Lynn Kressel ’70 Shares Thoughts on Casting, Law & Order

By Purnell T. Cropper and Leandra Cameron ’10 | January 19, 2010

Studying Shakespeare and going to the theater several times a week during her semester in London exposed Lynn Kressel ’70 to “a world of world of possibilities,” she says. Now she’s an Emmy-award winning casting director who runs her own New York-based casting agency and has worked on some of the hottest movies and TV shows, including Law & Order.

“Being a relatively small college, Arcadia gave me many opportunities I wouldn’t have had at a large university. I was exposed to a world of possibilities,” she says. “Do what interests you and what you really love, and all else will follow. Because if you love something, you will work hard at it, and grow in every way.”

Kressel majored in English and graduated from Arcadia University in 1970. She went to Columbia University for graduate school and then enrolled in a doctoral program in drama at New York University. All of her educational training led to where she is now, the head of her own New York-based casting agency—Lynn Kressel Casting.

In explaining how she shifted from studying English at Arcadia to drama at NYU, Kressel says, “I have always loved the theater and went to the theater several times a week during [a semester in] London…. It was a real treat. As an English major, we studied Shakespeare and other dramatists and playwrights, which I enjoyed.”

As of 1990, Kressel was an independent casting director and consultant with Universal Television. In 1989 she won the first ever Emmy Award for a casting director—Outstanding Achievement in Casting for a Miniseries or a Special for Lonesome Dove, a 1989 miniseries based on Larry McMurtry’s novel. Undoubtedly though, her casting of Law & Order remains a highlight of her career.

I love working for the Law and Order shows. I cast the original Law and Order pilot about 22 years ago. It has been a part of my life for so long that it is difficult to contemplate life without it. At the present time, I mainly cast the series’ regular roles for the three Law and Order shows. Other casting directors in my office now do the episodic casting, which I gave up in order to pursue other projects.”  Her other projects include producing an independent feature film as well as two television series.

When casting for projects, Kressel explains that she applies the same basic principle to any project. “No matter what the project, a feature film like Spider-Man or the last Ricky Gervais film I cast (The Invention of Lying), or the Law and Order TV series, I look for actors with depth and commitment in their performances. Choices have to be real and credible, but I also try to come up with actors who surprise me in some way. I believe the unexpected enriches any project.”