When it comes to acting there are a few misconceptions about it held by those outside the industry. If asked they would most likely decide that typecasting must be a bad thing for an actor, sure to doom them to a career of playing the same characters over and over. For those who know the industry, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As any aspiring actor will know, getting work can be a tough process, and there are always more actors than there are parts available. So if you are lucky enough to get an audition, or even a part, you should take it, even if it puts you in a role you would rather not play. Everyone has a ‘type’ which dictates the sort of characters they’d be most suited for, and if you want to get anywhere in this industry, you will have to learn to love yours.
What ‘type’ are you?
Before you even start looking for work, you need to understand the sort of characters you have a decent chance of being cast as, and one of the best ways to do this, is finding out for yourself the type of actor you are.
Just as we unconsciously stereotype people in everyday life, from what they look like to their behaviour, casting directors are experts at assessing you and your personality. Whether you like it or not, they will put you into a box of sorts, which helps them decide exactly where you’d fit in their production. Help yourself by working this out for them, and going for the roles they would see as most appropriate for you.
Discovering your ‘type’ is not as easy as just looking in the mirror and asking friends and family about the kind of roles they think you’d be good in. You need to find some objective strangers to enlighten you.
Go out and meet people to strike up a conversation with. Ask them what age they believe you are, and what job they think you have. Then, find someone else and ask them the same. Ask enough people and you are sure to notice a few trends in the feedback you’re collecting. This will allow you to understand how people see you, and the sort of assumptions they make on you based on your appearance and personality.
For many actors, what they are told may be different to what they are expecting to hear, since a lot of actors can be delusional about how they come across. Completing this exercise is the best way to get a true picture of your type, and allow you to begin to make use of it.
Working out where you’re most likely to be cast is infinitely useful, but to increase your chance of clinching those type-specific roles, you should work on enhancing your type.
Say, for example, you are a leading bad-guy type – you could enhance this by dying your hair darker and giving yourself more dynamic facial hair. Likewise, if you are more suited to motherly roles, get a ‘mumsie’ haircut and make sure you go into the audition in appropriate clothing. Playing up your type could very well give you the edge you need to start getting cast.
Headshots come into this too. To get that audition, casting directors spend around 3-5 seconds looking at your photo, so it needs to both look like you and clearly demonstrate your type. Don’t choose the best looking one, but rather go for one that conveys something about you and your personality.
Work will come
Only by embracing your type and playing it up, will you be cast, and even then, you should not be worried about being typecast. To some degree, typecasting is inevitable and it can be seen even at the highest echelons of Hollywood society. Whether you like being the geeky best friend or the dumb muscular boyfriend or you hate it, work is work and building up your CV credits and getting your foot in the door is the most important thing.
Being a working actor is a huge achievement in itself, and while you might not be enjoying the roles you are currently playing, it will give you a chance to meet people in the industry who might be able to change that for you a little way down the road.
Eventually, if you continue to have success in your career, there will be a chance to ‘play against type’, like Charlize Theron did in Monster and with a little luck that will help propel your career forward when the time is right.
Not every actor needs to break away from type for success however. Take Clint Eastwood as an example. Eastwood has made his gritty hero type iconic, having played it to perfection for decades.
Typecasting can be key
There’s no avoiding it, you will be typecast, and you must be grateful for it. It is your foot in the door and embracing it is your best bet towards getting work and building the career you’ve always dreamed of. Every great actor has been put in a box at some point and had to find a way to get themselves out of it eventually.
Remember- to be typecast is to be considered appropriate for some sort of role, which is a whole lot better than nothing at all. Embrace your type and work it for all it can be, it may even lead you to Hollywood greatness one day.
Get a Head Start
Getting ahead in your acting career needn’t be tough if you start with a great course. 80% of Best Actor winners from the year 2000 make use of the Method, and here at the Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio, we offer leading training through the One Year Ultimate Acting Course. You too can join the ranks of greats like Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro by learning some of their most effective acting techniques.