Knowing Your Type, Knowing Yourself
Understanding and accepting your “type” is one of the most difficult things an actor can face. But it can also be one of the greatest challenges to conquer. So often, as performers, we have a hard time knowing how others see us. We want to play the sweet and caring person or the Leading Man when we would be better suited to play the hilarious side kick. What we forget, is that accepting and celebrating the type for which we are best suited will allow us to stand out as total rock stars and hit success that might never be possible if we went against our type. If you are brave enough to follow these steps you’ll find a new sense of freedom knowing you have a more focused plan as an actor who knows their “actor type.”
First, let’s define Actor Type.
ACTOR TYPE –The characteristics that others most easily connect to an actor upon first impression. This is less about the layers of who you are as an actual person and more about how you are perceived. Actors like to fight this and say, but I’m so much more than my type! You can explore the depth of your talents in a class, and once you have established yourself with a company or a director… but it is important to make it easy for casting directors that you’ve yet to work with. Most audition postings have breakdowns that explain the “type” they are looking for and it’s smart to know where you fit, and sell the heck out of it. In literary terms you can think of an actor type as a stock character.
1. RESEARCH –There are literally hundreds of “types.” They range from broad to specific. Some breakdowns will include specifics such as age, voice type and sex. Some will be a little more broad. Here’s a few examples – QUIRKY INGENUE, NERDY HERO, LEADING MAN, OLDER CHARACTER ACTOR, SPUNKY ELDERLY SOPRANO, HOPEFUL YOUNG EXPLORER, SWEET SENSITIVE OUTCAST…
It’s difficult to define your type without knowing what possibilities are out there. Think of all of the shows you’ve seen and start to notice how you would describe the characters in just a few words. If you’ve not seen many shows in the theatre, hop to it!!! There are many shows available online for little to no cost. As an actor, it’s your job to be as informed as possible.
2. KNOW YOURSELF –This is often difficult. But, if you don’t know yourself, how can you expect casting directors to know anything about you. Especially when they only have your headshot, resume, audition to go off of. Start by answering these questions:
3. ASK YOUR FRIENDS, CO-WORKERS AND TEACHERS – I know it is difficult to try and separate yourself from your craft. Because YOU are what you are selling in this business. So, once you have gone through the grueling task of trying to answer the questions in #2… put your answers aside and ask your friends. Here’s the most important aspect of asking your friends, co-workers and teachers. After you ask them – LISTEN!!! Don’t disagree or argue. Listen and take some time to really think about what they say. It’s true that some people might be way off, or some might give the answers that they think you want to hear – but you are sure to get a few really great answers if you take the time to actually ask a handful of people and really sit with their answers. ***If you feel funny asking for advice, I suggest you suck it up and do it anyway. : ) BUT if you really need help getting up the courage to ask for help try www.typecastme.com. I’ve not actually used this service, but it looks pretty sweet. You upload a headshot and then strangers typecast you. Scary, but awesome!***
4. COMPARE – I often say it’s bad to compare yourself to others… but in this case you have to start somewhere. Find a successful actor who has a type similar to yours. Then take the roles they have played and become familiar with them. Start by looking for actors who are your current age, and then also do this for actors who are older than you. I You’ll sometimes play parts that you aren’t right for yet… but that you will be right for eventually. You might as well get a start on those roles now!!
Ok, so here’s the hardest part of this whole “Actor Type” thing. Once you figure out your type, STOP FIGHTING IT! Accept your actor type and CELEBRATE IT!