NBCU’s DEI efforts in the TV space known as NBCU LAUNCH has selected Diana Mia Marte, JaShanti Pittman, Noell Webber, and Kate Zachary as its 2023-24 class for the NBCU LAUNCH Talent and Casting Assistant Program.
Throughout the 12-month paid program, which kicked off earlier this month, the four chosen ones will be working with the internal casting teams across NBC and Universal Studio Group, with Marte and Pittman working on the scripted track, and Webber and Zachary working on the unscripted track.
The NBCU LAUNCH Talent and Casting Assistant program aims to increase representation in the field of casting by developing aspiring episodic and unscripted casting directors from diverse backgrounds. After six months of supporting the internal Talent and Casting departments within NBCU’s television portfolio, the assistants will then complete the program at an independent casting office in Los Angeles or New York. An alum of the 2022-23 class, Whitney Baugh is now a casting assistant in Sara Isaacson’s office who supports casting efforts for NBCU titles Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and La Brea, which are produced by Universal Studio Group.
That said, we thought we would play a little game of “Recast the Reboot” with the newly selected assistants to test their stellar casting skills
For Diana Mia Marte, a first-generation Dominican-American from New York City, she chose one from her home city. “One of my favorite yet underrated New York shows was How To Make it in America,” she said. “HTMIA peered into the lives of a group of twentysomethings full of hustle, optimism, and unavoidable existential dread!
She points out that as so many fresh, new & young energy pour into NYC and there’s always a lingering nostalgia of “old New York” — something that Marte misses. “I would love to see the story expand with the original cast and new players to come in to shake things up.”
She continued, “In terms of casting I would love to work with amazing BIPOC like Alycia Pascual-Peña, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., new SNL cast member, Marcello Hernández and the hilarious Bronx-bred comedian, Darlene Demorizi, Tomás Matos… I’ll stop here because the list goes on. We just need an authentic-feel-good New York show that gives all the feels!”
Marte has a degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from Marymount Manhattan College.
As a self-proclaimed New York City theater kid, she studied acting and trained classically as a dancer at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Through her professional experience within talent management, marketing, public relations and events, the spark for casting was ignited. Her passion for entertainment and the authentic representation of BIPOC talent is at the core of her ethos.
Also coming from the east coast, JaShanti Pittman was raised in New Jersey. She was always drawn to TV and film through her creative family ever since she was young. After getting her degree at Rowan University in Radio/TV/Film, she gained professional experience by interning for two talent agencies and working in brand partnerships before finding the Casting Society Cares’ casting assistant pathway program, through which she was able to learn essential skills that she will use within the NBCU LAUNCH program.
“I would reboot the show Freaks and Geeks as I think it was an amazing show that was short lived and ahead of its time,” admitted Pittman. “I would cast young, diverse, and up and coming actors in the quirky coming-of-age show.”
“I would possibly cast Lonnie Chavis, Jacob Tremblay, JD McCrary and Millicent Simmonds for the ‘geeks’ and Mia Isaac, Miguel Cazarez Mora, Maxwell Jenkins for the ‘freaks’. They are all in my opinion fantastic actors on the rise, but I think they would all individually bring their own flare.”
Hailing from Texas, Noell Webber has always had an obsession with television. After moving to Los Angeles, she landed an HR job at Netflix — but she soon gravitated towards the world of unscripted television. She enjoyed the idea of being a fly on a wall — watching people forget there are cameras around and being able to just be themselves. She decided to apply to the program because she believes she can successfully create and cast for unscripted television.
“If I could cast a reboot of a past show, it would be What Not to Wear,” she tells DIASPORA. “The original hosts were Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. For the 2023 version, I would bring in Law Roach and Elaine Welteroth as the new hosts.”
She added, “Both Law and Elaine have a high level of experience in the fashion world and huge personalities that are warm, personable and interesting to watch as an audience. I also feel like they would have amazing chemistry and bring two different perspectives with their own personal style. They both have such a fresh take on what works and what doesn’t.”
Raised in an Air Force family and hailing from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kate Zachary has the privilege of living in and experiencing a wide variety of places. While earning a degree at Chapman University in Creative Producing, she was honored as one of five recipients of the honorary Women in Film award. She has gained professional experience from a variety of disciplines including documentary production and development as well as brand partnership production and assisting on-set for Netflix and Sony. Most recently, she worked for Santini Reali within CAA’s Non-Fiction department. Kate will participate in the unscripted track of the Talent and Casting Assistant Program.
“There are a few shows that come to mind, but I think I would reboot Girl Code and Guy Code,” admits Zachary. “I would be inclined to merge them into one format and bring in a whole new generation of comedians and personalities. Bretman Rock and Courtney Parchman are two names that come to mind for the ensemble…bring in Nicole Byer as the host. C’mon, what’s not to love?”