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Filling the Roles

Filling the Roles

chemin bernardThe successful career of a television casting director started when she began finding roles for her fellow LMU students.

Chemin Bernard often wishes Loyola Marymount University offered a course in mind-reading. If it did, casting directors like her would have an easier time doing their job.

"You really have to catch the vision of the role and what the director and writer want," Bernard says. "Sometimes they don't even realize what they want."

Bernard is president and owner of Chemin Bernard Casting, a Los Angeles-based agency that she founded, and is also president of the Casting Society of America. Bernard has been casting for films and television for 30 years. She works with directors, producers and writers to find the right actor for a role. Typically, casting directors are in charge of recruiting during pre-production, and they may serve as liaisons between directors and actors once parts have been filled.

Bernard has worked for many top-rated television shows, including "Hill Street Blues," "Moesha" and "St. Elsewhere." Currently she is the casting director for "Just Jordan," a Nickelodeon show now in its second season. But her casting career began in Westchester, as a student in the College of Communication and Fine Arts.

"I knew I wanted to be behind the scenes," Bernard says. "I wanted to do something to help actors get work."

Bernard began a casting agency for LMU students. She created such a niche for herself that LMU offered her a job when she graduated.

"I became the in-house casting director at LMU. I don't know anyone else whose college gave them an office and even work-study students to help them," she recalls.

Bernard says that her early experiences in casting at LMU contributed to her success. But she believes LMU made an even more crucial difference in her life before that - when the university admitted her as an adult and a single parent.

Bernard did not decide to go college until she was 26 years old. At that point, she had been working in Chicago for eight years as a service representative for Pacific Bell. But she realized it wasn't the job for her, and she decided to move with her son to California.

After working as a union organizer for two years, Bernard enrolled in LMU's Encore Program, which is designed for adult learners who want to get a college degree. That was a decision that changed her life. After two semesters, Bernard decided to quit her job and became a full-time student. And she decided to take full advantage of her opportunity to get a degree: She studied broad-ranging topics such as ballet and Judaism, as well as acting, and she ran for president of the Black Students Association.

Bernard credits the personal attention she received from faculty, including John Davis in the Department of African American Studies, for making a big difference.

"I learned self-confidence, received support, took risks and got myself through LMU, with virtually no financial help from my family," Bernard says. "My son was in sixth grade when I graduated, and he tells me how much watching me go through taught and helped him. It changed the course of my life."