No struggling actor wants to get lost in the shuffle. Though “type” can feel like a dirty word, without one, you risk wasting precious time going out for roles that are totally wrong for you.
While the thought of fitting yourself into a box with an out-of-touch label like “ingénue” may make your skin crawl, think of it this way: Typing yourself is a shortcut. In the real world, most casting directors just don’t have the time to get to know your nuances. Identifying your type helps you audition more strategically, opening the door for better opportunities and higher-paying roles.
Keep reading for our top six ways to identify and cash in on your “type,” without having to squish yourself into a box.
- Identify and study an actor with your dream career path.
Think about the actors that inspired you to pursue this path in the first place. Unless they started acting at five like Leo DiCaprio, they weren’t always the huge stars they are now.
Put on your detective hat (if you have the full getup, go for it) and do some investigative journalism on Wikipedia or IMDb. What were the early gigs that got them noticed? What role propelled them into stardom?
Track the trajectory of the different types they played as they worked their way up the ladder. Maybe they started as a broad character actor, then progressed into a romantic lead as they matured.
Once you’ve identified the role types that put your heroes on the map, try them on for size. You’re not playing copycat, just taking inspiration from those who came before you. Remember, there’s no cheating in acting. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at the study guide.
- Take a hint from your current media diet.
If you Google a list of classic role types, what comes up is bound to feel a little dated, and more than a little sexist. Rather than molding yourself to fit some passé stereotype from ten (or one hundred) years ago, look at what’s on your screen right now for inspiration.
Take a deep dive through your Netflix history. What characters could you play in your sleep? Jot down a list of descriptive words that these characters have in common, and apply them to yourself. This way, you’ll get a clear picture of how you fit into the casting landscape today, not back in the Stone Age.
- Ask your friends and family — chances are, they know you.
Most likely, neither your mom nor childhood bestie is an expert on the entertainment industry. If they were, you probably wouldn’t need this guide. But they’re experts on you. By asking the people who know you best, you’re guaranteed to find a type that’s authentic.
Ask your trustworthy inner circle what kinds of roles they could see you playing and what other actors you remind them of. Even a quick list of descriptive adjectives can help paint a picture of the vibe you give off.
Remember, these are people who love you, so take their advice with a grain of salt. Just because your grandma thinks you’re the next Keanu Reeves doesn’t make you an action hero.
- Get a professional opinion, or five.
Once you’ve got your personal fanclub’s two cents, it’s time to call in the pros. Take an acting class or reach out to an old coach. Someone who’s watched your work progress over time can offer a less biased read on what roles you’re competitive for.
Get a second opinion, or a third, or a fourth. Try a workshop with a top agent or casting director. Yes, they can be pricey, but even if you don’t walk out with a shiny contract, it’s a great time to chat with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about. No offense, Grandma! (Call her soon, she misses you.)
Chances are, you’re going to get some varying advice. Like everything else, your type is subjective. But if the feedback you’re getting clashes with what’s on your website bio, or the type of headshots you’re taking, it might be time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
- …Take a long, hard look in the mirror.
No matter how much acting technique you’ve got under your belt, there are things about yourself you just can’t change. You’ll find criteria like age, gender, or physical build on most casting breakdowns. By identifying your “givens,” you’re already being more strategic with the projects you pursue.
Easy enough if we’re talking superficially, but what about the deeper stuff? Think about the parts of your personality that come out when you’re hanging out with friends. How about at work? With your parents? Your boyfriend’s parents? Find those common denominators and apply them to the roles you go out for.
It’s not that all your roles have to be exactly like you. You’re an actor, for God’s sake! You have range. But casting’s job is to match the person on the page with the person who walks in the room. Leveraging your natural energy makes you competitive, while keeping you genuine.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel, just keep it real.
You don’t have to dye your hair, shell out for an artsy tattoo, or adopt a new personality just because someone told you you’re “edgy.” Save the method acting for after you book. Pretending to be someone you’re not is a surefire way to exhaust yourself and weird out the people around you.
What are the things you get for free? Is it your intense eyes, or maybe your perfectly imperfect smile? Start with what you already have. You’ll be surprised at how far that can take you.
Get hyped about your type!
Fitting a type doesn’t have to be a prison sentence. In reality, knowing what niche you fill in your field is empowering, not limiting. Plus, if you follow our advice, you’re bound to land on a type that you’re actually pretty psyched about.
Unless you’re going out for the new season of Barry, your type shouldn’t be, “Exhausted actor who can’t stand their day job.” Support your acting dreams with a flexible community of working actors at Worthwhile Event Services.