Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Rosie Perez, Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah all have something in common: Emmy Award-winning Casting Director Robi Reed. She has the magic touch. Blessed with an eye for talent and a gift for spotting a diamond in the rough, her career has spanned over 30 years. Reed has had a hand in the careers of many and is known for taking the ordinary and creating the extraordinary. Her ability to match a role with the perfect choice has made household names out of Jamie Foxx, who she discovered at a local comedy club in Los Angeles, and Mekhi Phifer, whom she plucked from an open casting call. Reed has more than 50 films to her credit, including blockbusters Soul Food, The Best Man, For Colored Girls, Love Jones, Set It Off (which she cast actress Kimberly Elise in her first feature film) and Antwone Fisher, casting Derek Luke in his first leading role. Reed’s first studio film came with Spike Lee’s School Daze. She went on to cast Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING (1989), Mo’ Better Blues, Crooklyn, Clockers, Malcolm X and Lee’s Jungle Fever, breaking out two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry.
Growing up in Los Angeles, California, Reed knew at the age of 15 that she wanted to cast. An avid reader, she often found herself unable to start a book until – in her mind – she first placed an actor with a character. Little did Reed know she was getting an early start at casting. Reed was fascinated with film and television and would always read the cast and crew credits from beginning to end. She was determined to know every actor, actress, producer, director and casting director in Hollywood. She even knew who the make-up and hair people were. Reed made it her business to learn everything there was to know about the film and television industry by quizzing herself, using index cards to test her knowledge and ability to recall names, parts and projects. That determination landed Reed in Hollywood as an assistant production office coordinator on the film The Falcon and the Snowman, starring Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton.
The demand for Reed’s eye for talent grew way past the silver screen to a multitude of television projects, including Oprah Winfrey’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, the Showtime series Barbershop, The Tracey Morgan Show, Girlfriends, The PJ’s, In Living Color, A Different World and Roc for which she was nominated for a Casting Society of America (CSA) Award for best casting. She also cast Beyoncé Knowles in her first acting roles in MTV’s Carmen and Paramount Pictures’ The Fighting Temptations.
In 1997, Reed earned an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Emmy Award for her outstanding work in casting The Tuskegee Airmen for HBO Pictures. In 1998 Reed received a second Emmy nomination for her work on HBO’s Only in America: The Don King Story and in 1999 a third Emmy nomination came for HBO’s A Lesson Before Dying. In 1993 she received the Turner Trumpet Award for the ACE Award-winning Film Heat Wave. Her efforts for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X earned her a Casting Society of America Award in 1992.
After 25 years of running her own company, Robi Reed Entertainment, Reed joined the executive ranks at Black Entertainment Television Networks (BETN). In her position as Vice President of Talent and Casting for Original Programming, she oversees all scripted and non-scripted shows for the network, including the NAACP Image Award winning mini-series The Bobby Brown Story and The New Edition Story, American Soul based on the legendary Don Cornelius and Soul Train, the music anthology drama series Tales, and the hugely successful series The Game and Gabrielle Union’s Being Mary Jane.
Satisfying her philanthropic nature, Reed launched The Reed For Hope Foundation (RFHF). The mission for RFHF is to raise funds to support Sickle Cell Disease awareness and its foundations, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention organizations, women and children’s health initiatives and disease prevention and healthy lifestyle/living platforms. Each cause sits very close to Reed’s heart.
Reed holds a Bachelors of Arts degree in Speech Communication and Theatre from Hampton University. She is proud mother, sister and woman of God.