have opportunities.” And Wilfley admits to being a “Hamptonite” himself. “It’s very Ralph Lauren preppy. I wore a pair of white shorts and a Ralph Lauren polo shirt in the office the other day and someone said to me, ‘Oh, you’re going to the Hamptons!’” he laughs. “So there’s a certain style to it. You kind of adapt to it when you live here.”
Some of the high-profile projects Wilfley’s worked on include The Nanny Diaries, Something’s Gotta Give, Door in the Floor, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Pollock and For Love or Money. “Pollock was a great experience, Ed Harris directed it. He’s a wonderful person and director and he’s hands-on,” he says. Wilfley has worked with some of the most iconic directors in Hollywood. “I worked with Martin Scorsese several times; Nancy Myers twice. There are several that I work with on a regular basis.” One upcoming project that means a lot to him is the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart, which was shot partially on Fire Island in the Pines. “The Normal Heart is personal; I lived through that period, the AIDS epidemic,” he sighs.
Wilfley enjoys living in the Hamptons throughout the year, even in the hectic summer months. “I love it all the time. Even with the crazy traffic,” he laughs. “it’s crazy, but it’s cool to see all the activity. We always have Christmas out there.” He counts Silver’s, Tutto il Giorno and The Dockside among his favorite hot spots, and “I always think the North Fork is fun to do in the fall. I’m looking forward to the wineries.”
Interested in becoming a background actor? Wilfley recommends anyone interested go to gwcnyc.com for opportunities, and to email firstname.lastname@example.org for Hamptons-related projects.