Allison Jones

Casting director finds her niche with Apatow

Funny lady, Allison Jones. Just don’t ask her to tell a joke. “Personally, I have no talent for making people laugh,” she says. “Thank God you don’t have to be funny to work in comedy.”

Funny may not be a prerequisite, but killer instinct is. As the casting director for “Talladega Nights,” “Borat” and “Knocked Up,” Jones feeds her comedy jones by finding new talent.

“Ever since I was a kid, I have loved comedy,” she says. “As a fan of Peter Sellers, my expectations are really high and very specific. I’m not looking for actors that can read clever lines and be funny; I’m looking for the great sketch comedy unknown.”

Jones’ first gig was on the sitcom “Family Ties,” under the tutilage of casting legend Judith Weiner. In 1999 she partnered with Judd Apatow on “Freaks and Geeks,” for which she won an Emmy. “Quirky unknowns” has been her calling card ever since.

“Some people think I’m good at finding talent,” Apatow says. “Actually, Allison Jones is great at finding talent. I’m just smart enough to hire her.”

While Apatow has hired Jones on virtually every one of his projects since “Freaks,” she credits his approach to casting for making the most of hers. Apatow writes certain roles geared toward specific actors. Jones focuses on the rest.

“Judd has phenomenal taste,” Jones says. “He wrote the role of Debbie in ‘Knocked Up’ with his wife, Leslie Mann, in mind. He had Paul Rudd set for the role of her husband, and Anne Hathaway was supposed to have the lead. That’s a pretty good start.” When Anne dropped out of the project, Jones began her “methodically instinctual” process.

“I don’t mean to be coy,” she explains of how they settled on “Grey’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl, “but so much of my job is just instinct. Yeah, instinct and praying studio execs will trust me.”

Vocation: Casting director

Recent breakthrough: “Finding Christopher Mintz-Plasse, our wonderfully nerdy kid in ‘Superbad.’ We did an all-out search and finally found him over the Internet!”

Role models: “Gilda Radner is my hero. Former casting director Judith Weiner taught me everything I know — most importantly to be really picky.”

Career mantra: “In acting for comedy, less is always more.”

What’s next: “Superbad,” “Step Brothers” and “Hot Rod”

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