Jun 27, 2019

By Kelby Clark
Hopefuls showed up to the Los Angeles Convention Center as early at 3 a.m. for the chance to perform for BET executives.

It’s a familiar scene for anyone that’s watched a talent competition on television. The hope, excitement, nerves, and (sometimes) desperation that pours from performers as they ready themselves to prove their star quality to strangers.

It’s also a familiar scene for anyone who’s attended the BET Experience in the last three years, as the BETX Open Casting Call has become an attraction for talent and fans. During the event, entertainers of all stripes—actors, singers, dancers, comedians—can perform in front of Emmy award-winning casting director, Robi Reed and her team of talent experts for up to one minute. The potential opportunity: a role in an upcoming BET show. 

“When I was first asked to do something like this at the BET Experience, my one condition was that it was never a gimmick. It had to be real,” says Robi Reed, original programming’s VP of talent and casting at BET. “Being able to meet new talent and actually be able to book and hire them keeps me going.”

Reed said that she recognized some of this year’s talent pool of more than 500 performers from previous years. “It’s always great to have that kind of drive, enthusiasm, and determination,” she says. “It was a great turnout.”

Viacom spoke with a few of this year’s hopefuls as they waited for their turn to take the stage.

“This is a big opportunity, and I'm glad that they opened it up to the community.”

Starlyn Darby

?️ Singer

? @csq6815

I'm here to sing. I've been singing my whole life. I grew up in church, so I've been singing in the church. 

And, I'm singing for my kids. I have three beautiful daughters. They talked me into it … I was chickening out and then they were like, ‘No, Mommy, but you have to sing this song [“Black Woman” by Danielle Brooks] for us.’

This is a big opportunity, and I'm glad that they opened it up to the community, because not a lot of people have the network to do that. It just shows that they care.

“It's by us, for us.”

Dayina Darby

? Based in Oakland, Calif.

?️ Actor

? @princessjaymom

I've always wanted to be an actress. I've always watched shows and movies and I would be like, ‘I could have done that part, I could have played that part better.’ But, what really pushed me was watching Black Panther, with the all-Black cast and the empowerment of it and the impact it had on the community … I wish I could have been a part of that.

I am going to audition for Black Panther 2, that's my goal. I'm going to be in Black Panther 2. Seeing all these people here, I thought it would be intimidating, but it's actually kind of encouraging. I'm 'nerv-cited'...I'm nervous and excited at the same time.

The Black community has been taking a lot of hits lately...and to have a chance at working for a company that's geared around our culture and helping and investing in us, there's no better way to start. In this day and time, I'm all for it. It's by us, for us.

 

“Not a lot of people really have opportunities like this.”

?Based in Los Angeles

?️ Actor and singer

? @Louh_Daniel

I was browsing through social media. I found out that it's happening and I thought 'hell yeah, why not?'

I thought it was a good opportunity, so I came to check it out. 

Not a lot of people really have opportunities like this. Here, they give everybody the chance, and I truly appreciate the opportunity whatever the outcome might be. 

“It's a chance. Even if you can't rap, sing, dance—even if you suck—you came."

? Based in Las Vegas

?️ Actor, singer, and radio personality

? @naomifierce

This industry is something new to me, so I'm just trying to do my thing. I really want to be on a reality show or something like that. Today, I have a monologue that’s a 45-second storytelling rap.

I think that this is a great opportunity, because even if you don't get picked or don't get chosen, sometimes networking and getting that one person’s information is better than everything. I think it gives everybody a great opportunity, it gives them a chance to make them think ‘I can do it.’ Even if you can't rap, sing, dance—even if you suck—you came.

 

“I'm eager to just do my thing.”

?Based in Atlanta

?️ Actor

? @derrickmgary

I'm eager to just do my thing. I'm going to do a monologue piece that opens up to a rap portion. It's from the film Blindspotting, with Daveed Diggs from Hamilton

You look for pieces that connect with you. This was the first piece in my life that spoke to me, that jumped out at me. It broke the rules. People do monologues, but we weren't prepared for the rap portion. 

