Let’s be honest. While it’s easy to look at others and get a sense of their natural type, doing the same for yourself can be daunting. Where do you even start?
Time to break this down.
Put “range” aside for a minute and think about what look you’re selling. It’s called your type and it defines you in this business. Remember: it’s not what you are, it’s what you play. You can be the smartest person in the world and still go out for the “dumb jock.” You might not even play any sports! It’s not what your grandmother thinks of you, it’s what the “business” thinks of you.
Just because you may have played wonderful parts as a character twice your age during high school and college, that does not mean you will be playing them in the “real world.” When I was 23 and right out of college (having done lots of Shakespeare), my first audition was for a 16-year-old on a soap opera. Reality check.
We are all born a certain way, with a certain “look,” which means will be cast as specific roles in our acting careers. It’s up to actors to be smart enough to identify that look, harness it, and use it to their advantage. Are you the young leading man who could play the new love interest on a soap opera or the eerie villain on an international drama? Are you the clean-cut, sophisticated young lawyer or the early-thirties slacker?
Don’t let this simplification put you off; you can start branching out from your type later in your career once you start booking lots of work. Until then, here are some easy steps to nailing down your type:
1. Take a good hard look in the mirror.
Pay attention to your face, shape, ethnicity, and personality. Do you have a receding hairline? Do you have a thick accent? Listen to your voice. Do you sound smart and articulate when you talk or uneducated? Be. Honest. Are you the funny best friend? Tough guy? Young politician? Ingenue? Cool mom? Girl next door? Smug Sophisticate? Quirky hipster? A hybrid?
2. Write down three actors who are stealing jobs from you.
Watch TV, see movies, and find out what actors are playing parts you were meant to play. What’s unique about them? Why are they being cast in these roles? Yes, it’s about talent but they’ve also cornered the market for their type.
3. Write down three shows you could see yourself on.
Series regular, guest star, costar—whatever. Watch and learn. Take notes. Look up the casting director and actors. If you’re right for that show, trained, and they cast your type over and over, keep an eye out for casting calls or try to connect with the CD in real life. It’s all about being smart and knowing yourself.
4. Ask your close friends, an acting coach, or anyone who will be honest with you.
Your good friends will be honest with you. Coaches will be honest. In my classes, type identification is an important discussion. Each person sits in the front of the class while everyone else shouts out their different opinions on that actor’s type. It’s very eye-opening, very honest, and is an essential tool to presenting yourself the right way in this business. After all, it’s exactly what casting directors are thinking from the moment you walk into the room. It should be reflected in your headshots, your audition monologues, your demo reel, your attitude, your personality, the way you carry yourself, and ultimately strongly impacts your marketability.
Remember, always be authentic, and don’t try to be something you’re not. Just own who you are, and that will separate you from the pack.
*This post was originally published on Feb. 5, 2014. It has since been updated.
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