Casting guru promoted to exec VP of talent

Nickelodeon is carving out a major new role for Paula Kaplan, the longtime casting exec who helped launch the careers of tween talent such as Amanda Bynes, Lil’ Romeo and Nick Cannon.

Kaplan has been upped to exec VP of talent/talent development and West Coast g.m., a gig that makes her Nick’s top exec in Los Angeles. She’ll continue heading up casting for the cabler and its offshoots while adding music and talent development to her slate.

“Paula planted the Nickelodeon flag in the creative community many years ago, when most people outside of New York didn’t even know what Nickelodeon was,” said Nick/MTV Nets Kids and Family Group prexy Cyma Zarghami, to whom Kaplan reports. “She has built one of the most successful rosters of kid and tween talent in the industry … She will be our primary point person in Los Angeles for all talent and music initiatives as well as our senior executive representing all aspects of Nickelodeon within the creative community.”

Kaplan’s new music responsibilities come in the wake of the cabler’s recently announced four-year pact with Sony Music to co-develop, co-produce and jointly finance TV and music projects. One of the first projects under the initiatives is a CD tied to Nick’s hit “The Naked Brothers Band.”

Exec, who’d been senior VP of talent since 2002, has been with the cabler for 13 years. In addition to Bynes and Cannon, Kaplan helped cast Nick stars such as Jamie Lynn Spears, Josh Peck and Drake Bell (“Josh & Drake”), Emma Roberts and Lil’ JJ. She also serves as co-exec producer of the Kids’ Choice Awards, booking host/presenter talent such as Justin Timberlake, Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz.

Kaplan’s Nick career began in New York, where she served as director of PR for the cabler from 1993 until 1994. She launched Nick’s West Coast talent department in 1996.

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