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We’re delighted to announce our esteemed panel of judges for this year’s Spotlight Prize.

The annual Spotlight Prize, originally launched in the 50s, helps to launch the careers of outstanding graduates, offering them a platform to raise their profile within the industry and to win a cash prize.

This year one of the 19 graduates nominated by their drama schools will take away the prize for Best Actor (Stage) and Best Actor (Screen), winning themselves £2000 and joining a glittering alumni of previous winners.

This year’s judging panel continues to add to our distinguished list of former judges, which includes actors Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Alex Jennings, Gemma Chan, Rosamund Pike, Hayley Atwell, and Paapa Essiedu, as well as casting directors Lucy Bevan, Nina Gold, Fiona Weir and Shaheen Baig, to name but a few.

Stage Judges

Our stage judges come with a huge wealth of experience across acting, casting, writing and directing. The panel will watch the nominee’s live performances and, ultimately, award one nominee the Best Actor (Stage) prize. This year’s judges are:

Michael Balogun

Michael most recently appeared in Netflix’s Top Boy, where he played the memorable role of Cyprus opposite Kano. He can also be seen in great guest roles in BBC One’s You Don’t Know Me and ITV’s Vera. Before that, he starred in a successful tour of Blue/Orange in a new adaptation of the brilliant play, opposite Giles Terera.

During lockdown, Michael led the one-man show Death of England: Delroy at the National Theatre, directed by Clint Dyer, to rave reviews. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after its opening night due to the national lockdown returning. However, Michael’s very short run gained attention due to his ferocious performance and was hailed by many as ‘a star turn’, garnering him a nomination for Best Male Actor in a play at The Black British Theatre Awards. Prior to this, Michael filmed a guest role in Epix’s War of the Worlds.

His other theatre credits include Macbeth at Chichester Festival Theatre, the UK tour of Barbershop Chronicles, directed by Rufus Norris at the National, and the UK tour of People, Places and Things.

Aisha Bywaters (CDG)

Aisha won the BAFTA TV Craft Award for Scripted Casting in 2022 with We Are Lady Parts for Working Title/NBCU. Her other TV credits include The Baby for Sister Pictures and HBO/Sky, Netflix’s Man vs Bee and Working Title’s adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love for the BBC. Aisha’s film credits include the critically acclaimed The Last Tree and County Lines. Her upcoming projects include the Netflix/Film4 feature The Kitchen, co-written and produced by Daniel Kaluuya.

Anna Cooper (CDG)

Anna has been the casting director at the Donmar Warehouse since 2019, where productions have included: Constellations (Olivier Award: Best Revival), A Doll’s House, Part 2, Henry V, Marys Seacole, Force Majeure, Europe, [BLANK], Teenage Dick, Far Away, and Love & Other Acts of Violence. Previous theatre credits include: I And You, Dry Powder, Gloria (Hampstead Theatre), Steel, Love & Information (Sheffield Theatres), Leave Taking, HIR (Bush Theatre), Circle, Mirror, Transformation, The Maids (HOME), They Drink It In the Congo (Almeida), Multitudes, (Tricycle), A Number (Nuffield/Young Vic) and Tonight at 8.30 (Nuffield).

As casting associate, theatre credits include Allelujah!, Nightfall, Julius Caesar, Young Marx (Bridge Theatre) and film/tv credits include Dunkirk, Mission Impossible 6, The Dark Knight Rises, Belle, Manhunt, Capital, Silk, Doc Martin and Ashes to Ashes.

Daniel Edwards (CDG)

Daniel has worked in the industry for over 40 years, first as a child, then as an adult actor, before moving into casting 15 years ago, working predominantly in television drama and independent film.

Daniel’s most recent projects include Grace (ITV), DI Ray (ITV), Showtrial (BBC), Then Barbara Met Alan (BBC), 4Stories (Channel 4) and Heartstopper (Netflix).

Sophie Holland (CSA)

Sophie Holland is the casting director for the epic TV franchise, The Witcher, Netflix’s first international original series. Additional upcoming projects include Constellations (Apple+), The Peripheral (Amazon), The Continental (John Wick Prequel for STARZ/Lionsgate), Season 4 of Netflix’s acclaimed series of You, and Tim Burton’s Wednesday (Netflix).

For film, UK casting for Cherry (AGBO Films/AppleTV) starring Tom Holland, A24’s The Kill Team with Alexander Skarsgård, and a modern retelling of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s popular opera The Magic Flute.

