By Charis Joy Jackson
Previously published on Backstage.
I have a love/hate relationship with being typecast. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. Many actors endeavour to break away from being cast in the same roles over and over again. I think I speak true when I say it’s the actor’s dream to be one of those few who are known for breaking the mould. Gary Oldman comes to mind, the man is a chameleon.
However, I think it’s important to take note of your type.
Recently, I posted two of my head shots in a couple of acting groups. I was curious to read what people saw in them. Most of the people don’t know me, so I knew their answers would be purely on my look and not my personality or character.
It was a valuable insight for me and one I recommend you try too.
Knowing your type is important because it can broaden your horizon
We all have our own presupposition of the type of characters we should be playing. However, we’re not always as perceptive to the vast pool of character types we could go for.
For example, I only saw myself as the best friend type. Or the quirky girl on the sidelines. Not as glamorous as the leading lady types, but still fun characters for a lifetime career as an actress.
Then in one acting course, my classmates and I were asked to spend a full minute silently staring at each other, to think up the types of characters we could see that person playing.
I loathed it, but soon learned how beneficial it was to have an idea of how others saw me.
During the session, my preconceived ideas were replaced with a whole new bunch of characters I never thought about before. Knowing this, helped me to branch out in my acting too.
The same can happen for you. If you have a small circle of characters you think you’d be good for, try asking fellow actors what roles they’d see you in. Then use it to your advantage by workshopping scenes with these types of characters. Not only will it help you grow as an actor, but it may help you go for auditions you would’ve never gone for.
Knowing your type is important because it can save you time
As someone who has been Casting Director on two independent features, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your type. You’d be surprised how often I put out a casting call for a specific character, giving information on the age range and look only to have a heap of actors apply who clearly don’t fit. My favourite is when I have twenty-something’s asking to audition for a character who’s six! (True story.)
It’s a waste of my time and a waste of the actor’s time too.
When an actor knows the types of characters to audition for, it frees up their time to go for roles they actually fit, versus waiting on auditions where they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend a day auditioning for characters I actually have a real chance to play, versus ones where I don’t.
Last bits of advice… Sometimes it can be disheartening to hear what type others think you could go for, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Learn where you can and dismiss it where it hinders. And definitely don’t see it as a part of who you are, it’s not your identity, it’s like a skill or tool for your trade. That’s it.
Knowing your type is important and can definitely be beneficial to the actor’s career, but at the end of the day, go for the roles which inspire you.