Linda’s Casting Couch, Part II (or, This is Where You Find Out the Identities of the Hot Men on the Storyboard)

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So in the last post I discussed my character-casting process (is too a process, albeit a convoluted one). As a reminder, here’s the storyboard I made for the Always characters (and I forgot to say in the last post, I keep this up where I can see it as I write):

The Always Storyboard

Now here’s a list of the actors and actresses who will bring Always to life once a Hollywood producer snaps up the book (ooh, it’s so pretty here in my fantasy world, isn’t it?), and a few notes on the most important characters and why I chose these particular actors/actresses to be their models.

Rendie Miller Nielsen – Cobie Smulders (Robin Scherbatsky on How I Met Your Mother). Rendie is our heroine, raised by her single mother in near-poverty in Southwest Detroit, virtually alone in the world when she meets Jake and the Nielsen family. Cobie’s character of Robin is my hall of fame girlcrush, because she’s pretty enough to have three different guys chasing after her (but believably so; Cobie’s not afraid to look like something the cat dragged in when the script requires it), and she’s also strong, capable, funny, vulnerable, and has more than her share of neuroses. So of course, she immediately popped into my head when I thought of Rendie. I wanted Rendie to be a girl who could believably be one of the guys, partly because she’s a baseball and hockey fanatic, and Cobie pulls that type of thing off as Robin magnificently. I’ve never seen her play angsty, which will be required when she plays Rendie, of course, but I have no doubt that she can do it.

Detective Mike Nielsen – Colin Ferguson (Sheriff Jack Carter on Eureka). Mike, our hero, is Rendie’s brother-in-law. He’s a handsome, charming, cynical, guarded, and overachieving NYPD detective who harbors an unrequited love for Rendie that he’s kept to himself for the two and a half years he’s known her—and he’s consumed by guilt that he loves his brother’s wife. Mike was the first character I cast, and Colin Ferguson was the only person I ever even considered for him. You gotta have a great hero, and trust me, Colin Ferguson is great. Check him out in Eureka, either on YouTube or Netflix. Especially the series pilot—that IS Mike. CF is not only a wonderful actor, he’s hot as all getout. As is Mike (wow, what a coincidence!). In fact, I would go so far as to say Mike is my favorite character that I’ve ever written. Ever. He’s alpha male, he’s funny, he’s sarcastic, and he’s got walls around him the size of the Green Monster in Fenway Park (which is like catnip to chicks—we’re driven to knock down those walls). In short, he’s a wonderful onion (he’s got layers—TM Donkey from Shrek). I am just so proud of this character.

Officer Jake Nielsen – Josh Lucas (Jake, Reese Witherspoon’s ex-husband, in Sweet Home Alabama). Jake, Rendie’s husband, is an NYPD patrol officer who’s killed in the line of duty. Rendie refers to Jake several times as Captain America; he’s a sweet, idealistic, honorable hero of a guy who’s proud of his part in protecting the city that he loves. So of course he has to die. I think Shelley suggested Josh Lucas first, and as soon as she said it I was like, YES! He is so perfect! We’d already picked the name Jake by that time, btw, so we didn’t name him after his character in Sweet Home Alabama. And P.S. picture that pretty, pretty face when you eventually read the book and you’ll understand why I blubbered like a baby when I wrote the scene with Rendie crying over Jake’s dead body in the hospital. Poor Jake.

Detective JC Cruz – Adam Rodriguez (Eric Delko from CSI: Miami). The former undercover detective who’s Rendie’s first fling after Jake’s death. My friend Wendy actually pictured Adam Rodriguez as Dan Esposito when she read our first book. I already had Mark Consuelos (who of course has now been supplanted by Danny Pino) in mind, so I kept Adam on hold for a future character. When I watched CSI: Miami for the first time to check him out, I not only got hooked on the crack that is CSI: Miami, I got hooked on Eric Delko, who is oh so yummy (if dumb as a stump at times in his personal life). I knew he would be a great choice for the hot, sexy Latino bad boy JC, who jump-starts Rendie’s heart (and other assorted parts) again after Jake’s death, then breaks said heart, but manages to redeem himself in the end.

Amy Bartkowiak Mariotti – Bonnie Somerville (NYPD Blue, Mona on Friends). Mike’s former fiancée, who’s back in town with her sons after divorcing her husband. I don’t really know Bonnie S very well, and that’s okay. Amy is beautiful, blonde, elegant Hot Suburban Mom Barbie personified, and because she’s a paragon of perfection, it’s easier for me to feel Rendie’s dislike for her if I’m not too attached to her. Amy was only a passing mention in the first draft. Then she became a much larger player in the plot as the idea of Mike fleeing back to her developed in my head.

Julie Nielsen Szymanski – Allison Mack (Chloe Sullivan from Smallville). Mike and Jake’s little sister and one of Rendie’s best friends. Bright, energetic, funny, snarky, loyal, a little pushy, and with a heart as big as New York City. I loved Allison Mack as Chloe, Clark’s plucky best friend, in Smallville, so when I happened upon her during my IMDB search, I knew she’d be perfect.

Nicole Perry – Rosario Dawson (Movie actress, best known for Sin City and Men in Black II). Rendie’s best friend since college, and her roommate before she marries Jake. Nic is sultry, sexy, and unabashedly loves men and sex. She’s the shoulder Rendie cries on, and she’s also Rendie’s conscience, like a best friend should be. I’ve always liked Rosario Dawson, so she’s another one I thought of right away when Shelley came up with the character of Nic.

Joanie Miller – Lauren Graham (Lorelai from The Gilmore Girls). Rendie’s late mother. We only “see” Joanie in Rendie’s thoughts, but she looks like she could be Cobie Smulders’ mom. Same coloring, and she just has that same tough-but-vulnerable edge to me.

Here are the rest of the characters, but I’m not going to go into as much detail, because this post is way too long already:

Todd Szymanski – John Krasinski (Jim from The Office). Julie’s husband, a sweet, laid-back guy.

Barb Nielsen – Debra Jo Rupp (the mom from That 70s Show). Rendie’s mother-in-law and an LEO (law enforcement officer) wife/mother herself. She’s Supermom – capable, loving, a little bossy. She helps Rendie adjust to life as an LEO wife.

Rich Nielsen – Jamey Sheridan (Captain Deakins, Law & Order: Criminal Intent). Rendie’s father-in-law, a retired NYPD commander, who, like Rendie, takes it especially hard when his younger son is killed.

Officer Steve Pirelli – Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli from Heroes). Jake’s longtime partner and best friend.

Ginny Shapiro Pirelli – Melanie Lynskey (Rose on Two and a Half Men). Steve’s wife and one of Rendie’s best friends.

Dr. Abbey – Richard Gilliland (J.D. from Designing Women). Rendie’s therapist, who helps her work through her grief.

So there you have it—Linda’s creative casting process. It’s definitely not a science, and you can’t call it art, either—it’s just my half-assed way of making my characters come to life in my head, so I can (hopefully) make them come to life on the page.

I guess we’ll see if I’m as successful in conveying them to the rest of the world as I am to myself if—no, WHEN (I’m being positive today) this thing ever gets published.

Do you cast characters in your head as you’re reading a book? If so, share some of your favorite choices with me in the comments below. I’d love to hear about them!

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