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What is an “actor type” and why is it important?
There’s been a lot of hype in the last few years about “actor branding” and “knowing your type”. With social media now being such an important tool in an actor’s career, and the meteoric rise of ‘influencers” both type and brand have become hugely important even for entry level actors.
If someone asked you to describe your type or your brand as an actor, would you know what to say? Could you describe yourself and your castability in a sentence or two?
You may have heard about actors being “typecast” and think it’s a bad thing, but knowing your type and playing it can really make your career. The majority of big name actors have a certain “type” that they play again and again. Angelina Jolie is the don’t f-— with me badass, Sofia Vergara is the lovable-bombshell, her TV husband, Ed O’Neil, is the downtrodden suburban dad, Ryan Reynolds is the dumb jock, Dwayne Johnson is the ageless-hero, Emma Stone the aspirational-girl-next-door, and Michael B. Jordan the relatable, charming, anti-hero.
Yes, as actors we are all fluid and can play a variety of roles. But nobody, even the great Meryl Streep can play everything! As phenomenal as she is, she’s just not going to play the same characters as Sofia Vergara or Emma Stone. And we love all of them! See what I’m getting at?
All actors have a type. Knowing it and embracing it can help you with what kinds of headshots to shoot, what kind of roles to submit for, the types of auditions you are most likely to nail and even the type of agent who is going to be best for you.
What are the basic “actor’s types”?
An actor’s type is generally a combination of five characteristics that are most often used in character breakdowns:
- Age range
- Physicality and Ethnicity i.e. tall, short, athletic, thin, heavyset
- Personality traits: overly-serious, quirky, comedic, intellectual, tough, intense
- Job title: lawyer, cop, prostitute, spy, criminal, secretary etc
How do I find my type as an actor?
Finding your type as an actor takes a little bit of work, and quite frankly, more bare honesty than most of us are capable of. It’s not that we don’t want to see ourselves as a type, but there’s an old expression; “If there are 100 people in a room, there is only one person you can’t see.” Of course, it’s yourself. Seeing yourself clearly requires a mirror, whether physical or human. You need someone or something to reflect your image back to you.
Try these five tips for determining your type as an actor.
1. Take a look at photos of yourself and do an honest assessment.
I always say use photos and not a mirror, because we get too much in our heads when we look in a mirror; there’s so much that we want to see and so much that we don’t. But photos don’t lie. Ask your self, “Who is this person? How would I cast him or her right now?” It’s not about what you want to play, but how would you cast this person today.
2. Ask other actors and industry colleagues for feedback.
Stay away from friends and family on this one… Lol! That’s dangerous territory. But other actors and industry peeps are a great resource. Acting class buddies can help with this, your acting teachers or coach, and Facebook groups for actors are a fantastic resource for feedback!
3. Look at your acting history, auditions and bookings, and notice any patterns.
Make a list of your past auditions and bookings and see if you can spot any similarities among the roles. Are you constantly being called in for the annoying neighbor, quirky best friend, cop, detective, lawyer, mom or dad? This will give you a pretty good idea of how other people see you and what’s working for you.
If you’re not getting called in for the types of roles you want to play, now is a good time to look at what you need to work on as an actor and maybe take a little more control over the direction of your career.
4. Watch movies and TV shows and see what roles you think you could play… really well!
Don’t get confused here with the type of fantasy characters you’d like to play. I may love to watch Avatar, but the reality is, James Cameron probably isn’t going to call me anytime soon to replace Neytiri. 💙😂
Take a look at which roles you think you could be cast for in terms of age, ethnicity, body type and emotions, and then float this by acting peers and see what the response is.
5. Take acting classes and workshops and see what types of scenes you are given.
This is a great way to figure out your type! Not only with the classes help you to become a better actor, but you’ll also get a pretty good idea of how others are seeing you. Bonus: Take classes with casting directors where they are sending out scenes based on your headshot. You’ll get really clear really fast!
Note: Also pay attention to the way you communicate.
Do you have a thick accent? Do you sound street-smart or book smart? These things are going to affect the type of roles you play.
Acting is a business. And like it or not, you are selling a product that is made up of your appearance, and in part, who you are, what your essence is, as a person. Knowing how to clearly present this is going to help casting directors, writers and producers know if you are a good fit for what their current projects need. And take heart, if you’re not a good fit for this project, (back to Me and Avatar 😂 ) there will be a hundred more that follow! And you will find your perfect match for the stories you are uniquely qualified to tell.
I hope this article is super helpful! Questions? Head to the comments section below, I answer every one!
Like it or love it? Tweet it, pin it, post it, share it with actor friends! It’s a tough business and we could all use a little help out there!
Until next time keep reaching for the stars and following your dreams!
* Please Note: I am not an agent, manager, or casting director. I do not procure work for actors. All information, workshops and coaching are for educational purposes only and are not a guarantee or promise of employment. Thank you for being here!