Very early into watching Falling Water, you get the feeling that these three main actors were destined to play our heroes -- a trio of strangers who realize that they're all dreaming separate parts of a shared dream. And how they're connected may hold the key to something much, much larger.
A testament to the show's casting, it's hard to imagine anyone other than Lizzie Brocheré playing sought-after trendspotter Tess, David Ajala as corporate fixer Burton, or Will Yun Lee embodying NYPD detective Taka.
As with any dramatic series, casting your leads is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and so we asked executive producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead) to share some of the backstory of finding Falling Water's compelling main actors. Interestingly, they all came to the project through very different avenues (including a significant re-write to accommodate one of the actor's natural accents), but there's one thing all three of them have in common.
The eyes are a key factor (and not just for Tess).
"With Tess, Lizzie Brochere sent in a self-tape that she had done literally from an iPhone," Hurd recalled. "Her boyfriend recorded her, and immediately Blake [Masters] and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the director, and I looked at each other and said, 'She's it!' She has this quality of vulnerability, but strength."
Another thing Brocheré has? Unique eyes, which play their own role in Falling Water; the eye close-up is a sign that we're entering or leaving the dream world.
"It's a show where the eyes really are the key to our souls and she has the most mesmerizing eyes," explained the producer. "That's true of all our actors... We have these extreme close-ups of their eyes."
Taka required an actor with depth.
Hurd, whose commitment to diverse casting is widely admired, said that Lee expressed gratitude to her and Masters for not making Taka's character about his ethnicity.
"In the case of Will Yun Lee, he's known to most audiences for playing kick-ass characters -- whether it's on Hawaii 5-0 or in a number of films -- and we've never really seen the more emotional side of him," Hurd said. "What we found was that he had incredible untapped talent to be someone who, even though he's a detective, he's not going to pull out a kung fu move."
Instead, one of Taka's identifying qualities is his uncanny ability to solve cases. "As we find out," Hurd told USA, "he's called 'The Hunch' because it may be that a lot of the clues that he's getting come through his powerful dreams."
Burton's part was re-written for David Ajala
Falling Water did not find its Burton right away. In fact, Ajala came through a third wave of actor submissions. When the producers saw his tape, it gave them a new idea for the character.
"He was speaking in a British accent," remembered Hurd. "He was also so mesmerizing that, not only did we cast him, but we rewrote the role -- which was initially an American character. We gave him a backstory that he had been with the Secret Services in the UK and moved to New York to work for the firm. The truth is, David can do a perfect American accent, but we thought, this is really interesting. New York, especially, is a very international city. That would make sense."