BEHS students visit pioneering female casting director

By LISA CAPOBIANCO

STAFF WRITER

It’s no secret that pioneer casting director Barbara Claman has a long resume of over 90 movies, TV shows and mini series.

From “Tour of Duty” to “Silk Stalkings” to “Santa Barbara,” the list goes on for Claman, who was one of the first and most successful female casting directors in an industry dominated by men.

The leading casting director in New York during the 1970s for TV commercials, Claman also was nominated seven times for excellence in casting by the Casting Society of America, and served as a judge on the former Star Search.

Last Wednesday, Bristol Eastern High School’s UCONN 1070 class, a life span psychology course, met face-to-face with Claman, who now lives at The Landing, an assisted living and memory care retirement community in Farmington.

Sitting in a quiet café area on the second floor of The Landing, Claman told students what she is most proud most is not her resume—but rather the actors and actresses she found—like George Clooney, whom she described as “one of the nicest people on the planet” who also was “very smart.”

For Claman, being a successful casting director meant bringing out the qualities she admired most about the actors and actresses she chose.

“What’s important is did you do it well? Did you cast the right people,” said Claman, reflecting back on her career. “The thing I take most pride in is finding actors and actresses who don’t just do well in a role, but gets to be that character over and over again because he or she was perfect for the part.”

Besides Clooney, Claman also discovered Charlie Sheen, Richard Gere, and Laura Dern, among others.

“I have full respect for actors like George Clooney because he puts everything into his job,” said Claman.

Before entering the Hollywood scene, Claman, who grew up in New York City, worked as a nursery school and kindergarten teacher. Although she loved working with children, Claman said she realized that being a casting director was her calling.

“What was more me was when I started being a casting director,” said Claman, who did a voice over for a 1993 film. “That was so fulfilling.”

When asked about her favorite film or TV show she casted, Claman replied, “Tour of Duty,” the 1987-1990 CBS drama series that focused on the trials of a U.S. Army platoon serving in the field during the Vietnam War.

Students stepped in a little closer to Claman, who shared a “Tour of Duty” poster during their visit last week.

“It was fun to cast,” said Claman, adding how it took at least two weeks to cast the series.

A grandmother of four, Claman moved to Connecticut to be closer to her family last August. At 87 years old, Claman is as healthy and sharp, attending day trips and taking part in a variety of social activities that she did have time for in the past.

Creighton Paquette-Claman, who teaches the UCONN 1070 class at Bristol Eastern, is Claman’s daughter-in-law.

For Paquette-Claman, sharing her mother-in-law’s wisdom and knowledge with students was a way to learn about the reality of retirement—beyond the textbook.

“We read about the life span. We read about what’s like to retire…to go to that next stage of your life,” said Paquette-Claman, adding how enjoying life does not stop after a career like the one her mother-in-law had. “But to actually talk to someone…we’re getting out of a textbook a little bit.”

Claman said she was glad to share her story with students, noting the close relationship she has with her daughter-in-law.

“The overall message should be, ‘you can do this too,’” said Claman, who invited students to come back and visit.

Bristol Eastern High School’s UCONN 1070 class visits Barbara Claman, one of the first female casting directors, at The Landing in Farmington.