First impressions by industry experts matter, especially in the TV and film industry. When looking to fill a role, casting directors are searching for qualified people who also look the part. Unfortunately, not all actors can play all types of parts. Sometimes, no matter how great an actor you are, you just don’t fit the role. What’s an actor to do? Discover your actor type and use this knowledge to help you get the roles that are perfect for you.
What is an Actor Type
An actor type is the first impression other people form about you based on looking at you. It’s not about your personality, and it’s not personal. It’s just how you’re perceived at first glance. Actor type is critical for TV and film since audiences form their first impression quickly, often before an actor even speaks. You can see this with many silent films. When the audience saw a mustache—twirling character, they knew that likely was the villain. Many of the actor type characteristics like race, gender, and age aren’t easily changed. For instance, if you have the appearance of a teenager, it doesn’t matter if your actual age is 27. You’ll likely be more successful focusing on roles for characters in their late teens or early twenties instead of characters in their thirties.
Why is Knowing Your Actor Type Important
Knowing and embracing your actor type will help you find acting work. Just like an audience makes a quick impression of a character based on looks, so do casting directors when they look at your headshot and demo reel. Typically, casting directors have lots of people applying for the same role. If you don’t look the part, the odds are high you’ll be cast aside based on a glimpse of your headshot in favor of someone who looks the role. However, by applying for work that fits your actor type, the casting director is more likely to consider you for the part. Think of your actor type as your niche. You’re a specialist. Your niche helps ensure you don’t waste your time applying for lots of jobs that are a poor fit for you.
How Do You Determine Your Actor Type
Figuring out your actor type can be tricky. We all have our perceptions of who we think we are, who we want others to see us as (which may not be the same!), and then there’s how others see us. These different perceptions can feel difficult if these different perspectives don’t match! But it doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re not sure what your actor type is, try these strategies.
1. Get to Know Yourself
With an open mind, start thinking about what types of characters people see you naturally playing. What age group can you play (which isn’t always your actual age)? Maybe you’re perceived as younger than you are or older than you are. That’s not a problem. It’s something you can use to help narrow down to the types of roles you’re most likely to get. What do people notice when you enter a room? Are you more of a wallflower, laid back, the jester, or a commanding presence? While the vibe or feel people get from your body language can change when you play a character, it’s essential to be aware of your natural tendency. This natural tendency will come across in your headshot or other still photography.
If you are naturally reserved but want to play an outgoing character, make sure your demo reel and portfolio reflect a sociable character, so you catch the casting director's attention. What type of person comes to mind based on your physical characteristics? If you are tall and thin, then it’s going to be harder to play the role of the stocky, short sidekick.
2. Ask Trusted Friends
Sometimes we struggle to see ourselves as others see us. So ask trusted acting friends to give you an honest opinion on what they see as your actor type. It’s important to listen to what they say and not challenge their perspective. Remember they are trying to help you!
3. Take a Look at What Roles Other Similar Actor Types are Playing
Has anyone ever said you remind them of a certain actor or a character in one of their favorite books? That can give you a lead on your actor type. When you find actors that have a similar actor type, take a look at the kind of roles they play. As an actor, you enjoy challenging yourself to try new roles. Knowing your actor type doesn’t mean you can’t ever apply for a dream role that doesn’t quite fit with the first impression you give. When applying for a job outside your typical actor type, you might need to do a bit more in your portfolio to ensure the casting director can see you in that role.
Knowing your actor type, however, can help guide you towards roles that fit you.