Yes, we all have certain skills we love to showcase and characters we love to play. These are often our most memorable roles and frequently lead to additional parts and performances. Yet, even when trying to showcase our versatility for casting directors, it can lead to the challenge of typecasting. So how do you break the mold and land the roles you want?

Here are some tips to help you showcase all your talents and avoid getting stuck in the same role over and over.

Some Who Have Been Typecast

Typecasting is the process by which an actor becomes so strongly identified with a specific character or roles they’ve played that casting directors find it hard to see them in other types of roles. It may happen because of our ethnicity, physical appearance (like height or overall build), or simply because of success in a past role.

A couple of typecasting examples:

  • In 2003, Johnny Depp starred as Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Since then, he’s played characters who all behave much like Sparrow did in that first movie.
  • The cult classic “Friends,” debuted in 1994 and quickly skyrocketed in popularity. Even today, its popularity has persisted, with a new generation of followers thanks to streaming services and syndicated reruns. The show’s success left Jennifer Aniston (who played Rachel Green) typecast as the sweet girl-next-door type. She’s been quoted as saying that while she loved playing Rachel, the typecasting has prevented her getting offered edgier roles in Hollywood.

So how do you avoid falling into the same situation?

1. Great Headshots Will Help You in the Door

Studies show that humans connect when they see another human’s face. MIT did a multiple-duration study showing participants photos, and when asked what they saw in the split-second interval, viewers focused on faces.

In your marketing, unforgettable headshots are a must. Think of them as the perfectly designed business card or the stellar influencer’s Instagram grid that stops you from scrolling to take a closer look.

Harsh as it may sound, a harried casting director may be flipping through headshots at the speed of light, so invest your time, creativity, and money in producing the best one you can afford. Often times, actors will have multiple headshots that subtly convey different “types” of characters in their range.

Entire articles are written on how to create memorable headshots, but here are a few key Dos and Don’ts:

Dos

  • Do work with a photographer that helps you feel comfortable and who feels like a partner.
  • Do apply a bit of makeup that is neutral and polishes your natural look.
  • Do wear flattering, solid colors.
  • Do design your looks based on your casting goals.
  • Do format your photos to industry standards.

Don’ts

  • Don’t use a selfie!
  • Don’t use your yearbook photo as a headshot.
  • Don’t apply heavy makeup that distracts from your natural look.
  • Don’t wear patterns or styles that overshadow your skills.
  • Don’t include poses that go against the character you want to play.
  • Don’t submit black-and-white photos; don’t filter or airbrush wrinkles, freckles, laugh lines, etc.
Man camera selfie

Tip 2: Create Video Clips Showcasing All Your Skills

Thanks to the ubiquitous nature of smart phones, creating video clips is easier than ever. However, a successful video clip requires more than attaching your phone to a selfie stick and recording. Why video? Because your clips show (rather than tell about) your abilities, and allow for a level of creativity—visuals, sound, color, setting—that written words capture differently.

Remember, casting directors process information in many ways. Some will find your written resume more helpful, and others will be swayed by seeing you in action in your video clips. Your material is strongest when you show variety, creativity, and effort.

  • Do collect videos from as many of your performances as possible. If a professional did the photography or videography, see if you can get clips from them, and be willing to compensate them fairly if you choose to use their work.
  • Do collect videos of different lengths, keeping in mind the attention span of the average viewer today is, well, short. We scroll quickly as we walk to our next appointment or class. We flip across multiple platforms. Give the people what they want, and don’t waste screen time.
  • Do make your clips count—grab powerful dialog you delivered, or magically lit scenes from the show that show off your best performances. Be sure to show your range and depth: humor, drama, movement, voice, etc.
  • Don’t share videos that you do not have permission to use; copyright is a real thing and must be honored.
  • Don’t use any video clips with poor sound or visual quality.
Sophia Hillman oversees a dance rehearsal as the director of Elf.

Tip 3: Keep Learning New Acting Methods and Drama Techniques

The best advice we ever got: “Keep learning new things.”

Many actors stress themselves out over which acting method they should learn. Sure, it can be useful to focus on one thing at a time for positive results, but the reality is that learning multiple methods has no downside.

Fill your acting toolbox by being a lifelong learner! Here are just a few methods to consider:

The more we know, the more we grow. Trite, yet true. Of course, each acting method has its merits, and some techniques may be better suited for a specific production than another.

Rely on suggestions from trusted mentors, troupe directors, acting coaches, etc. Find out why they recommend a specific method, and then decide if you want that tool in your toolbox. Remember, ultimately you want to hone your method.

Tip 4: Don’t Be Afraid of Failure

Last and certainly not least, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the chance to begin again with experience on your side. Sure, there is pressure to succeed, but don’t typecast yourself by being afraid of trying something new. You’re going to do well with some effort, and you’re going to try things that simply aren’t your strong suit.

When an effort tanks, use the experience and knowledge you gain to get closer to what you really want to do or as a push to try it differently if you still want to hone it.

Patty Craft is a regular contributor to Dramatics.org.

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