Jessica Hynes

Jessica Hynes has worked extensively in television, film and theatre as both a writer and performer. Her television credits include: Inside No. 9 (BBC), Life After Life (BBC), Mood (BBC), The Witchfinder (BBC), Roald and Beatrix (Sky One), Years and Years (BBC), for which she won a Northern RTS Award, There She Goes (BBC), where she won the RTS Awards for Female Best Performance and a BAFTA for Female Performance in a Comedy Programme, The Royle Family (BBC), Spaced (Channel 4), for which she won two comedy awards, Doctor Who (BBC), Cider with Rosie (BBC), Hooten and the Lady (Sky), Skins (Channel 4), The Hour (BBC), Moone Boy (Channel 4), Blandings (BBC), One Night (BBC), Twenty Twelve and its brilliant spin-off W1A, for which Jessica won a BAFTA. Jessica also wrote and starred in Up The Women (BBC) for two series.

Her film credits include Shaun of the Dead, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Son of Rambow, Harry Potter, Pudsey the Dog, Paddington, Swallows & Amazons, Bridget Jones’s Baby, and Paddington 2. Her directorial debut, The Fight, which she also starred in, was nominated for a BIFA award and won a Welsh BAFTA for Cinematography.

Her theatre credits include Far Away (Donmar Warehouse), The Norman Conquests (Old Vic), for which she was nominated for a Tony Award for the Broadway transfer, and The Night Heron (Royal Court), for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award.

Hannah Miller (CDG)

Hannah has been head of casting at the Royal Shakespeare Company since 2008. Having studied drama at the University of Hull in the mid-90s, presenting shows in Edinburgh and the National Student Drama Festival, she went to work at Cheek by Jowl, followed by the National Theatre as a casting assistant. She then moved to the RSC as deputy casting director and was a casting director for the Birmingham Rep before returning to the RSC. Hannah works regularly in drama schools and industry organisations, advising actors on professional development, resilience and demystifying the casting process. She is a trustee of Northampton Theatres Trust and Tamasha.

Talulah Riley

Actress, author, and director Talulah Riley is best known for her roles as Angela in HBO’s Science Fiction series Westworld (2016-2019), Mary Bennett in Pride & Prejudice (2005), and for her starring role in St Trinian’s (2007) and its sequel St Trinian’s: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold (2009).

Thus far, 2022 has been a landmark year for Talulah, who was recently seen in Danny Boyle’s eagerly anticipated TV miniseries Pistol (for FX and Disney+) playing the role of iconic designer Vivienne Westwood.

In addition to her role in Pistol, Talulah’s second novel The Quickening was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 23rd June 2022. Set in a near-future Britain that is ruled exclusively by women, The Quickening is a thrilling dystopian tale of gender, power and betrayal. Riley’s debut novel Acts Of Love was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2016.

Riley’s other film credits also include Inception (2010) alongside Tom Hardy, Love & Distrust (2010) alongside Robert Pattinson and, in 2015 she made her directorial debut with Scottish Mussel, which she also wrote and starred in. Other television credits include Poirot (2003), Marple (2006), Doctor Who (2008) and Nearly Famous (2007). Riley made her stage debut in The Philadelphia Story at the Old Vic in 2005 and also performed in a 2006 revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer And Smoke.

Susan Wokoma

Susan is an actor, writer and soon-to-be first-time director. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Susan has gone on to appear in films such as Enola Holmes, the upcoming Enola Holmes sequel, The Beautiful Game (later in 2022), and Half of a Yellow Sun. Her television credits include Cheaters, Toast of Tinseltown, The House, Rules of the Game, Year of the Rabbit, Truth Seekers, Dark Money, Crazyhead, Crashing, Porters and Chewing Gum. Susan has performed in many renowned theatres, including the National Theatre, the Bush, the Royal Court, Regent’s Open Air Theatre, St Ann’s Warehouse in New York, the Crucible in Sheffield and, most recently, Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse.

Susan wrote, starred in and produced an award-winning short film called Love the Sinner (Sky/Roughcut). She has written on shows such as The Reluctant Landlord (Sky), been in the writers room for Sex Education series 2 (Netflix), and will make her directorial debut with the feature film Three Weeks (BBC/BFI/Dorothy Street Pictures), which she also wrote and will star in. Susan is a patron of charity The Monobox, and is also a regular co-host of the hit comedy podcast The Guilty Feminist.

