Chicago talent dazzles in T-Mobile ‘Home for the Holidays’ ad

Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois, was alive recently with the sounds, lights, and joy of Christmas, as beautiful ladies sang and performed for an enthusiastic crowd during a surprise filming of a T-Mobile video. The production featured the immensely popular spokesmodel Carly Foulkes along with more than 100 Chicago actors, singers, and models. The ” Home for the Holidays” video received such a phenomenal response on YouTube that it was turned into a national commercial.

About the video

The video is from “Glee” director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and musical director Paul Mirkovich. Local performer Robin Da Silva was a featured singer and choir director for the production.

The influence of “Glee” is evident throughout the production, with stunning performances and a lot of heart. The video is radiant, from the white beams of light that illuminate Ms. Foulkes and the talented ladies, who all wear matching pink dresses, to the joyful faces of the singers and mall shoppers.

I interviewed the casting director and a few of the stars to get reactions on the meteoric success of the video and new “Home for the Holidays” commercial.

Darlene Hunt – casting director extraordinaire

Darlene Hunt is a 20-year veteran casting director and CEO of ExtraOrdinary Casting in Chicago. She casts background and principal actors for television, film, music, and video projects, including the famous Oprah flash mob starring the Black Eyed Peas. Hunt’s resume is long and impressive, and the respect and love she receives from the industry is strong and well-earned.

I asked Hunt how the “Home for the Holidays” shoot went and how it got started. “It was heartfelt and superb! They were prepared to shoot in L.A. and decided to come to Chicago just a few weeks prior to the shoot. We had women dancing in three-inch heels for many hours that didn’t even know they could pull it off. When you are ‘in the moment,’ you can do anything,” said Hunt.

Hunt cast 100 singers and dancers for the T-Mobile shoot, as well as hired a choreographer, videographer, photographer, and a few assistants for the auditions. Hunt has a strong instinct for matching the right people with the right project.

“I do not cast anyone on my shoots that do not have the personality for the particular role. I think that is why my company is so successful. I make sure they not only have the look, but fit the character and demands of what [production] wants,” she said. “I made sure that not only could they sing and dance and have the presence, but an excellent personality and attitude.”

Hunt started ExtraOrdinary Casting with her daughter Rachel Komar, who runs Extension Music in Los Angeles.

Meet the lovely ladies

To really understand the impact and influence behind the production, I asked some of the ladies who performed in the video to share their experiences on the Woodfield Mall shoot and what “Home for the Holidays” means to them.

Zoë Mirkovich

Zoë Mirkovich, 15, from Studio City, California, a featured singer from the video, said, “I’ve always loved singing … and there’s nothing I love more than being able to create a song from the ground up. It’s absolutely amazing to be a part of the video, and I am so incredibly lucky to get the opportunities I’ve had. It’s really happened all so fast. I auditioned for the video, recorded my own EP and filmed the commercial all in about a month!”

Jennifer Hall

Jennifer Hall, 24, is an artist/singer-songwriter from Chicago who performs at venues like Lincoln Hall and Schubas. “It was incredibly rewarding. The production team, the crew, and the singers were all so talented and wanted to make something memorable and special to celebrate that togetherness you feel around the holidays,” said Hall on her video experience.

Ashley-Lauren Elrod

Ashley-Lauren Elrod, 22, is a Chicago resident who starred at Noble Horse Theater, as well as played a role in the FX television pilot of “Powers.” Ashley called the T-Mobile video opportunity “the best Christmas present I could have ever gotten!”

When asked to share her favorite holiday memory, Elrod replied, “When my parents and I went to spend time with my funny little horse named Justin. He was the most beautiful, stubborn creature you could ever meet … that horse saved my life. He was my rock when it came time to deal with the pressures of being a teenager. His spirit stays with me always.”

Charmane Ward

Charmane Ward, 46, worked on local film productions including “The Chicago Code” and “Boss,” plus she wrote/recorded the theme song for “Extra Hands of Hope,” an organization that helps bring hundreds of Windy City families a brighter Christmas.

When sharing her feelings of working on the video, Ward said, “It all began with our casting director [Darlene Hunt of ExtraOrdinary Casting]. T-Mobile then hand-picked the women they felt would be the best candidates. The amazing thing about it is that all the women they picked were gifted, talented, kind, loving, and supportive one to another. It brings the true joy of Christmas to the forefront at a time when people are depressed.”

Ward feels “humbled and blessed to be a part of the video and commercial.” She went on to say, “What comes from the heart reaches the heart. I believe the success from this video is just a reward to all of us from God because we all work with an attitude of unity and love. It also sends a wonderful message to all women and young girls that you are beautiful just like you are, love yourself, and do great things for others.”

Patricia Batson has worked in television and film productions as a background extra in Hollywood, California, and Chicago, Illinois, as well as for local advertising agencies, TV, and radio stations. Her resume includes “The Chicago Code,” “Glee,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Dilemma,” and “Get Him to the Greek.”

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