You haven’t had an audition in a while. You feel out of kilter when you do put down a self tape or head in for a general. Picking a monologue is hard work. A strike of inspiration hits – maybe you’ve been playing against your type! If you can narrow down the type of character you naturally exude, maybe your energy will better match the content you’re putting out, and casting directors will fall head over heels in love with your genuine, vibrant work!
Sounds pretty legit. But it couldn’t be further from the craft of what we do. There is a plethora of websites that give you tips and advice on how and why to find your ‘type’ as an actor, but I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. There are many casting directors and acting coaches who hold this opinion, so it’s wise to consider all points of view. Once you ‘type’ yourself, you’ve lost all of that hard work you’ve done on your script or your character in favour of cheap marketing gimmicks. ‘Type’ alternates with ‘Brand’, and while we simplify our craft most of the time with statements such as ‘An actor is their own product/business/insert another trivialising term here,” a brand is too derivative to describe the complex, beautiful, flawed artist that you are. People aren’t types, so characters can’t be ‘types’, simple as that.
In every industry, Professionals do the work, while Amateurs rely on marketing gimmicks. While it may seem that some of your favourite actors have been ‘typecast’, look again. Any of the Oscar winning actors, for example, don’t deliver a brand, they deliver quality. Try to see how audiences cast presumptions upon them. Seth Rogen can play both the funny guy or the straight guy. Charlize Theron has done everything from serial killers to Seth Macfarlane films. If they had let themselves be defined by a type, these actors would have drastically limited themselves. We’re looking for more opportunities in this tough industry, not restricting the few that we get.
It’s important to remember that we don’t have to typecast ourselves, because an audience immediately typecasts us. It’s a very natural response to make sense of a situation very quickly. If you cast your mind back to your first day at a new school, you’ll probably remember how fast you categorised the people in your year group, so that you could quickly identify who you might get on with. This is what we do every time a new character is presented to us on stage, in television or films. What you probably found at school was how much more complex your friends were than the initial stereotype you saw them as. This is what an actor’s job really is – showing your audience more than a surface level construct.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t cultivate an awareness of how you present yourself naturally. Your movement practice will help you to become aware of your body language and how to manipulate it. Your vocal practice should highlight habits of intonation or line delivery that you have picked up. Don’t let your habits define what roles you will put yourself up for.
Even extremely typical comedians like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey have proven their aptitude for heart wrenching drama, and this is because all characters begin from the same roots. Comedy and drama feed into each other, as do a supporting character and a leading one. The more ‘types’ you allow yourself to explore, the better you understand the root nature of your characters. Leverage your personality traits when off duty, networking, or in the waiting room. When it comes to your acting, never let a derivative hook limit your art.