Screen Judges

Since 2016, leading industry figures have judged screen performances of the Spotlight Prize monologues. Our panel of casting directors have hugely successful careers, working across a varied range of television and feature films and will be awarding the prize to one of the nominees for Best Actor (Screen).

Deborah Aquila (CSA)

After graduating from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and Stella Adler Conservatory, Deborah worked on the first two seasons of Miami Vice and several feature films, including Michael Mann’s Man Hunter and The Pope of Greenwich Village, as an associate. Her independent casting director career began with Steven Soderbergh’s Sex, Lies and Videotape and Uli Edel’s Last Exit to Brooklyn. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1993 to cast Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption, Deborah had completed over 18 independent films in New York.

In 1993, she was named Senior Vice President of Features Casting for Paramount Pictures. During her nine-year tenure at the studio, Deborah cast such notable films as Primal Fear, Mission: Impossible II, Double Jeopardy, Varsity Blues, The Brady Bunch, Kiss the Girls, Mother, and What Women Want. In March of 2020, Deborah returned to Paramount as Executive Vice President of PTVS Casting.

Most recent film credits include CODA, Cherry, The Tomorrow War, La La Land, Wonder, Stronger, Deep Water Horizon, and Woman in Gold. Television credits include the critically acclaimed Showtime series Dexter, FX’s The Shield, and TNT’s Mob City.

Deborah is a proud member of the CSA and has been nominated 18 times by the Casting Society of America for the Artios Award, winning for the features Red, My Week With Marilyn, La La Land, and CODA.

In 2003, Deborah was recognised by the Hollywood community with the Hollywood Film Festival Career Achievement Award. In 2020, Deborah was recognised with the CSA’s Hoyt Bowers’ Award for Career Achievement, and in 2021, the Sundance Film Festival honoured CODA with the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast.

Deborah has been a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 1994.

Rich Delia (CSA)

Rich Delia is a casting director based in Los Angeles and the owner of Rich Delia Casting. Rich is a proud member of the Casting Society of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He is a nine-time Artios Award Nominee, winning in 2015 for the film Dallas Buyers Club, and in 2022 was nominated for a BAFTA award for the film King Richard. Additional credits include IT and IT Chapter 2, Game Night, Short Term 12, The Disaster Artist, Happiest Season and the upcoming DC films The Flash, Black Adam and Shazam 2.

Tracey Gillham (CDG)

Tracey trained in production at the BBC, working in the comedy department where she was lucky enough to join the production teams of many great shows, including Only Fools and Horses. Eventually becoming the casting director for BBC Comedy, Tracey cast shows, including Jonathan Creek, Miranda, The Office, Extras, and Psychoville.

Since setting up Tracey Gillham Casting in 2012, she has worked on shows including Inside No.9, Code 404, The Larkins, The Cleaner, After Life, Sally4Ever, Catastrophe, Back, Not Going Out, Benidorm, and the Murder on The Blackpool Express/Murder They Hope series. Tracey’s also cast several films, including David Brent: Life on the Road.

Sam Jones (CDG)

Sam Jones has been head of casting for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Almeida and, for the first six years of its life, National Theatre Wales. She’s worked on many award-winning West End shows as well as for both regional and international producers. Recent television work includes Hugo Blick’s The English and Black Earth RisingRidley Rd, Wanderlust, NW, The Lost Honour Of Christopher Jefferies and The Hollow Crown. She is a member of the CDG and of the International Casting Directors Network and is an Honorary Fellow of RWCMD.

Orla Maxwell (CDG)

Orla Maxwell leads Casting Pictures Ltd. Based at Bush Theatre, she works extensively across film and television in the UK, Europe and beyond. Her latest credits include Luther (film), Enola Holmes 2 (film), and Stay Close (TV). Her long-standing partner, Priscilla John, now sits as a consultant for the team, and they are supported by Francesca Bradley and Andreya Lynham. Orla has worked in casting since graduating in 1995.

Jemima McWilliams (CDG)

Jemima started her career as an assistant at The Curtis Brown Group. After a brilliant few years, she decided to make the move into casting and went to work for her aunt, Debbie McWilliams. She’s now eight years in, during which time she’s worked across film, TV and many short films, mostly for the National Film and Television School. She now works as a co-casting director with Debbie and was fortunate enough to work on the latest James Bond film No Time To Die. Her further credits include feature films Daemon Mind, The Amazing Maurice, Fatima and The Rhythm Section.

