What IS My Type?

Well, well, well. Your emails tell me I need to spend a little more time on the issue of TYPE, after last week’s column. Good news! I have a lot more to say. Now, those of you who have read Self-Management for Actors will recognize this week’s column, but I’d rather get this info “out there” now than tell everyone who emailed with further TYPE questions to go buy a book to get an answer. So, here goes!

Typical Types

Casting directors put out character breakdowns to agents and managers asking for specific types of actors to fill roles from the script. It’s always good business sense to know, as an actor, what your type is. That way, when you see a casting notice or hear about a role, you’ll know whether your type has a chance of meshing with the type called for.

This is a list of some of the more commonly called-for types in Hollywood. Keep in mind that someone can always come up with a new type in describing a character.

Young Males
bad boy
boy-next-door
nerdy kid
bully
quirky/trendy
smart-ass
jock
brain
paste-eater (less cool than the nerdy kid, who has the potential to develop a new piece of software before starting college. The paste-eater will only develop a coated tongue.)

Young Females
princess
girl-next-door
trendsetter
bully
jock
brain
awkward/gawky
ingénue (the young, fresh-faced innocent that the boys want to win over and the audience is rooting for in most classic tales)

Adult Males
leading man
the nice guy
that creepy weird guy
jock
blue-collar worker
cop/career military
executive
lawyer/politician
teacher/professor
dad
computer genius
salesman
slacker
doctor/nurse
jokester
player
slimy con man
criminal/thug/heavy
artist/poet/musician

Adult Females
leading lady
her best friend
bimbo/airhead
jock
sex goddess
cop
executive/lawyer/politician
social climber/bitch
teacher/professor
mom
frustrated housewife
saleswoman
doctor/nurse
wacky neighbor
criminal
artist/poet/musician
late-start careerist

Older Actors
empty-nester
grandparent
judge
religious leader
codger/senile

Keep in mind that people love to classify types by creating hybrids. Example: “I need a young, hip, dancing Helen Hunt type,” yields, say, Julia Stiles. It’s just easier for people to take a known commodity and tweak it to their current needs. What would your hybrid type be?

I recommend that you watch TV, watch commercials, and see plays and films with a little notepad (in mind, if not in hand). Always note which roles are the ones you would’ve auditioned for, if not the roles in which you’d be cast. Obviously, if any of the roles are ones for which you have auditioned and some other type got cast, you were called in against the type they were going to end up casting.

Pay attention to the roles you’re given in acting class. Don’t be too weirded out by reading parts in class that are “against type.” One of the goals in class is to push your boundaries in an attempt to stretch your range. So, even if something is very much not your type, go ahead and give it your all. You may surprise yourself. Of course, that’s an in-class thing. When it comes to an audition, you first must be the “right” type to get called in, and then you must deliver the goods. Confidence will help with that (even if your type is “under-confident nerd” or something like that). Knowing who you are and where your strengths lie will make your performance that much stronger.

It is a gift to know who you are, truly. Your self-awareness will permeate everything you do, and that’s a big plus for your acting, no matter what your type may be. Play your look and be yourself.

How Important Is Knowing Your Type?

Knowing your type, marketing yourself correctly, and looking like your headshot make all the difference. Look at it this way: you are in any other business. You get business cards printed up. There is a misprint and your name is misspelled and your job title is incorrect. Are you going to hand out these business cards as if they represent you correctly? Of course not! Yet actors do that every day by using headshots that do not look like them or that do not properly represent their dominant type. This misrepresentation pretty much means the headshot is selling a person the actor cannot deliver when he shows up in the flesh. And while actors are busy trying to get jobs the “wrong” headshots would lead to, the actors could be losing jobs the headshots that look like them — in their dominant type — would help them get.

If you’re not seeing patterns from your own history of work, the best way to ascertain your type is to request that people in the know (agents, managers, casting directors, photographers, publicists, coaches, even fellow actors) take a look at your headshot, take a look at you, and give you a list of the first five adjectives that come to mind. You can also ask these folks whether your headshot is off the mark in portraying you the way you really come off in person. See last week’s column for specific tactics you can use to test your headshot’s type.

Take all of the opinions you get and look at the words that top the lists the most often. If that’s who you are, when you show up for an audition, then that’s how to market yourself. If the type you appear to be, upon this survey process, is really far from the roles you tend to book, then you’d better get some more representative headshots, to increase the likelihood that you get called in for the roles of your type.

Once you know your type, you’ll be much better at submitting yourself for roles. Remember: watch all TV shows, commercials, films, and plays with a critical eye toward, “Which role is mine?” Not which one you could play if they had “gone another way,” but which role is the one being played by an actor in your category and age range. What role would you have been up for? Market to that type.

Finally, remember that casting directors do NOT want to see four different headshots from you, showing us all the different types you can be. Agents and managers may want to see such range, as that helps them market you effectively in many different ways. CDs, however, want to see the one headshot that shows you as the exact right type for the role we’re casting at that exact moment. Remember, don’t talk us out of it with headshots of conflicting type!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000220.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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  1. Pingback: Play Your Part: Make “Typecasting” Work for You - Success Reimagined

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