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The Working Actor

Is There Such a Thing as an Uncastable Type?

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Is There Such a Thing as an Uncastable Type?
DEAR MICHAEL:

I'm a 22-year-old male foreigner who has wanted to be an actor since I was 16. There were almost no opportunities in my country to get acting experience apart from school plays, so at 19 I moved to the U.K. After two years of university study, I moved to London and realized what "make it in this business" actually means. For some reason, I can barely get an audition or two in a month after applying for anything -- student films, music videos, silents, commercials, films, TV.

I have an accent and Eastern European features, so I might have a "non-marketable" look, if such a thing exists, and that's my question -- does it? I mean, there has to be a reason why I'm not getting auditions, apart from lack of experience and no reel. And if I do get an audition, the response is usually a standard "You're talented, but you just don't fit in this particular film."
I find myself not having a unique look -- not a good-looking lead and not an ugly villain -- just one of those regular guys. I enjoy the craft too much to just leave it at this stage, so I'm pushing but not getting anywhere. I was also planning to move to L.A. in 2013 with a working visa (green card), but I do have doubts. What am I going to do over there if nobody wants to cast me anywhere?

 -- Stressed and Lost, London

DEAR STRESSED AND LOST:

No, I don't think there's any such thing as an unmarketable look that would make one completely uncastable. I do think some looks are more marketable than others. Let's be honest here: The vast majority of roles go to white male actors, 20 to 40 years old, of average height and weight. That means if you're in any other category, opportunities will be fewer. It's really tough for women over 40. Tougher still for black, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern, and otherwise non-Caucasian actors and those who are disabled, for whom having a career requires more determination and faith than most of us will ever know.

But I think you're glossing over the more immediate issue: You're a beginner, with little experience and no reel. That's why auditions are scarce. It's too soon to give up; this stuff takes a while. And given your more unusual look, you may have to be more patient than others. Then again, when the character description calls for someone like you, you'll also have far less competition. While you wait, you can work on learning to speak without an accent, which will definitely increase the number of roles you can play.

It's really no more mysterious than this: Getting auditions is hard -- harder for you than for some others. But what's the alternative? Quit acting? Waste your energy on worrying? Just do whatever's available to you now, and trust those opportunities to increase with experience, perseverance and -- we hope -- an ever-expanding palette of characters.

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