Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Rosie Perez and Queen Latifah all have something in common with Emmy Award-winning Casting Director Robi Reed. Her magic touch landed them major roles in their careers. Blessed with an eye for talent and a gift for spotting a diamond in the rough, her career has spanned over 27 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, who 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 and Antwone Fisher, in which she cast Derek Luke in his first leading role. Her first studio film came with Spike Lee’s School Daze. She went on to cast Lee’s Do The Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Crooklyn, Clockers and Jungle Fever breaking out two of Hollywood’s biggest stars, Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry.
Reed was born in Mount Vernon, New York, but grew up in Los Angeles, where she was exposed to Hollywood at a young age. She spent a lot of her time at Sammy Davis Jr.’s house in Beverly Hills with his daughter Tracey who is still her best friend today. By the time Reed turned15, she knew 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 in that character. Little did she know she was getting an early start at casting. Reed was fascinated with film and TV 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 agent 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 TV 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, Showtime’s 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 role in MTV’s CARMEN: A Hip Hopera and later in her first lead with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the feature film, The Fighting Temptations.
In 1997 she earned an 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. Reed is the first African-American to be nominated and win an Emmy for casting. In 1993 she received the Turner Trumpet Award for the ACE Award-winning Film Heatwave. Her efforts for Spike Lee’s Malcolm X earned her a CSA Award in 1992.
After 25 years of running her own company, Robi Reed Entertainment, Reed joined the executive ranks at Black Entertainment Television (BET). She now heads BET’s Talent and Casting for Original Programming where she oversees all scripted and non-scripted shows, like The Game, Being Mary Jane and Real Husbands of Hollywood.
Satisfying her philanthropic nature, Reed recently launched The Reed For Hope Foundation (RFHF). The mission for RFHF is to raise funds to support HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention organizations, women and children’s health initiatives and healthy lifestyles & living platforms. Each cause sits very close to Reed’s heart.
Reed holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Speech Communication and Theatre from Hampton University. She recently received the National Hampton Alumni Association, Inc. Legacy Award. Reed is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also the proud mother of college freshman Noah and high school junior Summer Humes.