My Name is Earl cast by Hollywood girl via Saratoga Springs
Sandra Bullock, Harrison Ford and members of the band Green Day all managed to cross the carpet without incident. But they have had more experience.
Kurto, a 1999 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School, is a casting associate for the new NBC TV show 'My Name is Earl.' Attending last week's People's Choice Awards, she got to see Kelsey Grammer on the stage of the Shrine Auditorium and present the award for Favorite New TV Comedy to her show. It was a nice start to the award season, and a good lead-up to Monday's Golden Globes, where 'My Name is Earl' is nominated for two more awards.
Kurto was born a stone's throw away from the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on a day that Liza Minnelli sang on the SPAC stage. A generation later, the 24-year-old lives in the land of cabarets and old chums, where she works at finding people to put on TV and in America's living rooms.
'With 'Earl,' you have the series regulars - Earl, Randy, Catalina,' said Kurto, referring to the show's characters portrayed by actors Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee and Nadine Velazquez, respectively. 'For the other roles, we cast anywhere from eight to 15 people in each episode - a waitress, a guy on the street. Once I scoured the whole town trying to find a male actor with no legs who would be perfect for Earl's world.' She ended up finding that man in People magazine.
Since relocating to Los Angeles, Kurto worked in casting on the TV shows 'Yes, Dear,' 'Come to Papa,' 'Regular Joe' and 'Hot Properties.' There were also several pilots that never got more than a quick look.
'The studios and networks make hundreds of pilots every year, but there are very few that they pick to turn into a series,' she said. 'It's a risky business. But it's pretty exciting when a pilot does get picked up, and it's really rewarding to see that show on television.'
The most recent success for the casting associate is her involvement with 'My Name is Earl.' To be successful in Hollywood, Kurto said, 'It's all who you know. I worked my butt off making contacts. That's how you get things done out here. You just keep bugging people.'
As a teenager growing up in Saratoga Springs, Kurto was involved with drama clubs and took classes at Home Made Theater. And although her high school yearbook lists 'to be "an awesome actress" among her goals, her career aspirations have changed, preferring, she said, to cast others in acting roles.
'I love this side of it, and I get to act almost every day by reading with actors or actresses,' she said.
Her big Hollywood break came in her years at Boston's Emerson College, where she started a casting organization that found actors for roles in independent films shot in the Boston area.
'After I started that organization, that led me to everything,' Kurto said. 'Here I was, this 19-year-old college kid getting a call one day from the VP of casting at Fox, asking me to put some people on tape for a role in the 'Bob Patterson' show,' said Kurto, recalling the show that featured Seinfeld-show alumnus Jason Alexander.
'I did a good job on that and ended up doing an internship with them the following semester in L.A. After I graduated, I was told if I wanted a job I had to come out right then,' Kurto said. 'So I packed my stuff and left within a week and found myself in L.A. I interviewed with (casting director) Dava Waite and she hired me on the spot. We've been working together now for four years.'
Kurto gets homesick for the Spa City and returns a couple of times a year. Her parents owned and operated Bruno's on Union Avenue for most of her childhood. The popular restaurant was known for its Hollywood nostalgia walls lined with posters of Marilyn, Elvis and James Dean, a vintage jukebox, and her dad's red 1949 Buick that sat parked outside.
The contrast between the city where she grew and the one she now calls home is as varied as the as the difference between movie posters on the wall and movie stars in the flesh.
'I've seen Will Smith and David Schwimmer,' she says of the former 'Friends' star. 'But it's all become pretty normal for me. I work on the Paramount Lot where 'Mission Impossible' is shooting, so use your imagination on that one,' said Kurto about the film set that has set paparrazzi scurrying ever since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes began appearing on European sets together last summer.
Making friends is different as well, Kurto noted. 'Out here you have show business friends, where basically everybody's out to get something from everybody else.'
Her advice to those thinking about making a splash in Hollywood is to get connected. 'It's all about who you know,' she offered. 'Out here, luck is 99 percent of it. It's just being in the right place at the right time.'
Last week, the right place for Kurto was at the Shrine Auditorium watching 'My Name is Earl' go home with the top new comedy show award. She also managed a decent amount of luck on the red carpet.
'I did get to walk on the red carpet,' she reported after the ceremony. 'And I'm happy to admit - I did not trip.'
by Thomas Dimopoulos