Typecasting can be an actors nightmare, you think you are getting stuck in a rut playing the same type of role over and over again and feel like the industry isn’t stretching you and letting you show what you are made of.
I was once represented by a co-op agency and they continually typecast me, I became the office ‘geek’, any role which asked for quirky, nerdy or oddball and they would send me in. I wasn’t getting the jobs but this didn’t stop them typcasting me in this way. When I changed agent my castings changed, I began to be seen as ‘man next door’, ‘everyday Joe Soap’, ‘Mr Average’, I started booking jobs and although I was still being ‘typecast’ I didnt see it as a bad thing because the work was good, was paid, and was still varied whilst being in the same niche.
Typecasting is a good thing. It’s good to be known for what you do.
Knowing your ‘type’ is different to getting ‘typecast’, when you know your ‘type’ you don’t mind being cast in these roles as they are truly what you should be playing as you are today.
Your ‘type’ is one of the primary things you need to have an understanding of if you are going to be taken seriously in the business. When you are submitting yourself for jobs, or selling yourself to an agent, or even just getting a new set of headshots you need to know what types you can reliably play, not what types you want to play.
If you are able to truthfully and realistically identify your ‘type’, you will be taken more seriously in the business, you will begin to be seen as less desperate, and you will be selling yourself in the correct way. A casting director hates it when an actor misrepresents themselves, be it in a submission or even in a headshot, by knowing your ‘type’ you will be representing yourself correctly and I truly believe you will start to see the benefits and your confidence will grow.
If you turn down work because you are frightened of getting typecast, you’ll never do anything good.
The easiest way to start thinking of yourself as a ‘type’ is to make a list of adjectives and nouns which could be used to describe characters, you could add ages on there if you are having trouble pinning down your playing age. You could open breakdowns and see what words casting directors use to describe characters.
The more comprehensive your list, the better. Remember this is just a general list, not one specific to you. Just write them down and keep adding to them. Use our comprehensive list as a starting point, edit out whats never going to be you, and add some of your own.
OK, so looking at this list is probably pretty overwhelming. The first thing you need to do is to remove any words which will never describe you as you are now. You should be left with a master-copy. You need to take this out and about with you and start to get peoples opinions, ask people to circle the words which they think could best describe you. Send the list to friends, people you’ve worked with, directors you have had a good rapport with. IT IS IMPORTANT THEY ARE HONEST – remember this isn’t about you, its your niche, your casting type, make sure people know you won’t be offended by their opinions. Once you get back the lists of words which people think describe you, you should start to see some patterns emerging and you will begin to get an understanding of your ‘type’.
The industry we work in is one of specialists. Directors and casting directors want to know what you do best, and then they want you to capitalise on it. They like to know that you have an understanding of yourself as an actor. Thinking that you could play every role on a breakdown is not impressive to anyone except yourself. Know where you fit in and begin to capitalise on that niche.
I tend to get cast as a certain type of quiet, almost introverted person who’s strong on the inside, but the characters are so very different I don’t see it as any kind of typecasting.
Once you know your type, take a good hard look at your headshot and see if it really does reflect you as you. Don’t choose a shot which you think makes you look gorgeous, choose a shot which makes you look most like you and which best sells you as your ‘type’. Casting directors love it when you actually look like your headshot, it shows them you are serious and understand who and what you are as an actor.
Know that as you get older and change, so will your type, having a new hairstyle, losing or gaining weight can change your ‘type’, so check back in with your lists every now and then. Every couple of years make sure you revisit your list, ask people what they think. Keep up to date with your ‘type’, there is nothing worse than a 35 year old actress thinking she should be playing an ingénue.
Typecasting can become your next best friend, but only when you begin to look at it truthfully and begin to understand where you fit in.