It's important to have functions like this. It's a great incubator to foster the talent.

“I got here at 3 a.m."

?Based in Los Angeles

?️Actor

? @columbus_trey

This is the first year I'm actually acting and devoting all of my time to that, because I was doing my MFA at the University of Southern California for TV and film production, so I'm a production guy.

I got here at 3 a.m. This morning I had my alarm set to 6:19 a.m., but I was just up for no reason at 3:00 a.m., and I saw Robi Reed on Twitter saying how excited she was, and then I just saw one of the guys from the [Actors Helping Actors Facebook] group post a video of him there at 3:00 a.m. and I was like, ‘You guys are there already? Robi Reed is up already? I'm there too! Let's get it.’ I Ubered right over here.

We're still fighting for representation, we need all of us. Just looking up and down the long lines of people that are here, I love it. It's how it needs to be.

“My goal is to one day host the BET Awards"

?Based in Los Angeles

?️ TV and radio personality

? @smithworldwide

My former agent sent me the notice. I can't allow the network that hosts my demographic to do this and not go.

I'm auditioning for hosting, emceeing, BET Breaks, and red carpet type stuff. My goal is to one day host the BET Awards. BET has been around from before I was born. So, to be able to continue that legacy, to be able to be a part of telling Black stories, to be able to be a part of sharing Black stories and creating Black art. I would love to be a part of that because I believe that those particular stories are not ones that we hear enough, and are not told in the way that I want. So I'm glad to be here, and am grateful for the opportunity to be seen by these industry execs. 

 

“It's just a good opportunity for all of us to mix and mingle."

?Based in Los Angeles

?️ Actor

? @briannapatrice

“It's just a good opportunity for all of us to mix and mingle."

This is my second year. Last year, I was in line and I didn't get in, so I came earlier and I'm in.

There are so many things we're dealing with as a community and as a culture. This is a good weekend every year for us to come listen to the music and support the artists that we like to listen to. They get us through some times. So, it's just a fun way to connect with other people from across the world. It's important for us as entertainers or if you want to be an actor or actress to be around other people in this space because we're in front of BET—the best casting directors, the people that are a part of Boomerang, and the new show American Soul. It's just a good opportunity for all of us to mix and mingle.

 

“It's breaking down walls."

?Based in Detroit, Mich.

?️ Comedian and actor

? @the_dezcortez

It used to almost be like you had to have a certain path, but now it's getting a little different. For the people who have been seeing all the top actors to give you a minute, I mean, that's just something you couldn't get that in the past. And BET bringing that just adds to Black excellence. It's breaking down walls.

 

“This is an opportunity to change your life."

? Based in Los Angeles

?️ Singer

? @neverendingninanotes

My stage name is Never Ending Nina, because the journey never ends. And I'm a singer/songwriter...by the way, I have a new single out called ‘That One’ … available everywhere. 

I’ve known about this since 2017, so I wanted to come back and do it again to see what  improvements I've made for myself as far as open cast. It's still beautiful, and it's organized; It's the machine.

It's a wonderful feeling. You have an opportunity to be seen. Universally, everybody wants that. This is an opportunity to change your life.

“You get to meet so many people who are serious about what they do and about being an artist.”

? Based in Los Angeles

?️ Actor 

? @freddyramseyjr

You get to meet so many people who are serious about what they do and about being an artist. It’s definitely a place where you can build relationships with other artists, see everyone’s work, and see the fearlessness that comes with getting up on stage and performing for an audience and being vulnerable.

In 2017, I was in graduate school and I found out about the casting call about maybe like four hours before I got to the line. When I heard about the opportunity, I rushed down and wound up getting in line and being seen. And, I met so many people, and some of those individuals I’ve since collaborated with. And, it gave me a lot of confidence getting up there on stage.

I’m producing a film right now, titled South Central Love, and we premiere August 1 at L.A. Live Regal. Some of the people at casting call are in our film.

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