Claudia Lyon helps bring hit shows to the TV screen
1993 graduate takes her casting talents to CBS Television Network
Claudia Ramsumair Lyon ’93 is now the executive vice president for casting at the CBS Television Network, after spending more than a dozen years as vice president for casting at ABC.
Lyon, who took the job this past fall, oversees casting for all prime-time and unscripted series on CBS. Though choosing talent is a collaborative process between the networks, writers and producers, the network has the final say.
“I’m excited to be at the premier broadcast network, where I can help us build on the success of shows like Young Sheldon,” Lyon says. “I’m proud of the work I did at ABC Studios. Modern Family stands out because it was a successful comedy at a time when new hit comedies were scarce. Also, Black-ish helped bring the conversation about diversity and inclusion on television to the forefront.”
Lyon got her first show-business break when folding sweaters at a retail store in New York City months after Claudia Lyon helps bring hit shows to the TV screen graduating from Binghamton University.
On a seemingly routine day at the store, she told her manager she wanted to get into casting. It turns out he was an actor who was college friends with Spike Lee’s casting director. Lyon got leads and made tons of calls from a pay phone in the store’s basement. She eventually got a casting internship with ABC and went to Hollywood for an intern/assistant role for Clint Eastwood. That led to a full-time job with the WB network, and she worked her way up in the industry.
With streaming services now offering first-run series and plenty of cable and satellite channels, there’s more competition for viewers and increased pressure for Lyon to get the right faces on CBS.
“It used to be that the top talent was in demand for the four to six weeks of pilot season,” Lyon says. “Now, it’s all year round. At the same time, this presents us with opportunities to discover and create new stars.”
As a cinema major, Lyon is certainly creative; she was also a psychology major because her parents encouraged her to pursue what they considered a more practical area of study. It turned out to be the perfect mix for an entertainment career. She credits Ken Jacobs, distinguished professor emeritus of cinema, for cultivating her creative side and building her confidence by offering her a teaching assistant job as a sophomore. Using her camera skills, she also taped events for fraternities and sororities.
“It’s not just about what you learn in a specific major, but the overall takeaways from the entire university experience,” Lyon says. “I can tell you that cinema and psychology gave me the foundation for what I’m doing now — working with people within the creative process — but it’s the whole of my time at Binghamton and the relationships I had that helped prepare me for where I am today.”