YOU’RE A TV CASTING DIRECTOR AND YOU need someone to fill out a scene. Someone, say, whose shaved head is covered by a bat tattoo and whose nose is pierced by a pair of tiny horns.
Who you gonna call?
More and more, casting honchos and advertising people are tapping Dragon Talent, an L.A. agency that specializes in people you’ll never see on reruns of The Brady Bunch—but who have turned up on NYPD Blue, Roseanne and Xena: Warrior Princess and in commercials for Diet Coke and McDonald’s. Its roster of some 200 actors and models includes 25 drag queens, along with a host of the tattooed, the pierced and the peculiar. “They provide directors with a special talent you can’t find through standard casting agencies,” says casting director Billy DaMota.
Take Liz Ard, 34. With green dreadlocks and a variety of lizard tattoos, she finds that most agencies just don’t take her acting ambitions seriously. “I mean,” she says, “it’s not like there’s a lot of roles for people with weird-colored hair.” Maybe not, but there are enough for Dragon Talent’s three founders to spot a niche. Robin Harrington, 29, was an L.A. club promoter in 1995 when she tuned in to a trend. “A lot of talk shows started calling me looking for drag queens,” she says. Along with partners Victor Vargas, 29, and Jake Miller, 34, Harrington launched Dragon Talent—the name comes from the L.A. vice squad’s nickname for drag queens—and began trolling the clubs handing out business cards. “About 50 people turned up,” says Harrington. “We had to weed a lot of them out because they couldn’t get their portfolios together.” Harrington insists it takes more than just an unusual look to make it at Dragon. “I send people out who can do their lines,” she says, “not just because they dress in women’s clothing.”