Notes on Casting: Behind the Scenes of Real-Life Actors for Dead Exit

An artist can create from imagination or use a “reference photo” as a source. With our campaign, I went further – by getting on board to the project real life actors to portray the main characters in Dead Exit.

Being that the story is from an original screenplay, yep – one future goal is have it make it to The Big Screen. As the story’s creator, I was looking for great actors who could fit the bill across the board.

The process was intense.

It was like casting for an actual movie. And I’m happy to say, these actors aren’t just “the right face.” If Dead Exit is ever made into a feature, these are the people I’d cast. And if that day comes, I can thank YOU – the backer and reader of Dead Exit.

Here was how casting happened:

  • I scoured worldwide for actors & models looking for the right look of the characters.
  • OK, they had ‘the look’? How was their voice?
  • What was their range as an actor? What did their ‘reel’ reveal?
  • I dug deeper into their personal web sites, Twitter and professional reels. Could an actor actually play the character? Where had their career been? Where was it going? Would this role of portrayal be of use to them in building their careers? And would they be good stewards for the campaign?

Reggie P. Louis: an actor who ‘wants the ball’

Usually there were 2 or 3 really good choices. Then I started the work of contacting them and we started a dialogue through e-mail or Twitter. The results varied, but in the case of Reggie P. Louis, it was a quick process. Reggie reminds me of a point guard or wide receiver who wants the ball. He’s enthusiastic, funny – and brings an extra element to something that is a team effort. Add the fact that Reggie is a true fan of comics, the movies inspired by them…not only does he act, he’s a true fan.

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I have to really tip my hat off to every actor because from their point of view, here was a bloke from Midwest America proposing they “portray” a character in a graphic novel for a crowdfunding project. And because of the “top secret” nature of Dead Exit, I couldn’t give them many details – not until the PR launch was near.

All of them took a leap of faith. Because of that, I resolved to go as far as I could for them. My goal was to make it a win-win for everyone involved. That also meant for you, the reader.

The Case of Nina Bergman – pushing it farther


At every step I was looking for actors who could be the role. Did it fit their career? Did they want to be part of a team?  I wanted integrity.

The role of AGENT JENKINS is one of high integrity. She’s a Marine. The character is thrown into this upside-down world, a counterpoint.

In the case of Warner Bros. recording artist Nina Bergman, I pitched the idea to Nina and in the process, the project was enriched beyond my expectations.

If you look at Nina’s career, you can’t help think 21st Century Renaissance Woman. She sings, acts, models – it’s fitting she’s played Wonder Woman. She’s a force of nature. Music legends Paul Anka and Irving Azhoff saw first what we all can see now. And things for Nina are just going to explode.

I offered two roles to Nina and she chose the role of Agent Toni Jenkins, the agent with integrity, wisdom, calm and collected. Yet when necessary, Jenkins is an agent of action. With Nina taking the role, it pushed me to deepen the Jenkins character. Her choice was a moment of serendipity. When the Universe allows that, you take notice and seize the day.

How did that push me to strengthen the Jenkins’ role?

Originally, Jenkins wasn’t a female character.

The second – Jenkins was expanded as a character in depth and history. But it made total sense, especially with the brutal backdrop of Dead Exit.

One look at Nina’s credentials and you can see her as Jenkins. I mentioned she’d have the chance to “ride a motorcycle and kick some butt.” So Jenkins became a U.S. Marine with two tours in Afghanistan. The inspiration behind that was my grand uncle who is a Marine and was wounded in Korea – and a few other Marines I know. To me, a true warrior is not some Energizer Bunny who never stops, but one who lights it up when it’s actually time. Then stands down. Wisdom and patience is necessary.

Nina didn’t take the obvious or easy choice – and pushing herself to new levels is one of her trademarks. That choice showed me an integrity. While Dead Exit is a comic book with thrills, spills and chills, the hope is to create a story that readers can read again and again and use their imagination for a wider world of The Program.


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Roxy Saint – the antidote for the usual system

The character of Jade Bloodworth is at the heart of the machine in the upside-down world of Dead Exit. Anything and everything is fair game. The part of a maverick singer who would use The Program to create shocking and inventive music videos needed a real-life counterpart.

Enter Roxy Saint.

I’m drawn to those who take the leap of confidence and make a path that is all their own. Ultimate outsiders. People who dare to call the shots. Visionaries. People who have something to say. Edgy, but not in a edgy-for-edgy’s sake.

Right in the middle of Dead Exit is a key Jade Bloodworth scene – a music video premiere for the song “You’re My Antidote” off Bloodworth’s new album JADED. The video is one that ‘MTV wouldn’t dare to air.’ What does that mean? No spoilers here. You’ll have to help us fund so you can see what the shouting is about. But the video scene has that forward-thinking like early MTV-era videos when Madonna rocked and shocked the world and took the art form to a quantum leap.

Sienna Taylor – forging her own ID

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Sienna Taylor was the second cast member on board and throughout she’s been involved, a team player, a big contributor. Like many cast members, she acts, models, sings…I think that’s the nature of creative people. When you’re creative, you are creative.

Sienna quickly submitted video (including a shoot in an English cemetery during winter), audio and provided reference photos. Upon receiving the full ‘final’ screenplay, she had some very humbling comments – and even signed it, ‘Vanessa Calecio.’

That’s what you want: ownership of the character!


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