Carolyn McLeod (CDG)

Casting for over 15 years, Carolyn is a freelance casting director, who specialises in film, theatre and streaming content. She has worked with directors including Paul Schrader, Stephen Herek, Michael Caton-Jones and Sofia Coppola on independent features and projects for Netflix, BBC, Disney, Warner Bros, Hallmark and SyFy/NBC Universal.

She sits on the board of the European Chapter of the Casting Society, was the winner of the BIFA 2021 Best Casting Award for Boiling Point and is also a BAFTA Film Best Casting Nominee 2022.

Andy Pryor (CDG, CSA)

Andy has cast a hugely diverse range of projects, including Life on MarsI’m Alan Partridge, Call the Midwife, Cucumber, The A Word, Doctor Foster, Gentleman Jack and Years and Years. He has worked on Doctor Who since its return in 2005 and has cast over 130 episodes to date. Andy’s films include Stan & Ollie and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

He was awarded an Artios Award for Excellence in Casting in 2020 and was nominated for a BAFTA for It’s a Sin, for which he won a CDG award. Andy is a member of the CDG and the CSA.

Kate Ringsell (CDG)

Kate Ringsell is the Vice President of UK Features Casting for Walt Disney Studios. Her recent work as a freelance casting director includes The Flash and Batgirl for Warner Bros. and The Railway Children Return for Studio Canal. Her past feature credits include Peter Pan and Wendy, Tolkein, Justice League, The Lost City of Z and My Dinner with Hervé, which was nominated for a 2019 Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.

She has also worked extensively in television casting. She recently completed casting on Netflix’s Transatlantic and Fate: The Winx Saga, the third series of Sky Atlantic’s Riviera, Epix’s Berlin Station, and Starz Network’s Counterpart.

Sasha Robertson (CDG)

Sasha Robertson has been working in film, TV and advertising for 20 years. Some of Sasha’s recent works include TV dramas FDR and Lincoln & Roosevelt for the History and A&E channel, and musical comedy Fables for Apple TV. Other credits include Black Narcissus for the BBC, The End for Foxtel, and more recently, Hotel Portofino for ITV.

Cindy Tolan

Cindy Tolan is a producer and casting director who has worked extensively in film, television and theatre. Tolan produced the 2019 London revivals of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell (West End & Young Vic, five Olivier Award nominations, two wins), and Miller’s The American Clock, directed by Rachel Chavkin (Old Vic). In the same season, she produced Lucy Prebble’s A Very Expensive Poison, directed by John Crowley (Old Vic, two Olivier Award nominations, including Best Play).

For television, she produced the Emmy- nominated HBO documentary Arthur Miller: Writer, directed by Rebecca Miller, and is currently producing an untitled Martin Scorsese documentary. Casting credits include Marianne Elliott’s Broadway productions of Company and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Simon McBurney’s adaptation of The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court.

Film casting credits include Steven Spielberg’s upcoming The Fabelmans, Rebecca Miller’s She Came To Me, Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story (BAFTA Award), Matt Reeves’ The Batman, Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk, Straight Outta Compton, The Place Beyond the Pines, Blue Valentine, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and all of Rebecca Miller’s films, including Maggie’s Plan.

Television casting credits include The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Emmy Award) and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She is a five-time Emmy nominee with one win for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in 2018, and recipient of the 2021 BAFTA Award for West Side Story.

Sarah Trevis (CDG, CSA)

After graduating from the University of Manchester, Sarah began her career at the National Theatre, and in 1992 was asked to join the UK’s leading casting director Mary Selway, forming a company with her for 12 years until 2004. She has cast films and television for US studios and UK and European broadcasters.

Directors she has worked for include Danny Boyle, Roger Michell, Stephen Hopkins, Hugo Blick and Jerry Zucker. In the last three years, she has worked on the feature films Phantom Thread for Paul Thomas Anderson/Annapurna and Mary Poppins Returns for Rob Marshall/Disney, receiving a CSA Artios Award for Best Casting in a Studio Film.

She is a member of the Casting Directors’ Guild (CDG), and Vice President of the European Chapter of the Casting Society of America (CSA). She is a life member of BAFTA and sat on the jury awarding the first BAFTA Award for Casting in 2020.

Find out more about The Spotlight Prize and its previous winners.

Photo by Joanna Nicole Photography