With a career spanning more than 30 years, Kim Hardin is one of Hollywood’s top casting directors, with credits including “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Hustle & Flow,” “Cadillac Records” and most recently, Regina King’s “One Night in Miami.” But Hardin is one of just a handful of Black casting directors in Hollywood.
“I’ve done all types of films and historical stories,” says Hardin, but working on “One Night in Miami” was particularly meaningful, she says, “diving into the depth of that historically, and looking at how apropos the moment is and what we’re going through and how much the world hasn’t changed.”
The film, which stars Leslie Odom Jr., Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree and Aldis Hodge as Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Cassius Clay and Jim Brown, centers on a fictional night in 1964, as the four figures meet in a hotel room ahead of Clay’s fight against Sonny Liston and talk about the cultural upheaval going on around them and their roles in the civil rights movement.
Not only have there been few Black casting directors, but stories like “One Night in Miami” have been all too rare, Hardin says. But the feedback she’s been receiving about the movie has been heartening. “I’ve gotten to see how this film is affecting the younger generation,” she says, particularly the information about the lives of Cassius Clay and Malcolm X.
As Hollywood shines a spotlight on the lack of diversity and representation behind the camera, Hardin stresses the importance of opening doors for the next generation. She served as director of talent development, programs and casting for ABC in 2001, searching out and developing talent for primetime shows.
Hardin believes casting is a choice that begins with the writing process and how characters are visualized. “I gave up independent casting and went into the corporate structure to help educate the network about diversity, starting from the writing, which then goes into your cast, which then goes into your show,” she explains.
Hardin notes that “Black casting directors don’t usually get the opportunity to cast an all-white film the way a white casting director would be hired to cast an all-Black film.” It’s a hump Hollywood still needs to get over, she says. Another industry shortcoming — one that can be separate from issues of inclusion — is getting stuck in genre boxes. “Producers continue to bring you projects, whether it’s action or big budget or horror, because if that’s what you’re known to do, they feel that’s what sells.”
Hardin remains optimistic as she continues to fight for the next generation. If she doesn’t have the bandwidth to do a job, she recommends a colleague who’s a person of color, giving them instructions to fly away and soar. “I’m constantly pushing my staff and sending them on location or passing a project to them,” she says.
And she’s appreciative for meaningful projects like “One Night in Miami.” “I’m enjoying that piece of artistry,” she says, “and being able to add what I can.”