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Just My Type: On Actors Finding their Types

October 11, 2016


     One of the most popular services we offer at Everything Cinema Productions is the Shoot a Scene package in which we customize and film a short scene for our clients to perform. The result is a professional clip that they can upload to YouTube, Actors Access, and other such sites. In customizing a scene, we ask our clients to tell us what character type (aka, actor type) they are. For some, the answer comes quickly. Perhaps they’ve analyzed their type in the classroom or have found that they often receive roles that are of a similar ilk. Still, I find that there are many other actors who cannot so easily pinpoint theirs. If you are one of the latter, know that you are in good company but also know that exploring this important facet of acting is worth the time and effort. Who knows where a well-developed, well-matched character type can lead? It might just help land you that breakout role.


     So today let’s explore some key ways to find your type. This will by no means be an exhaustive analysis on the multitude of tactics one can use to arrive at a well-suited type. Entire books and course series have been created on this very subject and I would encourage everyone to examine those various tools. Instead, I’ll pass along an outline of sorts to help nudge you in the right direction as you begin to consider your character options.


     First, we’ll start by loosely defining character type. Your type is the amalgam of characteristics that you naturally possess which others see, interpret, and then ascribe to you. If you’re like me, you’ll rail against this judgment. You’ll say, “Wait! No! I’m so much more than that!” You are not wrong to feel this way. You are not one note. No one is. However, we cannot avoid this from happening. Social and cultural cues along with years of reinforcement from film, theatre, and literature have developed within us a gut reaction toward defining one another upon first meeting. In the real world this can be troubling. Dangerous even. Thankfully, we actors do not live in the real world. We live in the Land of Make Believe. So meet these judgments not with hostility and offense but rather with open arms. Embrace them as necessary bits of information. You’ll game the system much easier if you do. There will come a time in your career when you can display more range than your type would suggest. For now though, knowing and loving your type will allow you to seek out appropriate roles and connect to them much easier because you look like the role, you sound like the role, you move like the role, etc. Casting agents will assuredly take note. So often we are told that agents know as soon as they see you at an audition or on a pre-recorded video if you are right for the part or not. Make no mistake, I am not suggesting that actors should avoid auditioning for parts that are outside their respective types. Just be sure to never miss an audition for those parts that best fit your type because these opportunities are your identified time to really shine.


     How do you determine your type? Simple. You could start by reviewing any number of websites that provide a list (some extremely exhaustive) of the many character types there are. Does one ring a bell? Have people called you that type before? If so, you’re probably on the right track. If not, keep that list handy and ask people what sort of person they see you as. This may seem like a blunt, awkward sort of question but the results might just clue you in on your type. Ask your family, your friends, and strangers. You may find the results to be varied at first but the more people you ask, the more likely a pattern will emerge. Once you've done this, now look back through one of those lists. Do you see it now?

     However you arrive at learning your type is not important as long as it is accurate and true. Once you’ve pinpointed it, examine what qualities and characteristics lead others to label you as such. Approach this as you would script analysis. It’s more an academic endeavor than a therapeutic one. That is to say that this isn’t about self-actualizing or the Ancient Greek aphorism, “Know thyself.” As I said, in reality you are not one note. You are a layered and complex human being. Your type is not you; it is an artistic simplification of your physical characteristics combined with that je ne sais quoi that communicates itself well to those around you. Let that knowledge guide you as an actor. Let it be the foundation for your career, which will no doubt be filled with many different roles as you mature and progress in your art.

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